just finished my miniature version of ewin mcgreggor's long way down, except it was the long way up from da lat to kon tum across 5 different provinces within the central highland region of viet nam. last time i wrote i think i was drunk and climbing over some gate.
i arrived in da lat quite late on in the afternoon, and the bus driver was a mentalist, we had to go up some big old mountains to get to da lat and take some crazy hairpins, but i guess to save on petrol or something, the bus driver decided to take these tight hairpin turns at about 20mph, with some fairly sheer drops on one side. the friver was forced to calm it down a bit when on one extra fast turn the luggage compartments underneath us opened and it took about 5 minutes for the driver and his minions to pick up the fallen luggage and secure the doors so it didnt happen again.
da lat is a very boring city, i guess some might say full of culture, but not really, all the significant buildings are all modern and not that inspiring really. except for one, called the 'crazy house' . it looked luike something straight out of alice in wonderland, really weird. designed by the daughter of viet nams 2nd president, she studied architechture in russia for about 14 years, and designed this house to improve awareness of nature, and the influence that we have over the wild. but it really is just crazy, based on a simple design of a couple of trees which have lots of different themed rooms, such as the bear room, and the lion room. i wish my house was like that.
being rather bored with da lat, i wondered down to the man made lake where up rode one of the notorious easy riders. short man, fairly stocky and had a few teath missing, but spoke good english and was a little witty, so i let him try to persuade me to go on one of his big old trips. i was very reluctant, he was asking for a lot of money, but in my shear boredom i agreed to a day trip, but being the slightly cocky fellow our Phu is, he wanted more. so we started a bit of haggling, which for the Easy Riders is new territory, and i managed to drop the price by $50 which was good enough for me to jump on board and hit the road for a 5 day bonanza in the central highlands with food and accomodation included in the price. fantastic desicion, Phu picked out some awesome food for me to try, but he also picked out some rather poor food too. he always said he wasnt hungry hoping that i would say i wasnt and we could skip on a meal, but thats not like me, i want my full moneys worth!
Day 1: we just went in and around da lat, visiting the areas where most people go, and it was just a short day, a warm up for my bum for the many hours on the bike to come. one of our many stops was at a small waterfall, quite popular with the vietnamese tourists. trust me when i say that no one does roller coasters like the vietnamese/ youre completely in control of how fast you're going. however my speed was hampered by the lack of faith i had in the quality of the vietnamese design and manufacture. but still managed to pick up quite a lot of speed through the turns. but when i reached about half way down, there was a rather large local, mid aged lady who was terrified by the roller coaster, and insisted on going down using the break all the way. really annoying, so i had to wait about 5 minutes at each downhill section for her to clear it, so i could go through in about 5 seconds before having to repeat the whole procedure.
eventually i got to the bottom and was shocked to find that there were all these local young girls dressed up as indians from some movie set in the wild west. as i looked around harder i found that there was also a big old man dressed up in an equally large and old bear costume. there was even a man dressed up in a cowboy costume, the costume included leather chaps, a waistcoat, a cowboy hat and even a real horse! ridiculous!
we stopped for lunch at some local restaurant where we endulged on some pork spring rolls with a twist, we had to roll them ourselves, and with the presense of one of the many football teams in the vietnamese equivilant of the championship or whatever its called these days, like the 2nd best league, all eagle eyed, watching me as i prepped my first spring roll. starting with a bit of salad to form the base, and building it up with the pork on top, i made a rather poor attempt to roll it, thinking that it wouldnt matter too much, i dipped it in a little bit of peanut sause and then took a large bite, and as i bit down on it, the rest of it came out of the other end and fell on the floor with a splat, and obviously to the local professional spring roll rollers it was hilarious. it was pretty funny actually, even i have to admit, and i gave a little chuckle too. but i soon mastered the art and the footballers lost interest and we finished.
Day 2: early 9 am start with a lot of miles to cover. we set off through the relatively easy sunday morning traffic of da lat, and soon found ourselves swirving from one pot hole to the next on our way to Dak Lak. en route we took in a few sights, a silk farm, many coffee plantations, a local hill tribe, and ended up with us spending the night at a pretty fancy hotel right on the largest natural lake in asia.
Day 3: again set off at 9 on our short trip to our next hotel to drop off our bags and head on to the waterfalls near by. the hotel was again pretty beautiful, but kind of in the middle of no where and right beside a raging torrent of water which passed over boulders the size of houses. we left after an hour of relaxation for the beautiful waterfalls, one of which we could have swam in, but Phu forgot to mention this, so i didnt bring my swim things but he insisted i take his lead and strip down to my underpants and just jump in with him, and a couple dozen others, i thought id leave it, and just go on the killer treck through the jungle, which i ended up doing on my own, thought he might have joined me, but no. it was ok to start with, a nice defined path which led the way along side the river. but it soon came to a big open clearing, with no path. i walked on a bit to see if i could find one, no luck. so i had to make my own way along by the river in hope that soon id stumble across another path, and sure enough i did. this path went on for miles and took me past many farms and stuck religiously to the river. but walking a long some farmers land a lone dog started barking at me. it was only small and fluinched when i got close, so i didnt think much of him, but his howls had allerted the other dogs near by, and soon enough, a few meters down the road, i was faced with a pack of about 8 dogs all making lots of sound and blocking the path. i tried to walk around them, but they were smarter than i thought and just followed where i went but remained on the path. i jumped over a fence to try and get away from them and rejoin the path later, but when i did there was a very loud fairly large dog, but i briskly walked past it and didnt hesistate when walking past, but it kept following me, stalking me until i raised my stick at it, and got alittle scared and left me alone. the three waterfalls at the end of the treck were worth it i think, but i realised when i got to the end, i could have just sat on the motorbike for like 4 minutes and been at the waterfalls, would have been a lot easier.
day 4: a lot of miles to cover again. this time from near dak lak all the way up to pleiku. oh my buddha how it started to get a bit uncomfortable towards the end. but the highlight of this day for me, was going to some very small town which is unknown to most of the tourists who just skip past it. and i had the chance to go take a strole around the local market. nothing can prepare you for this kind of attention! its a bit scary. just when ur walking through everyone stares at you and when they realise theyre staring they look away, until you walk past and then you can feel their eyes watching you. some of the more confident people in the market actually bother to say hello, which makes it a little less unnerving, but do u say hello in english or in vietnamese? if you say hello they laugh a little, but if you say sinchow (i dont know how u spell it) they either laugh harder or are surprised that a white man would actually know how to say hello in vietnamese despite pronouncing every syllable wrong. such a complex language, all tonal, the same word can mean like 5 different things if it's said slightsly differently. i got a little weary of all the watching eyes and descided after a few minutes that it was time for me to leave. especially after getting a lot of strange looks from some people at a mechete stall.
Day 5: Today! just a few miles today, not a lot. we took in the views of a local park witha small zoo inside. and then headed onwards to Kon Tum before visiting the local orphanage. quite a sad place, all the very young children grabbed on to your legs as if to grab your affection as its not uncommon for a westerner to adopt these young kids, so theres a lot of competition amongst the small children.
we then visited a local man in a small village on the outskirts of the town to have a listen of his bamboo music skills. hes pretty good, and his wife helps him along giving the thudding beat on a big bass drum.
the finale of the trip with the easy rider was this evening, when we went for a local barbeque, with a difference. the difference being not the traditional pork sausages and beef burger you find back home, but instead some nice old porcupine which you cooked yourself, accompanied with some pigeon soup. the porcupine wasnt too bad actually, tasted like pork, but the pigeon soup was awful.
anyway think thats enough of a recap of my recent adventures, more will follow soon. bye.