Easy Riders Dalat to Hoi An!

We are now in Hoi An – it‘s about 35 degrees and humid; very sticky, but it‘s an amazing town and we are so relaxed we keep extending our stay here. To catch up here‘s a mammoth blog entry to try to cover the 4 most incredible days we had with The Easy Riders who are based in Dalat here in Vietnam. We met Hong on our first evening in Dalat wearing his distinctive Easy Rider blue and black jacket. These guys generally run motorbike tours around the country but Dave and I opted instead for a car. Hong went off and got everything ready for us and hired an amazing 4 wheel drive Ford with air-con that was immaculate inside and out, plus a great driver called Thanh (later to be nicknamed Mr Smooth as he’s quite a hit with the ladies!). So let me introduce to you Hong and Mr Smooth! If you have stumbled across this page and are interested in hiring an Easy Rider whilst travelling in Vietnam; contact Hong at email: ross321dl2002@yahoo.com

Our first stop was a silk worm factory where we were shown the process step by step from the actual silk worm cocoons right through to finished silk garments. Here Hong shows Dave the silk worm cocoons. These are placed in hot water to kill the worms (the worms are then usually cooked and eaten later, very little is wasted in Vietnam) and then removed from their cocoons.

The cocoons bob about in the water and a machine, shown below, sucks the threads up from the cocoons and starts to unravel them on to spools. It‘s amazing how quickly it moves from being a cocoon to actual thread.

This is the same process but being done indivdually by hand to produce the more rawslublooking silk, which unusually sells for cheaper than the other more refined version even though the hand process is slower.

The silk is by this time on bobbins and can now be used to produce cloth. The brown hanging bamboo looking stuff below is actually a pattern which goes through the machine and impresses the pattern on to the cloth.

A worker monitors the process of the pattern making machine.
Further along the route we stopped off to see the Elephant Waterfalls and to visit this Buddhist temple in Nam Bhang; accessed by a very rickety bridge as Dave demonstrates below!
The stone steps to the temple are flanked on either side by carved dragons which crawl along the verandah and down the steps; their heads fiercly guarding the entrance.

Behind the temple stands a huge Buddha which actually has access inside it. Its belly button was a viewing window with an entrance door in the flowing sleeve under his resting hand. You can just about see Dave who I got to stand in front of this to show the scale.

Inside the temple; the carvings in some of these places are huge. Some are carved from wood whilst others are made from papier mache.

A pit stop for local lunch with Hong and Than and some great views. We never saw a menu once in the 4 days, Hong would ask us what sort of thing we liked to eat and then would take us some place that sold something similar; i.e. chicken or goat etc, but for the entire 4 days we only ate locally and it was great food.

Dave gives Hong a helping branch!
We stayed the first night at a place on the lake called Lak Leke. A simply furnished room with great views of the lake from the terrace at the back.
We had good fun in the restaurant at breakfast with Hong and his Easy Rider friend Windy who was running a similar route with Phu taking two Irish guys Aidan and Michael to Nha Trang. Hong’s always telling us stories about how short he is compared to his wife and it seems everyone else!

Thanh cleaning out the ‘gangstercar for the 2nd day of our trip. Thanh really looked after us and the car.

An impromptu cock fight just as we were leaving, these two were tearing feathers out of each other.

The ‘marriedIrish couple returning their empties.
A rice threshing machine on the road side separating all the rice grains from the plants.

Raking the rice out to dry on the side of the road. Vietnam is currently the 2nd largest rice exporter after Thailand.

If you ever wondered what it looks like from the back of an elephantthis is it! It‘s bloody high up and not particularly comfortable. Windy was trying to convince us that an hour on the elephant would be bestbut luckily we decided on half an hour! We stopped off early morning to take the elephant ride and it was already scorching hot at only 10am; around 38 degrees. We rode the elephant for a wade into Buon Jun Lake.
This is how the locals do it…….

….. and this is the more ungainly way that we did it after climbing on from the stepped tower.

Hong rewarded the elephant with a bunch of bananas.

Water buffalo wallowing in the lake.

Sand dredging for sand for building.
Hong and Dave walking across the now closed bridge which was bombed during the war.
Hong takes us for a quick stop off at a local family mushroom farm. They hang these plastic bags in a dark damp place and put mushroom spores and wood shavings and a small branch of tapioca in each bag.

The mushrooms fertilise and grow out of slits cut in to the sides of the bags. The bigger mushrooms are calledearslocally.

Hong and Dave in a small family plot of black pepper planting. They stick a big piece of wood into the ground and train the black pepper vines to grow up and around them.
For the first 2 days we would bump in to Michael and Aiden on their tour, here they are coming off one of the very rickety bridges near one of the waterfalls we visited.

A local park guide who wanted Micahel and Aiden‘s empty beer cans so he could sell them for scrap aluminium.

Hong, Dave, Michael and Aiden relaxing by the waterfall.
A very rare photo of me and Dave taken by Hong in a moment of submission to pose for a photo by Dave.

A local lady and her baby cross one of the bridges.

Local kids on their bicyclewhich is always way too big for them but they always seem to manage anyway.

A local noodle making factory run by a small family who have become very successful supplying local restaurants and families. The noodles are the white flat variety. The plank of wood you can see is sat on by the owner to press the rice flour through noodle pressing sieves – the holes in the sieve denote how wide the noodles will be.

Local hill tribe ladies.

Hong took us to one of the local markets run mainly by the ‘minority’ peoples of the area.

Anyone fancy lunch?
Rubber plantation. Small bowls are hung from the trees which are tapped for rubber sap.

First time I have seen a massive log being transported on a motorbike!
Congestion on the roads, Vietnamese style. Well at least it wasn’t bloody motorbikes.

Bamboo growing along the road side.

Rice terraces.

A pit stop for fresh pressed sugar cane drinks and Vietnamese coffee.
Mr Smooth pulls the ladies with his magnetic charm.

Apparently lots of people come to canoodle on this bridge.

Defused bombs used as gateposts.

Hong and Dave on the steps of a war memorial.

Standing on the Indo China border. This way to Laos.

Communist workers posters.

Okay so this was surreal; we stopped off en route to have lunch and as we walked in noticed the palce was full of soldiers in full dress uniform. I was nervous about taking a photograph but within minutes of being here the soldiers were lining up to meet us and have their photos taken with is. It was an amazing expereince and these are the Viet Cong veterans from the war. They visit this area to remember their colleagues who died in the war but also to celebrate that they survived. They were incredible people, teaching me how to dance Vietnamese style, singing and clapping, the whole place was in uproar for most of the time we were in there. I have never been welcomed by an army quite like this before and Dave and I were totally overwhelmed, as were Hong and Thahn a little too we think – because the whole situation was a real one off experience!
Honestly it really was that mad – I was quite literally crying with laughter in this photo!

It was so hot I quite fancied jumping in for a shower.

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