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Rosi & Jen's 11 Thousand Beach Odyssey Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do, then the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream...."

Easy Rider

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 9 April 2008 | Views [2289]

It all started as we were strolling along the beach at Nha Trang one bright sunny day.  As the waves gently lapped against the plastic bag lined shore and we admired the massive Hollywood style VINPEARL sign on a nearby island, these two Vietnamese guys walked up to us and asked  if we’d like to go on a 5 day adventure with them on their motorbikes through the central highlands to experience the “REAL VIETNAM”.  They called themselves EasyRiders and they make a living taking tourists on motorbike adventure tours all over the country.  They took us for coffee and before we knew it we were saying  “ti sao không” (why not?)and handing over a $200 deposit.  We told them to meet us in Mui Ne in 3 days.  They agreed.  As we walked away I was almost certain we see neither the guys or our money ever again.  Jen had way more faith and was confident they would show up.  Much to my surprise 3 days later they picked us up on their 100cc motorbikes. 

We only told two people that we were going.  My brother Les and my best friend Lynelle.  Les’s response was “WOW that sounds very cool.  Have fun!”  Lynelle’s response was “Oh my God! Are you completely mad? You’ll be murdered!”  Luckily Les was right.  The trip was fantastic and we did indeed experience the real Vietnam.   We ate local food that cost about 40cents we visited local houses and met local people who all welcomed us warmly.  We drank rice wine and the guys Si (Doctor) and Hai (Ocean) told us stories about their lives and Vietnam (the history and the people)     

When we started on day 1, I was so nervous I nearly through up.  Having been on a motorbike only a couple of times in my whole life,  here I was about to let a complete stranger who could quite possibly be a suicidal maniac double me on the back of his bike for 5 whole days through mountainous terrain.  Was I crazy?  I guess I was a bit. But my sense of adventure got the  better of me and with all four of us yelling those famous Vietnamese last words at the top of our lungs “Di Toi!” (Lets go!) we headed for the hills.

The scenery was spectactular.   We first headed along the coast and past km after km of beautiful coast line framed by the odd fishing boat.  Our first stop was the fishing village at Pham Thiet.  It’s hard to describe the scale of this place.  The number of small fishing boats moored here would be in the high hundreds if not a thousand.  The view looking down on them was the stuff of famous paintings.  They seemed almost a deliberately colourful match against the turquoise sea, although the aesthetics of the scene were all quite accidental.  After a quick photo stop we head for the red sand dunes which is one of the highlights of a trip to the area.  For Jen coming from the spectacular sandunes of Birubi Beach NSW that stretch for over 100 kms these were small fry and after a quick photo we were keen to push on.  We were still hugging the coast line for some time to come and without a mountain in sight I was starting to wonder where we were going.   At some point we made a small turn and in the distance we saw our final destination for day 1.  Huge mountains were all in front of us.  At first they appeared as haze but as we got closer we could see the scale of the range.  Some of the toughest fighting during the American/Vietnam War was fought in the dense jungle of these mountains and some areas still hold the scars of agent orange the incideous chemical used by the Americans to eradicate foliage.  Some hills have only now 30 odd years later began to grow grass. 

We stopped at a mushrrom farm and saw muchrooms dryng on racks in the sun.  We ate lunch at a local café where a delicious bowl of Phô Ga (Chicken Rice Noodle Soup) cost us 40 cents.  We visited Chicken Village, a local Koho ethnic minority village where there is a giant cement chicken just standing in the middle of the houses.   It’s the symbol of a tragic local love story (why does there seem to be a tragic love story somewhere that involves a giant cement chicken?)

We arrived in Dalat early afternoon.  Dalat (city in the clouds) is the number one honeymoon spot for Vietnamese newlyweds.  It has more hotels than I have ever before seen and it’s built around a picturesque lake.  A lot of people rave about Dalat but we didn’t really see the appeal.  I mean it’s pretty enough but unless we missed something,  it just seemed like a fairly large city in the mountains.  The boys took us to a local vegetarian café (street food) for dinner.  We had Tofu Phô.  Cost 40 cents.

Day 2 started with a visit to the Crazy House.  A local artist has built a massive maze of concrete trees that have rooms inside them and look like something out of an Escher or Dali painting.  It was surreal.  You can even stay there in one of the tree rooms.  The trunks of the concrete trees have vines and branches hanging off them everywhere.  It’s hard to describe.  After that we headed further into the highlands and the scenery was lush and again spectacular.  We rode past coffee plantations and dense jungle.  We stopped at Elephant falls and climbed down a quite treacherous rock face to get a better view of the falls.  It was worth it.  They were thunderous and we were covered in that light spray of water mist you get from really heavy falls.

We visited the happy Buddha.  And let me tell you he is exceedingly jolly.  You can’t help yourself, just looking at him makes you smile.  We visited a silk worm farm and saw the process of getting the silk from the worm cocoon to spinning it and then weaving on one of those old weaving machine that use the paper patterns with the holes in them. 

We visited a local hilltribe house where they breed silk worms and we climbed the enormously steep steps up the side of a mountain in order to enjoy a view.  This was indeed a challenge.  Basically the steps a so steep that you have to climb up using both hands and feet.  (kind of a crawl really)  Once at the top the view is amazing YES but of course as soon as I looked down I freaked out.  I hate heights and this slope was almost vertical.  Fortunately Jen helped me down, it was terrifying.  One wrong move and your history!!

We had a lunch at another local café where the boys pretty much ordered everything on the menu for us to try.  It was fabulous. We had about 10 different dishes.  The whole meal with pepsi cost us $3 (together).

The afternoon was spent winding our way through incredible mountain roads and marvelling at the view.  Coffee, tea, jungle, we even saw rice paddies which is something we haven’t seen for over a week now.  We ended the day at DAK LAK a beautiful lake near a minority village.

Day 3 began with a visit to a local minority village.  We walked through the street looking at the bamboo and timber long houses that the local minority tribes live in in groups of up to 30.  The more time I spend in this country and see their sense of community the more I feel that we in the west have lost ours.  These people truly look out for each other and care about their neighbours.  They share what they have and eat communally. 

We visited quite a few waterfalls today and each was more spectacular than the one before.  We spent the night in a very basic bungalow beside one such waterfall.  Jen and I were sitting on the bed trying to set up our mosquito net and admiring the nylon sheets with cigarette burns on them when we heard this screeching sound like a banchee.  It was so loud we both jumped in the air.  It was a massive gecko.  I’m talking gecko on steroids.  I’m talking a gecko at least the size of a school ruler.  That’s at least 30cm long.  I’m talking a full on reptile.  IT WAS HUGE!  I’m used to those cute as a button Aussie geckos that are lucky to be the size of your thumb.  This thing would feed a family of four.  Mr Hai had told us earlier in the day that people here eat geckos and I’m thinking at the time… that’s not much of a feed.   Well now I know what the Big Mac of geckos looks like. 

We spent the night drinking rice wine and hearing stories from Si and Hai about their kids and their lives.  Really these two guys were just simple family men trying to make an honest living to support their wives and children. 

Day 4 was a big one.  We rode 220kms. Now you may not think that’s much but the roads over here are not the best and the maximum speed is around 40 or 50 kms per hour.    We didn’t really have time to stop much but we did visit a rubber plantation or as the boys call it the condom trees.  And we had lunch at a local café where the women were fascinated by my hair.  They said it look like Vietnamese hair and asked me if I had gone to school here.    I don’t know what the connection was with school and hair but it was funny that Jen’s blonde hair didn’t seem weird at all but my dark hair was really odd.  I think they figure that only Vietnamese people should have dark hair.

Day 5 we came out of the highlands and headed toward Saigon.  We caught a ferry across a river the guys call the yellow river because the locals have built a toilet that hangs directly over the river and the fish apparently love it whenever anyone uses the toilet because they get plenty of food. “Whatever you do” they boys warned us “don’t eat the fish!”  Today we visited the Cu Chi Tunnels which were built by the Vietnamese in the late 1940s and used extensively during the war with the Americans.  The tunnels really highlight the ingenuity and tenacity of the Vietnamese people and their  incredible human spirit.  We got the opportunity to go underground and feel what it was like and doing it for 3 minutes was more than enough time for both of us.  How they lived under there for months at a time is absolutely beyond belief.  The Americans really didn’t stand a chance.    

We couldn’t believe our 5 day adventure was coming to a close.  We really had an amazing time and we didn’t want it to end.  After a quick conversation amongst ourselves to work out if we could afford it,  Jen and I asked the boys if they would come back to Saigon in 3 days and pick us up and then take us through the Mekong Delta and on to the Cambodian border.  They agreed! 

We’ve spent a couple of days here in Saigon and now we’re rested and clean and we’ve bought everyone back home a $1.50 beer t shirt.  Tomorrow morning the boys will pick us up and we’re off on another adventure through the “REAL VIETNAM”

I'm telling you, you haven't lived 'til you've travelled through Saigon traffic on the back of 100cc Honda ridden by a Vietnamese man who probably weighs nomore than 45kgs wringing wet. 

Di Toi!!!!!

p.s.  Here are their numbers if you ever want the adventure of a lifetime. 

Mr Si 0905633791 & Mr Hai 0918194001

Tags: easy rider, motorbike, tours

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