Dalat Easy Riders : 'Head out on the highway. Looking for adventure!' *
Da Lat Travel Blog› entry 139 of 268 › view all entries
So yesterday, although I hadnât 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 whoâve 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 âEasy Riderâ jackets. Iâm not sure what the rites of passage to becoming a fully paid up Rider are. When theyâre 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.
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 âThe Man Who Canâ. hereâs 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 âConflictâ 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.
The Easy Riders will pretty much go on a trip with you for as long as youâre willing to pay. Iâm 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 Iâve 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 Iâve ever spoken to or read of whose done it ever regrets the time or the expense.
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 didnât visit every local cottage industry farm and factory and âexperienceâ 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 : âOh no, you canât go there.
âŚ but really this is not a huge problem.
As we head out of town we stop at the âDragon Pagodaâ with its very new looking but undeniably quite attractive giant white Buddha statue at its entrance. Following that itâs 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 âethnic minority familyâ farm where passion fruit and coffee are harvested.
Other groovy, predestined activities and sights include a flower farm, a silk factory, the quite attractive âElephant Waterfallsâ 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!!! âPhewf!â, it nearly blows my head off but leaves a wonderfully warm scorch sensation in my belly for sometime to come.
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 Vietnamâs 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.
Itâs been a fun day. 8.30am âtil near 17.00 oâclock 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 Iâm 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