Highlands Motorcycle Tour - Burning monks and rice

Trip Start Feb 27, 2012
Trip End May 19, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  , Lâm Ðồng,
Saturday, March 24, 2012

The sleeper bus to Nha Trang was horrible. The roads in Vietnam a quite rough so we were tossed around in our Asian sized “beds” like a washing machine all night. It is also standard practice here for bus drivers to beep the horn about every 40 seconds – sometimes at random, other times it is because they are in the wrong lane on a blind corner and want the pack of scooters to make room before we are taken about by an incoming lorry.
To top it off at dawn the French tourists on the bus thought it would be great idea to start blasting their crappy music and start singing along – I mean come on! Would you appreciate me playing ‘Lamb of God’ at 160dB on your bus? Grrrrr!

The one upside to being woken so early was that we were treated to beautiful sunrise over the beach as we arrive in the city. The locals out en mass doing exercises (Vietnamese get up super early, they consider sleeping in a sure sign of sickness).We rolled in at about 7am and were picked up by our motorcycle guides Spencer and Jack. This was actually the first time I had ever been on a motorcycle. We weaved our way through the insane traffic to make our way to breakfast. Spencer outlined what we will be doing over the next few days. Basically they are going to show us what he calls the “real Vietnam” off the tourist trail and into the Central Highlands. We should get the chance to mix with plenty of locals including some of Vietnam’s many minority villages (the Vietnamese are only one of the ethnic groups in this country).

Our first stop was a beautiful Champa temple. The ironically named Champ Kingdom used to extend across Central and Southern Vietnam. They were conquered by the Vietnamese from the north many years ago and are now only make up a small part of the population. The temples they left behind are awesome and still going strong. After Cambodia I am sure that we will be feeling a bit of “temple fatigue” but right now it's still allvery interesting.Next we visited a Buddhist shrine dedicated to monks who set themselves on fire in protest of the South Vietnamese government which had banned Buddhism and made Catholicism the exclusive religion of South Vietnam. The first monk who performed the act was captured by western photographers and immortalised by a famous photo (think the Rage Against the Machine album cover). The whole time he burned to death the monk didn’t scream of even utter a sound, he just sat in a static pose and meditated. Then, we left Nha Trang and headed out to the countryside. 

Next we visited a rice paddy and were shown how farmers grow and harvest their crops (many still do all the work by hand and ox drawn cart). A little further up we popped by a small minority village. These people still like off the land, scavenging fruit and wood from the jungle to get by. The locals treated us like rock stars; they obviously don’t get to see westerners very often.

Off we rode next deep up into the highlands to a town called Da Lat. The scenery is beatifull, with lots of lush jungle and coffee plantations. It’s much colder than down by the coast though!  Coming into Da Lat we visted the flower farms. Vietnamese are mostly Buddhists and need lots (I mean a lot!) of flowers for all their prayers - the green houses extended as far as the eye could see.

The last attraction of the day was the ‘Crazy House’, built by the eccentric daughter of some important politician. She had obviously done a lot of acid while in collge because the house is an absolute maze. We got so lost!

By night we explored Dalat town. Not a tourist in sight, the locals are so friendly and amazed to see us.  It is very different to the big cities like Hanoi where everyone seems to treat you like a walking ATM and is out to rip you off. I managed to navigate the markets reasonably well now that I know a bit of Vietnamese (the only English that people know here is “Hi, where you from?”)

What a day! You can fit so much in when you have a local guide to take you around.
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sirhc_rollem on

I'm impressed you were brave enough to try the overnight bus!
The Crazy House looks awesome!

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