After my last post about the very questionable overnight sleeper buses in Vietnam, it seems fitting that I follow it up with a post about the best form of transport I have ever experienced.
I had heard a lot about the “Easy Rider” journeys in Vietnam but wasn’t entirely clued up on what they were. I knew this much: just like 95% of journeys in Vietnam, a motorcycle was involved somewhere. That’s about as far as my knowledge stretched.
I spoke to a few other backpackers who had done an Easy Rider and it became clear that they were a must-do whilst in Vietnam so after three nights in the Russian paradise that is Nha Trang, I set off on a three day trip to Da Lat.
On the map, Da Lat is only approximately five hours away from Nha Trang, so I found myself wondering how the hell we would fill three days. It turned out that my concerns were unnecessary, as what followed were by far the best and most eye-opening three days of my travels to date.
We spent the days visiting small villages, coffee, sugarcane and even rubber (did you know it grew on trees?!) plantations, beautiful waterfalls, a drum factory, local fish markets and much, much more. It was quite strange really, if you’d told me before my trip that I’d be visiting a rubber plantation I’d probably tell you that I neither know nor care about how rubber is made, but it was so cool just to see all these random things. It felt like I was truly seeing the “real” Vietnam.
As is always the case with my travels, I took the opportunity to widen my knowledge of the local food too. On the first night in Buon Ma Thuot, we visited a restaurant which served a number of barbecued items including shrimp. To my shock, the waitress brought out 10 live shrimp jumping about on a plate in a marinade. Most people on my Snapchat list will have seen (and probably been disgusted by) this, and all I can say is that they were super tasty! I still prefer to not be served with live food, mind.
Being the coffee addict that I am, I also couldn’t turned down the opportunity to try some of the infamous Vietnamese weasel coffee. For those who have never heard of this, I’ll try and sum it up in a nutshell. Essentially, coffee beans are fed to weasels, who then shit them back out a bit later. As they don’t digest the beans, they emerge in their original form, are cleaned up and used to make coffee. I have no idea what the purpose of this is, but all I can say is that it tastes better than it sounds.
Finally, I feel a lot of credit must go to my driver Vinh. A lot of people said that to get the full experience of an Easy Rider you need an older driver, as they have lived through and seen a lot of Vietnam’s past. I can safely dispel that statement, as 22 year old Vinh did an awesome job of educating me on Vietnam’s beautiful countryside as well as its past and present.
I’d like to think it was a two way learning experience, as I repaid Vinh’s teachings by trying to help him learn more English – usually to “woo” western tourists. I felt it was the least I could do. Like a lot of Vietnamese people, Vinh’s most used English words were “lovely jubbly” and “top banana”, which I found rather amusing. Now I know Only Fools and Horses is a popular show, but is it really the most popular English comedy show around the world?!
By the time I arrived in Da Lat, soaking wet and covered in clay after a sudden downpour in the nearby mountains, I felt genuine sadness that the trip was over. I really wish I could take an Easy Rider for every tour, but at around £40 a day, it just isn’t possible. All I can say is that everyone travelling around Vietnam should do it for at least one journey.
Trust me, you won’t regret it.