Hit The Road Jack
Ho Chi Minh City Travel Blog› entry 4 of 9 › view all entries
So, today begins the big adventure for us two bikie chicks! VB and I were off on a 3 day motorbike tour from Ho Chi Minh to Dalat. We had timed our bike trip to finish in Dalat and then we would catch a flight back on New Years Eve back to Ho Chi Minh in the late afternoon to meet up with our friends back in Ho Chi Minh for new years celebrations.
At 8am, our trusty Easy Riders, Hung (prounounced Hoong) and Lam (pronounced Lum) arrived to pick us up from our friends place. The term Easy Riders appears to be very much a tourist/backpacker type of tour around Vietnam being a pillion pasenger on a motorbike trip from various destinations between Saigon/Dalat/Hoi An even up to the north to Hanoi - you can do day trips or overnight trips like we are doing.
Hung and Lam geared up the bikes with our small backpacks for the trip (bear in mind that this was a real challenge for me to pack my three days of clothes and provisions into one small backpack - but I did it!) and they put our "helmets" on - I use the term helmet quite loosely. Coming from a country where safety standards are A1, and going to a much poorer country where safety is considered, but due to much lower living standards, is not as high a priority as anything else such as basic primary food needs etc, it was a little daunting being presented with my "helmet" for the trip, which didn't appear to be too sturdy.
We were quite excited as we set off into the city and were told that it would take us about an hour to get out of the city of Ho Chi Minh and that we would stop regularly for breaks etc and that we wouldn't be on the bike for more than an hour at a time before we would stop for breaks or a tourist stop.
The dust and grime kicked up by the fumes of cars, bikes, scooters, trucks etc was pretty disgusting, but you did get used to it after a while.
As we were waiting at the gas station for our drivers to come back, a local girl who was a little intrigued by us foreigners, wanted to practise her limited English skills on us. After a few attempts at what we thought were answers to her Vietnamese questions in our English and a brief game of charades where we tried to tell her where we were from, we realised that she was a few sandwiches short of a picnic though, and giggled uncontrollably and wanted to kiss us and be our friends........she seemed harmless enough and Hung and Lam knew of her and said that she was "a little sick". She was so happy though and wanted us to take our photos with her - she found the digital camera amusing and loved that we had a photo of her on our cameras.
Onwards we continued and made our first stop at a rubber tree plantation. Here we wandered around the plantation and Hung explained to us how the rubber was extracted from the base of the trees. It was very quiet here and once we had finished having a look at the trees, we were about to set off when I heard a loud crack noise, and realised that the bike that Hung and I were on, was not starting. Lam and VB turned around to see what was going on when they realised half way up the road, we weren't next to them on the road. It turned out that some part had fallen off on the chain that you kick start (love my very technical description!) and Hung said that we needed to have the bike repaired but that it wouldn't take very long as it was only missing a small, but vital part.
True to his word, we literally walked the bike up the road for maybe three minutes to what was somebody's house. However, at the front of the house was a sign written on cardboard with various motorbike brands which basically signalled that motor bike repairs could be carried out at the house. We had seen similar signs on our trip in front of many places by the roadside and were amazed, but then realised that it made perfect sense, as EVERYBODY rides a motorbike and that you would never know where you would break down. We would in the days to come, see that people on the streets of the city would also have their tools ready by the roadside if you required a repair to your bike. As predicted, we would have been at this person's house for no more than 20 minutes whilst a guy fixed and replaced the missing part.
We stopped off at several points to take photos and to have Hung explain certain buildings/monuments that we would pass by. I must say that whilst I oohed and aahed at everything and loved seeing all the every day goings on of people in the country side and seeing the various statues and building etc, I didn't retain much knowledge of the significance of what we were seeing - and of course, there was so much to see that we were whizzing past so quickly. Woops..........at least I have the photos for memories :-) I was very excited in the afternoon when we passed by some children who were riding their bicycles home from school and I saw many young school girls in their traditional white uniforms with the long white flowing tunics that I had seen in pictures before.
Given VB and I spoke no Vietnamese, we relied completely upon Hung and Lam to translate everything for us and to describe to us what we were seeing. We were very lucky that they were very friendly and wanted to share their culture with us and when we stopped for lunch and dinner, we had no idea what food to order, and of course, were at the mercy of their dining decisions. Luckily, neither VB or I are fussy eaters and the dishes that they chose were very tasty - although sometimes we weren't 100% sure of what we were eating.
Our final destination for tonight was going to be the Cat Tien National Park. We were going to overnight it here before continuuing onwards on our journey. We were to arrive at the National Park in the late afternoon so we could do a walk in the "jungle" and then have dinner and go on a night safari.
We checked into our luxurious accomodation for the evening at $12 USD pp. Having never quite roughed/backpacked my way in a foreign country before, I was a little taken aback by the room we would be staying in. Actually the room was not so bad - I could handle that it was pretty basic, but the bathroom was pretty gross.
VB and I packed on the mosquito repellant and then we were off on a walk into the park with Hung and Lam. They told us that we had to wear our walking shoes with socks as we would need to put on our leech socks over the top of our shoes so we didn't have uninvited guests into our clothes and shoes. The leech socks were quite unattractive, but they served their purpose.
After our walk we had some down time before dinner to lounge in our luxurious accomodation (not!) - so time for a quick nap. We rocked up to dinner which was then followed by the night safari. By the time we headed out on the safari truck, it was dark and there would have been about 30 odd people on the safari truck. I'd never been on something like this before, and as the truck rolled off amongst the rocky path into the national park in the dar, the path ahead was only dimly lit by the beam of the headlights of the safari truck. It took a little while for our eyes to adjust to the darkness and for some of the more inquisitive travellers (ie me) to dodge the many random branches and miscellaneous leaves and bushes that we drove straight through.