In the foothills west of Highway 1

Nha Trang Travel Blog

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Palm tree reflection

A cluster of blue dots on Google Earth showed a reservoir in the foothills out past Highway 1. I had found one lake riding up to Hon Ba Mountain last April but this one was further to the north. I rented a motorbike and followed country roads out of Nha Trang. In the low-lying Dong Bo River basin, what were green rice paddies in January were now under a foot or two of brown water from the recent rains. Searching for a new way to Highway 1, another narrow lane dead-ended at a hillside cemetery. I decided to cut north to the Cai River where I could intercept familiar roads. Besides, exploring this side of the highway could be done by bicycle.

The second of the two rickety bridges that cross the Cai River was also washed away. Two men fished from its old toll collection shed which was still intact on the opposite side.

Bicycle on the Vinh Phuong Bridge
Like the other destroyed wooden bridge, this one would probably not be rebuilt until sometime after the rainy season. I doubled back to the Vinh Phuong Bridge where the Cai made its one meter spill over a rocky cataract. The river was glassy until the drop then churned for a good hundred yards downstream before smoothing again. With still-fresh mud, scattered debris, and high water marks on buildings and fences, it looked like the Cai had breached its northern bank during the recent storm. I branched onto new roads toward the highway and discovered a rural bridge and another pagoda that I hadn't seen before.

 My rented motorbike cost 50,000 VND for the day ($2.50 U.S.). It was a Sym 'Elegant' which must have been Chinese built. She ran okay and seemed to have plenty of power but then on Highway 1 top speeds are rarely over seventy kilometers per hour.

The reservoir dam
Remaining on the north side of the Cai River, I angled into the town of Dien Kanh and knew that the hills with the lake were somewhere off to my right. I took a random road in that direction and soon found myself passing mile after mile of wide open fields. I eventually spotted the reservoir dam but the blacktop road ended before reaching it. I continued climbing upward on dirt tracks that were narrow, windy, and often slick with mud. After half a kilometer I emerged on top of the dam wall.

The lake only looked to be about a mile across so I tried to circle around it. Off the far end of the dam, a rocky track angled into green woods and brush. The area was shaded cool by eucalyptus trees and had their fresh aroma. I passed a floating shack where one man was cleaning a plump 18-inch fish.

Track along the lake
Further on I came to a spillway. The three-story building must have housed machinery for hoisting either of two gates to channel water into a rocky creek bed that wound into a valley. Both gates were closed. Each stood more than thirty feet high and the lake level came close to their tops.

The track narrowed as I continued up and over smaller hills scattered with banana trees. Where it finally narrowed to the width of a foot path, I met motorbikes coming the opposite way. They were hauling heavy timbers like railroad ties and must have been salvaging an old building somewhere in the back country. I had to get off the bike and lay it down low so they could pass. With the trail getting steeper and more muddy, I turned back the way I came. The track on the other side of the dam also had sporadic motorbike traffic hauling cumbersome loads so I didn't explore it. I'll come back in the dry season to find a way around the lake.

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Palm tree reflection
Palm tree reflection
Bicycle on the Vinh Phuong Bridge
Bicycle on the Vinh Phuong Bridge
The reservoir dam
The reservoir dam
Track along the lake
Track along the lake
Passing train
Passing train
The old toll collection shack
The old toll collection shack
Rough waters under the bridge
Rough waters under the bridge
The Phu Phuong Pagoda
The Phu Phuong Pagoda
Country bridge
Country bridge
Banana tree island
Banana tree island
The spillway
The spillway
Spillway building
Spillway building
Egrets
Egrets
Roadside duck farm
Roadside duck farm
Ducklings
Ducklings
Tending the buffalo
Tending the buffalo
Nha Trang
photo by: rotorhead85