Easy Rider

Trip Start Nov 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Saturday, January 12, 2013

Because I've missed part of the Ho Chi Minh trail by cycling down the coast, when I got to Nha Trang I decide to extend my visa and meanwhile head back into the central highlands to see the Rong Houses up in Kon Tum. It’s a bit of a spur of the moment decision, and really out of my way to Kon Tom, so I arrange to leave my bike at the hotel and jump the local buses up to where I want to go.  It will probably take me a couple of days alone to get up to Kon Tom, where I will need to find accommodation etc. before heading back to Nha Trang via Da Lat.

What a journey, I love local transport!  I walked up to the bus station and managed to get a bus to Pleiku as there was nothing apparently to Kon Tum, and being a local bus took it was going to take around 7 hours on a road which was hellish, if there was no hold ups!  I really don’t mind local journeys, it’s all part of the fun of travelling, I’m crammed into the back of a minivan which is bursting at the seams and there are a few bags clucking away!!  First time I experienced the animals onboard local transport was in India, but it happens all over Asia, you even see goats on the roofs tied up next to the motorbikes… honestly I don’t know how they get away with it. 

I get on and off the minivan with all the locals when it stops, whether it’s a comfort stop, food stop, or any number of the 'unexplained stops’.  A few people talk away to me in English although it’s very limited but I’m ashamed I don’t speak any Vietnamese except for basics of Hello (chao), yes( phai), no (khong phai), do you have a room? (anh co phong khong), too expensive (dat qua) I always bargain for my room, and basic foods whether its noodles (pho (regional) or rice (com) and beef (bo) chicken (ga) etc.  that’s about the limit which I am sure I will quickly forget.  And I eventually reach my destination after around 10 hours, but by now it’s midnight and I’m walking around trying to find somewhere to sleep, which I did only after walking a few kms and was ready to give up and just dive into the darkness somewhere.  So I awoke in Pleiku which isn’t the nicest of places and once again sussed out the local transport for a bus up to Kon Tum, then a motorbike taxi on arrival to take me out to the Rong Houses which are amazing, truly and made it all worthwhile.

The Rong Houses are traditional to this part of Vietnam and can hold 200/300 people inside so are mainly used as communal or gathering places, community meeting to celebrations.  Their design is a wide, narrow house, high on stilts, with ladders to gain access and extreme apex on the roof making the building really, really tall... although I don’t know if I should be inside there was no one around to tell me otherwise J  This whole area housing is very unique, and I am so glad that I didn’t miss it, I spent a number of hours having a look around before I get the overnight bus south to Da Lat which is my bed for the night, phew.

I love Da Lat… after a fairly peaceful and 14 hour overnight journey, I arrived and checked into my guesthouse, straight away I feel it’s a nice place, beautiful and set up in the mountains makes the air nice and clear despite daytimes being very hot.  I do all the tourist things here from having a trip in the cable car which gives a great outlook over the lake and the town which is renowned for its flowers and markets and manage to meet up with Michelle again and head out exploring the following day.  I visit the Crazy House inspired by Italian Architect Gaudi which was a highlight of my trip so far, to nearby waterfalls, a seven storeys Pagoda and temple complex which was really impressive, to the Big Happy Buddha overlooking the town, we covered a lot of kilometers and had a fun day.

Since hearing all about the Easy Riders in Vietnam I have to admit having a day off from me navigating, concentrating and riding, to just sitting on the back of a motorbike for the day being shown around was really appealing.  I teamed up with Kong for the day who was a lovely young chilled out guy (I wish I had his job to take tourist around the countryside), he took me the next day to the Elephant Waterfalls which you climb down to, and the stones do look like elephant skin, he took me round flower farms where they were preparing for shipping, to the mushroom farm which was fascinating as they are grown in plastic tubes.  I saw pepper plants which are famous here but the real money is in the weasel coffee although I found this quite distressing.  Basically weasels eat the best of the coffee beans, so when they poo them out into a tray under their cages, they’re washed and dried in the sun before being used as coffee. 

I went to a couple of local view points, which I climbed up (although Kong didn’t) in which I had clear blue sky views of the surrounding area which is immense, I went to the silk factory which shows you the whole process from silk worms to the finished products which was an amazing experience seeing in action how they get the silk and make it into cloth… wow, I left here and my tour in absolute awe of the place.

I would recommend Kon Tum and Da Lat must do experiences in Vietnam, even though they are ‘out the way’ loved them.
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