Dalat Easy Riders : 'Head out on the highway. Looking for adventure!' *

Da Lat Travel Blog

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'Lotus hiding Sun'

So yesterday, although I hadn’t intended to do so, I threw in the towel (thankfully) and decided to hook up today with on the many Easy Riders that sought my attention and business on the streets of Dalat yesterday.  The Easy Riders are now quite a long established group of biker lads who’ve become famous in the region for offering to take you off on their often very large bikes for rides through the deeper, less accessible Vietnam for any number of days (or weeks) you wish to negotiate for.  There are a fair number of them these days but not anyone can wear the identifying blue ‘Easy Rider’ jackets.  I’m not sure what the rites of passage to becoming a fully paid up Rider are.  When they’re not revving around the streets in search of your custom they hang out together with their bikes on streets corners or smoking, chatting and drinking coffee at any of the many pleasant little coffee stall shops that populate Dalat.

Inside the Dragon Pagoda, Dalat.

Yesterday, after a chat and an attentive read through his written commendation book (they all have these) I decided later in the day to agree to a day in the Vietnamese countryside with An, self dubbed ‘The Man Who Can’.  here’s been riding for the best part of 20 years now.  One of the veterans, speaks pretty good English and his commendations to be fair do include a glowing newspaper article in a Sydney newspaper by one of their travel journos.  During the Vietnam ‘Conflict’ he worked as a field reconnaissance soldier for the American backed AVRN or South Vietnamese Army and so is apparently extremely well informed on the history, battle sites and whatnot of the area about and spreading deep into mid-western Vietnam where some of the heaviest bombing and battles occurred owing to the passage of the Ho Chi Minh supply Trail down the western spine of the nation.

Out into the countryside.
  Hopefully he should prove an interesting lad to ride with.

The Easy Riders will pretty much go on a trip with you for as long as you’re willing to pay.  I’m only after a day trip about the surrounding lands myself and for these they stick to fairly prefabricated tour routes for the sake of ease.  Closer to the city and its sights will cost you about $13 and a fuller circuit all day around the surrounding area of Dalat $20 and it is the latter I’ve opted for.  If you like your initial time with the Riders then often people do decide to change their plans, ditch their open bus tickets and go riding up to Hoi An, Hue or even Hanoi with their biker pal.  This takes longer and can cost upwards of $75 dollars a day so not one for a tight budget, but nobody I’ve ever spoken to or read of whose done it ever regrets the time or the expense.

Women at work tending the fields under the protection of their 'non la' hats.
  If you’re not able to buy and ride your own motorbike around Vietnam, the Riders are pretty much the only possible way of getting off the fairly narrow and increasingly well worn easterly tourist trail up and down the country.

When I agreed to go with An yesterday, looking at his point by point tour card I made it really clear that I would go on the condition that we didn’t visit every local cottage industry farm and factory and ‘experience’ or sight noted there, and that not even waterfalls were of much interest to me on this occasion, but rather just a good honest, day long ride as far as we can go in the time and back again ride into the hills of Vietnam.  As we set off today it soon becomes clear that whilst he remains perfectly amiable, this is not going to happen, no matter how much I try and tell him to go to a particular direction or region : “Oh no, you can’t go there.

The Road :))) "Zoooom!"
  Police they want charge from you.  Not go there.”.  “Well if that’s the case then how much?”.  “Oh lots, maybe $5!”.  “Well, what if I’m happy to pay the extra $5?”.  “No. No.  We can’t go there!”. End of conversation it seems.  Darn it, as with all these things, it seems that if you’re only a ‘flash in the pan’ tourist for a day or little more - as ever the industry and the people who are its labourers resort to type and I will have to “see the sights” pretty much as listed.

… but really this is not a huge problem.

Passion Fruit.
  And I don’t begrudge it (much).  And I have a fabulous day, free riding and gliding on the back of the bike, helmet on head, through the roads, dirt tracks and hills of the peripheral slopes of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.  Knowing that he wasn’t to go too far off the beaten track today also An has substituted the rather cool motor-beast he was riding around, prospecting on yesterday for a rather more modest, practical bike today, so we’re not exactly Harley-ing through the hills. 

As we head out of town we stop at the ‘Dragon Pagoda’ with its very new looking but undeniably quite attractive giant white Buddha statue at its entrance.  Following that it’s outta town and tarmac and grass and trees and rice paddies aaaaall the way! Zoooooooooom!  We stop at a forest walk through area in the hills and an apparently “ethnic minority family” farm where passion fruit and coffee are harvested.

"Oink! where's my rice wine?" ;)
  Valuable crops both.  I always steer clear really of “ethnic minority” moments when they’re being put on a plate to me like some apparently rare dish to be oggled at by the relatively over-moneyed and under-interested tourists that we generally are but I have no choice.  We sit on the floor with Mum who chews the fat with An (a good friend of the family) whilst texting on her “ethnic minority” mobile phone.  Jnr at 18 months rolls around on the carpet to be entertained by me and a pair of sunglasses.  He keeps trying to eat the “ethnic minority” remote control for the “ethnic minority” wide screen TV.  I know, I know… I’m just pratting about.  I know there’s no monopoly on access to technology in this maddeningly ‘modern’ World.
The Elephant Waterfalls.
  A brief tour of the passion fruit field follows before the helmet’s strapped back on and the wind is rushing through my ginger locks again.

Other groovy, predestined activities and sights include a flower farm, a silk factory, the quite attractive ‘Elephant Waterfalls’ and a stop at a local rice wine brewing farm.  This is quite good fun.  I leave An to his own devices whilst I mooch around the fermenting shed and pigs slumber in their stalls.  At the back the big chimney stack fired heater from which rice wine is slowly distilled through a process of evaporation from cooked, fermented rice.  The owner decants some fresh from the flames rice wine for me into a shot glass and f**k me does that stuff have a burning-oak kick to it so fresh from distillation!!! “Phewf!”, it nearly blows my head off but leaves a wonderfully warm scorch sensation in my belly for sometime to come.

An the Kareoke King :)
  An’s obviously a good friend here too… and a karaoke addict.  We spend the next half hour sat with the family in their rather surreal feeling, karaoke machine and speaker dominated sitting room whilst An and Rice Wine Man take turns to warble Vietnamese love classics.  A strange moment! 

Next on to lunch with a bunch load more Easy Riders doing the same gig today and then another beautiful ride back through the hills to town.  The lands around Dalat are absolutely, beautifully landscaped, fecund and bursting with produce, the fruits (and vegetables) of the hard and constant labour of Vietnam’s men and women in the fields who I have observed all day toiling under the sun and their conical hats.  Every vegetable patch and plantation field is equal to me if not superior in beauty in colour, shape and composition to the immaculately presented flower gardens of the main cityscape here.

An 'The Man Who Can' - if you're in town and you think you want him to, give him a bell on 0909 206 381.

It’s been a fun day.  8.30am ’til near 17.00 o’clock too so you really do get a full days activity for your Bucks.  An at several points of course tries to encourage me to a 5-8 day ride trip to Hoi An (my next destination) and I will do something of this nature when next I return to fascinating Vietnam, but I’m on too tighter an itinerary to allow for it right now so I have to disappoint him whilst retaining his mobile number for a future adventure maybe.

* 'Born to be Wild' - Slayer

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Lotus hiding Sun
'Lotus hiding Sun'
Inside the Dragon Pagoda, Dalat.
Inside the Dragon Pagoda, Dalat.
Out into the countryside.
Out into the countryside.
Women at work tending the fields u…
Women at work tending the fields …
The Road :))) Zoooom!
The Road :))) "Zoooom!"
Passion Fruit.
Passion Fruit.
Oink! wheres my rice wine? ;)
"Oink! where's my rice wine?" ;)
The Elephant Waterfalls.
The Elephant Waterfalls.
An the Kareoke King :)
An the Kareoke King :)
An The Man Who Can - if youre i…
An 'The Man Who Can' - if you're …
Buddha in the Dragon Pagoda.
Buddha in the Dragon Pagoda.
The rather fab giant white Buddha …
The rather fab giant white Buddha…
Flower farm - Dalat is famous for …
Flower farm - Dalat is famous for…
Passion fruit collecting at the e…
Passion fruit collecting at the "…
Rice wine distilling furnace.
Rice wine distilling furnace.
Rice Wine Man gives it a go too!
Rice Wine Man gives it a go too!
Elephant Falls (detail)
Elephant Falls (detail)
The Elephant Waterfalls on the out…
The Elephant Waterfalls on the ou…
An smiles at the news that a giant…
An smiles at the news that a gian…
Silk spinning machines.
Silk spinning machines.
Racks of the boiled silk worm caco…
Racks of the boiled silk worm cac…
Silk weaving looms.
Silk weaving looms.
Dalat tee bush.
Dalat tee bush.
Zoooooooooooom!
"Zoooooooooooom!"
King Bao Dais Summer Palace No.3…
King Bao Dai's 'Summer Palace No.…
King Bao Dai - the last Imperial r…
King Bao Dai - the last Imperial …
Da Lat
photo by: Biedjee