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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Cruisin' With the Easy Riders

VIETNAM | Monday, 16 July 2007 | Views [970]

Our extended stay in Mui Ne from three to six days, to catch the wind for Darrin's kite boarding, sadly has come to an end without enough wind to get him onto the board.  But it has been well worth our time, we really have decompressed months of crazy travel and chaotic transportation experiences.  We even managed to work in some long overdue exercise, sun and surf.  Mui Ne makes us feel like we're back at home, back into our beach lifestyle routine.

Our next stop, Dalat, is a small mountain hill town, where the hills are blanketed in colorful flower gardens, green forests, farms and coffee plantations.  The temperatures here are delightfully cooler than the coastal and Mekong Delta regions, and many locals are dressed for snowy weather with heavy jackets, woolen hats, gloves.  It's still warm enough to wear shorts and t-shorts for tourists, but it rains quite frequently, so we don't leave home without the rain gear.  

Today we hopped on board motorcycles with older guys who call themselves the "Easy Riders."  These guys are war veterans and similar to the cyclo drivers of Saigon, are not considered "loyal communists" by the Northern Vietnamese government that took over after the war. So after spending years in "re-education" camps, government’s attempt to brainwash them with communist ideals, values and practices, they have now banded together to start their entrepreneurial employment venture, catering to the needs of tourists.  This they do extremely well.  They must have taken "SPIN Selling" training, because these guys are good.  They quickly narrow in on your needs, and while we're waffling back and forth between guide books, trying to figure out what we want to do, they're eavesdropping on our conversation, and come back with a written proposal, sketched out on a piece of scrap paper a days itinerary that hits the mark.  Off we go, two Easy Riders with bikes, and us clinging to their backs.  Their tagline:  "we're here to make your trip easy," is evident in everything they do.  They even come prepared for the weather with extra rain ponchos for us.  Not only did we get to see some fabulous sights, but these guys have some great stories, and were more than excited to finally have some "American" clients to share their favorite ones with.  As the day progresses, we learn a ton about "Uncle Ho" (Ho Chi Minh), the history of Vietnam, the culture, government, economics and the war.  We visit hill-tribes and learn about the challenges and struggles the Vietnamese have had with the government over land rights and ownership.  It seems now, both in many central hill tribes, as well as with the lower lying areas around Dalat, that the government has given back land to the people for their own use and production.   We have learned that people can now, independently, raise their produce for self consumption versus for the property and disposal of the state.  

During our all day journey on the back of motorcycles, we cruise through winding roads and hills blanketed with coffee plantations and lush green fields/greenhouses full of flowers for export.  The hillsides are gorgeous, and the residents so friendly.  We ride through the rain as it downpours, and then the scorching sun.  One destination, the "Crazy Monk's" house, is quite a treat.  There's a 70+ year old eclectic monk, who doesn't look a day past 50,  living by himself in this monastery, which houses and prominently displays thousands of paintings that he's worked on over the past 30 years.  Every square inch of the place is covered in paintings, stacked feet deep against the walls.  Statues and stone carvings decorate the outdoor gardens.  He dreams of travels he's been planning, and busts out a map to show us where he plans to go throughout the world.  We sit with him and talk for what feels to be hours... they guy is a creative, eclectic man whose seen so much happen in his country over the years.  

Our Easy Riders, Tom and Dat, drive us to pagodas, meditation gardens, through villages and other fine sites out in the country.  We finally stop off back in town with them for beers and more stories.  What a great day it's been, and a superb way for us to learn so much about Vietnam- through the guys who have endured so much and are so thrilled to talk about it and share with us Americans.  

One important point we're learning from our conversations with locals - both young and old, is how forgiving the Vietnamese are of Americans, especially after experiencing the pain and suffering inflicted upon their country and people.  We hear from locals, over and over again, "we know it's not individual American's to blame for the war, like us Vietnamese, you are required to do as your government asks."  "It is the fault of our governments, not the people; we love Americans and harbor no bad feelings."  "We know you had no choice as individuals to choose to go to war."  An interesting perspective... coming from those living under a communist regime.  The same conversation that we might have in a western, democratic nation, let's say Australia, for example, might go a little differently, especially when the topic of the Iraq war comes up:  "Well, mate, you call yourself a democracy, you elected/chose your president, you chose your representation, you have a voice and responsibility... someone had to have voted for Bush... TWICE!"  A different perspective through a different set of lenses.  We're thankful for the perspectives and lessons we've taken from the road, and for the warm, open-minded, and welcoming Vietnamese.  Vietnam is a beautiful country, with truly beautiful and amazing people.  We've been enjoying our time here so much, that we've decided to extend our stay another 10 days in Vietnam, and forego the beaches of Southern Thailand. 

Tags: Adventures

 

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