Easy Riding in the Central Highlands

It took us 23 hours of bus riding to get to Dalat, the most populous city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. By now, we are getting pretty used to long bus rides, and thankfully our bus was only half full which meant better sleeping. I was only slightly disturbed by the middle-aged couple behind me complaining to the non-English speaking bus driver about the "filthy bathroom stops" and the "uncomfortable seat" while riding on a 2$ budget bus.

We had read and heard alot about the "Easy Riders", an informal group of motorbikers in Dalat who have been tour guiding for over a decade and have recieved rave reviews. However, we have become guidebook skeptical, and we were not feeling in the mood for anything other than bare minimum fact absorbing. Yes, we are being lazy. For a little bit of adventure, we decided that we should rent a motorbike. Our first motorbike experience in Sapa had been decent, although we only rented the bike for two hours and my driving consisted of me swirving and panicking as we approched other bikes with Yann screaming directions at me. So we voted that Yann would be the driver for this full day trip that involved more traffic and higher speeds. In my own defense, we rented the bike in Sapa late in the day. There was exactly one bike left in the lot, some no-name Chinese bike with Honda stickers stuck on in random places in an attempt to conceal its crappy identity. Any gear change involved me kicking violently against the pedal with all my strength and only succeeding in changing it half the time. This time, we had a brand new Honda (a real one as far as our expert eyes could tell). After we figured out how to put gas in it, under the watchful eye of dozens of other Vietnamese drivers lined up at the pump, we were off on our day long Central Highlands tour.

I quickly gained the confidence to ride on the bike without holding on, necessary, because I had a huge pull out map of the area which I was leaning against Yann's back, while trying to read the street names as we whizzed by them, simultaneously giving Yann directions (damn I'm good). We first headed north, towards the village of Bac Lat, stopping by at the Hang Nga Crazy House (self-explanatory) in Dalat on the way. The village main street is nothing more than a dusty road lined with a few wooden houses. We stopped for a cafe and cola and spoke to a few local boys skipping school. The villagers, members of hill tribe minority groups are very poor, and have apparently suffered much more persecution than northern hill tribes. Central Highlanders, being once aligned with U.S forces, now have to contend with a constant stream of new inhabitants, sent by the Hanoi government to flood the area with the Vietnamese.

After leaving Bac Lat, with new found confidence we roamed back through Dalat and headed south to visit waterfalls, pagodas and old train stations. We arrived back to our hotel late in the afternoon, with our faces sunburnt, having used almost a full tank of gas. We are now heading to Ho Chi Minh City for a full week of relaxing and waiting for the arrival of our first (and maybe last) guest, my cousin Margaux.

1 comment:

Geneviève said...

i love your photos... i'm totally jealous! you'Re so good. The portraits are amazing... you could sooooo do an exhibit when you get back. i can help you organize!