Dalat and Cental Highlands

We bought an open bus ticket to travel through Vietnam. A number of tour operators sell these, and we couldn't distinguish among the quality/price from our googling. The open bus seems like a convenient way to travel through the county, as you can get on and off at your leisure, but buses typically only depart once per day. You also have the option to get a "sleeper" ticket for a few bucks more. The sleeper is totally worth having the room to spread out for the longer distances traveled.

To depart for the bus we are told to be at the tour company by 7:30. We are promptly led to the bus line hub, and they help us decipher which bus is ours. In Saigon there are a number of buses leaving for local tours and other destinations. There's a mix of more modern buses and those that look like they've been around since the 70's. We got the latter, and our bus broke down about an hour in. At the stop we start chatting with a nice couple from St. Louis. Its actually nice to meet other Americans here, because you don't see many. One alternator and a new battery later, we're back in action. A couple of hours in, and we're breaking away from the detritus of Saigon civilization and heading into the more scenic countryside. That's when traffic stops while we wait for a fallen tree to be cleared from the road. It was an interesting ride considering the crazy way people drive and everything that happened along the way. It definitely should be experienced.

The ride lasts until 6 when we are dropped off at a hotel. Any ride or tour in Vietnam is in bed with restaurants/hotels, and this was no exception. We resist all the attempts to get us to stay there, but after looking at the room, it seems a decent buy for $10/night. The next day we book a tour with a local company called Easy Riders. At least that's what the hotel said, but we didn't see any logos or otherwise identifying the tour company. For $18 a piece we were taken on a tour through the countryside surrounding Dalat. Totally worth it. Our tour guide was very helpful at describing the local economic condition for the surrounding farming communities. At times almost emphatically promoting the local economy, but interesting nonetheless. We stop and see coffee fields, flower greenhouses, a silk factory, local waterfall, rice winery, and rice noodle makers. We also bought some fresh rice noodles to have as part of our lunch. It seems we finally start eating well now that we have local guides. Every stop was interesting and worth mentioning. The trip was so good, we decided to book a 2 day motorbike tour through the central highlands with the same outfit.

That evening we use a Lonely Planet recommendation for dinner, Trong Dong, and we were very pleased with our meal. Carrie got the Clay Pot Fish, which was excellent, and I had the shrimp in coconut milk which was tasty. All in all one of the better days of the trip.

The next morning we head out to Lak Lake on bike. The first couple of hours are scattered with little farming towns and we make a couple of stops to get off the bike for a bit. After lunch, we head into the mountains and some really spectacular scenery. Another good meal of fish, pork, chicken, more pork, vegetables, soup, and rice. We get into a pretty rural town after a long day of riding. Its raining so we relax a bit before dinner. The place we are sleeping at is what they call a long house. Its like a chicken coupe raised off the ground about 5 feet. Our accommodations are simple beds on the floor with a basic mosquito net.

I wake up at 5 am the next day courtesy of the roosters, barking dogs, tractors, and grunting pigs. I decide to go for a run in the morning around the lake, while everyone else tries to sleep in. That morning I talked Carrie into riding around the lake on an elephant. Just like riding a horse, right? Not really. We get there and this guy has a huge 4 foot stick with 2 spikes on the end. We get on an the "driver" pokes and prods the elephant, one time thwapping it really hard on the head causing Carrie to scream at the guy. He doesn't speak English, but I think he got the point. A pretty disturbing experience, and Carrie and I are both upset about the ordeal. Lesson learned.

After that ordeal, we are anxious to get back on the road. The countryside here is amazing and I'm able to capture quite a few pics of Vietnam life from the bike. Another long day on the bike and we roll into Nah Trang, which is a bit more affluent city by the coast. We eagerly go shower after getting quite dirty on the bikes. One of the tour guides knocks on our door and we get the a sob-faced plea for a tip. Tipping here is not expected, and most locals will agree. These guys laid on the guilt trip thick, and we paid them some pity money. Despite that experience, we enjoyed the journey.


  1. Carrie,

    Hope you are enjoying Vietnam. I was there last year for a couple weeks and loved it. I loved Hoi An and also Hanoi and the surrounding areas. Send me a message on Facebook if you want any restaurant recommendations or anything...

    Your Cousin - Megan M.


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