Hey Hey Hey!
So after staying in Nha Trang for 2 nights (beach city, nothing much to do apart from a waterpark and excessive drinking... which I stayed away from!) me, Lindsey and Emma (a girl I met in Hanoi) decided to blow caution to the wind and go on a 3 day motorbike tour of the central highlands of Vietnam. Starting in Nha Trang, we would go head to Dalak for a homestay with a local village, then to Dalat to stay in the city, finishing of in Mui Ne, another quieter beach town with sand dunes.
We got picked up from our hostel by our 3 drivers on our very own motorbikes! Woopie! My driver and guide was called Tao, Emma's call Phouc and Lindsey's was called... erm she can’t remember! We drove out of town to a fish farm which STANK of fish (unsurprisingly) then zoomed up the hills to a local cafe for a short break. There we met some other people on motorbike tours, as well as a guide who was a rapper! Brilliant! He gave us a ghetto rap and then we were on our way again through the Vietnamese countryside. We had a short stop at a brick making yard and carried on a bit further down roads which looked like a REALLY heavy juggernaut lorry had drove over it before the cement had set. Seriously the road had small mountains and craters! Thank god I wasn’t driving!!
After surviving our first (of many) scary roads we stopped at the side to have a bit of sugar cane (from the field as you do). Then there were big piles of gravel in the road! WHAT! Its okay, the motorbike easily got past them. Then we climbed the highlands, the winding roads showed us some exceptional views. We saw these plants that when you touch them they fold up to protect themselves! The simple things! It was like magic! We then headed to a house with made rice paper, there we met a little girl who had been injured and had gone to Canada for treatment all on her own! She was lucky because she was able to go to a place to have the proper healthcare she needed as in Vietnam they do not have the best healthcare in the world. She showed us loads of pictures and we tried to communicate through French as she had learnt that in hospital (made me wish I had paid more attention at school!)
Again we drove off through gorgeous countryside and saw some cocoa farms and a wood sculpting place. We then headed to a house when as we walked in, was greeted by an 8ft snake! AHHHHH! I got to hold it and it was amazing!! Felt completely different from what I thought it was going to! Lindsey, being terrified of snakes nearly dies when one of the guys put a smaller one on her! Poor thing! There were scorpions as well and we tried some sort of alcohol that had dead scorpions soaking in it. It was vile. If you ever some across it, don’t drink it, it’s not worth it!
After some more breath-taking rides we arrived at our homestay village. We thought it would be similar to Sapa, but it was more of a small village built up for big but very basic bungalows that tourist come and stay for a "homestay". A bit disappointing, but it’s what we expected and I’ve already done it in Sapa. After watching the sunset and having some food, we joined mine and Lindsey’s guide and local friends for a night of happy water and karaoke! We arrived at this local quiet cafe. We were lead downstairs where they have rooms with karaoke and comfy seats and snacks and disco lights! Very random, especially when the Vietnamese songs were on and we tried to sing along! But they had English songs so we belted out Dancing in the street, Yesterday, and Don’t Speak to name but a few! People were dancing and having a blast, just as we were!
We had an early start to get ready and have some breakfast. We then hopped on our bikes again and started to make our way to the city of Dalat. We saw breath-taking views and stopped off at a tiny floating village on a river. I’m always amazed at these floating villages, it’s amazing how they live off the water, fish every day and only got to mainland for water and fuel. We then rode to a silkworm farm, where there were hundreds of huge round baskets filled with tiny silkworms! They were so soft! Soft as silk! Lindsey was hilarious because I think she was a bit creeped out by them!
We again hit the road, going about 5km across bumpy, gravelly roads! Thanks god we had experienced drivers, I would not have wanted to drive on those roads! There was a close call when my bike nearly hit Lindsey’s, but we survived unscathed! We went to coffee plantations and a cashew nut farm, where Lindsey tried a RAW cashew nut that stung her lips; they ballooned up like she had collagen implants and left a blister! Poor thing!
We then went to Elephant Waterfall, had to crawl down to underneath the waterfall which was so scary! Holding onto vines, steps and rocks! Made it and it was amazing! A very impressive waterfall which I’m very happy because the past waterfall I have seen haven’t been that great! We also went to a temple nearby and saw this giant happy Buddha – look at the pictures, he is very happy!!!
We then went on to a silk making factory. This is where we saw the cocoons of the silkworms being put it hot water, and the silk string of the cocoons being harvested in these massive machines to get silk! It was really cool to see how silk is made, I know I sound like a geek but I don’t care!
Our last stop off was at a flower farm which was pretty, and then we headed to Dalat. We went to dinner to a nearby restaurant where we met some Australian war veterans who had to Vietnam as a group for the first time to see how the country had changed since they had been here in the war. They told us harrowing stories of what they had to go through in the war and after. It shocking to discover that they were used as guinea pigs, half of them were given untested malaria tablets and the other half had placebos, and the ones that were on the real medication have had horrible health ever since, even passing on disabilities to their children. They received no support after their tours and a lot of them and their friends had broken marriages, drug/alcohol problems and some a lot of their fellow soldiers died very young, through health problems or suicide. They told us that it has been an uphill struggle to prove to the government they have these problems because of their experiences in the war, but they finally succeeded and they get very well looked after now. But it makes them sad to see in Vietnam, the veterans of the war are left to beg on the street because they have nothing and no support from their government. It really touched me that these guys opened up to us about their experiences, and it really moved me to the point I shed a few tears! I just can’t imagine what experiences they had to endure. They had to do 4-6week tours in the jungle, with half rations, little water, no camps, just sleeping on the jungle floor being bitten by the ants and other bugs, being constantly damp through sweat or rain, so much so that the skin on their feet peeled off and some got gangrene. Can you imagine having to go through that? It really has given me a much more profound respect for the military and what they go through, and that it doesn’t just stop once they have finished their tours. The effects of war can be felt decades later.
Another early start and we say goodbye to the city of Dalat. We drove to a nearby temple where we saw Monks praying and there is this big bell that you go inside and there is loads of wishes written down and stuck to the inside of the bell. I had no paper or pen, but I wished a wish in my head
We then made our way to this HUGE statue of a chicken. I immediately thought of my Mum, it was like her Meccah! Apparently it marks a Romeo and Juliet type story, where two young loves had to go up the Mountain to find a special type of chicken, but they couldn’t find it and one died and the other died of a broken heart! Random!
We then did a hell of a lot of driving to reach the sand dunes of Mui Ne. We went up over the hills to see the most stunning views of hills and valleys below. Then we made our way downhill, every foot we descended, the air got warmer. Slowly but surely, the green trees and rice paddies disappeared and was replaced by sand and rocks and dried up trees! The air got hotter and hotter as we started driving in the middle of a dessert! Sand was blowing across the roads! We had reached the sea also, and the contrast of the blue of the sea and the orange of the desert was awesome! We then reached the Sand dunes where little kids surrounded us trying to get us to rent their sheets of plastic to ride down the sand dune. We made our way up to the top of the sand dune, and the views of rolls and rolls of sand dunes was amazing! I then rode down one of the sand dunes of a sheet of plastic. Sand got everywhere! The wind was blowing it in my mouth and eyes! And then to try and get back up the sand dune was impossible! And the sand was so hot, it felt like it was scolding my feet. And then I realised I didn’t have to climb the sand dune, just go around it! It was a cool experience!
We then got dropped off by our lovely guides to our hotel in Mui Ne. It was one of the best experiences I have had since being away – on a par with Sapa. Riding around on a motorbike seeing the highlands, dessert and countryside of Vietnam is something I'll never forget. It was like I was riding past massive paintings – it didn’t seem real! But it was and I am one happy lady to have experienced it.