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Backpacking Vietnam, Part 7: The Road to Da Lat


Day 17: Riding in traffic to Tuy Hoa

The plan for today. Source:

Off on the road, the plan was to get to Tuy Hoa, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) away. This stop would purely be a place to sleep between Hoi An and Da Lat; I wouldn’t plan to do much in the city itself.

The road I went on today was different than most of the roads that I’ve travelled on before. There were four lanes total, two in each direction. This was more boring than the winding mountain roads I rode before, but I would be able to cover more ground here.

How most of my trip would look like for the next two days. Fast, but boring.

I continued to follow this road, and the more I rode, the less traffic there was. Strange, I thought. Isn’t this a popular road because of how wide it is? Then, I saw why. There was an airport to my right, and then, right afterwards, the road just… ends? There was a tiny continuation that seemed to lead to somewhere afterwards. Me, thinking that this tiny road was legit and that they just didn’t get around to paving the rest yet, continued to follow it. I thought, “why check the map?”

A nice big highway...

But it ends like this?

Now drivers know how it feels like when bike lanes just end!

This was a horrible idea. The road turned from the asphalt that was left to dirt. This is when I should have checked my map to make sure I was going somewhere! There was a tiny path through the dirt though, and I seriously thought that this was the road! Not more than two minutes later, the path was gone, and I was in the middle of a bunch of grass and sand, off-roading who knows where.

Why did I go here again?

After going on for waaay too long (about 5 minutes), and with my bike slowly deteriorating (remember my second fall before Hoi An? I still didn’t see a mechanic :upside_down_face:), I finally turned back. I should have never gone on the dirt path in the first place; why did I think I’d get anywhere?! I somehow found my way back to the asphalt and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Only after all of this hassle did I finally look at the map.

This was the road that got me out of here...

I managed to get out with no problem. Actually, something that I thought about right after I got out was the possibility that there could have been landmines here! I quickly ruled that out though, since I later found out that I was on an old US Air base from the 70s! I even saw some old hangars that were still there.

You can still see the hangars way in the back.

Along my ride. I love how crops look around harvest time.

There wasn’t much that happened the rest of the ride. Actually, I did run out of gas, but I was only 300 meters (1000 feet) from a gas station, so I was able to walk my bike all the way there! This is one of the advantages of going on a busy road; you’re never too far away from help if something goes wrong.

Luckily, I saw the gas station right in front of me.

Another thing was that there were a lot of crazy drivers on this road! I feel like the bigger the vehicle was, the more unsafe they were. Especially the buses! They were always swerving into my lane to pass, in particular when the road turned two-lane again with no median. It didn’t matter if you were on the road; they expected me to swerve to the side of the road while they honked at me to get out of the way! I kept my distance from them as to not get completely crushed, and made it fine to Tuy Hoa.

I booked a hotel there, ate a pizza, and rested the rest of the day. It seems like they were preparing the town for some sort of competition, but I didn’t look that much into it, as I was tired.

I don't know why i ordered so much pizza in Vietnam. :pizza:

Day 18: A cold ascent to Da Lat

The plan for today. Source:

I went extra far yesterday so that I could make it to Da Lat in two days. Today, I only had 250 kilometers (155 miles) to go, so I would arrive in Da Lat early to get a bit of a break.

Da Lat is a town that was cooler than the rest of Vietnam, around 23C (73F) year round. The specialties of the town that I heard about beforehand were coffee plantations and waterfalls. It also included a beautiful night market.

Coming from the mountains a week ago, and remembering how cold it was there, I was not too excited about coming here. But whatever, this would be a cool place to visit. Also, the first part of the ride was still going to be on the coast, meaning that it would still be warm for a bit.

Speaking of which, the coastal ride was similar to yesterday: a boring, busy 4 lane highway. I was riding along, and then at one point, I changed my gear. Suddenly, I hear a CLUNK. What was that? I tried pulling off to the side, but then I realized my gas didn’t work at all! I was also coasting along easier than before. I actually started laughing at this point, mostly at myself, since this was probably the karma that I got for still not going to the mechanic!

I pulled off to the side, where I inspected the damage. The chain fell off. No wonder the gas didn’t work! I was about ready to walk back to the nearest town to find a mechanic to help me repair this, but this would have been at least an hour away in the sweltering heat!

I didn't have the tools to fix this!

Then, the most amazing thing happened. There was a group of truckers right next to me, and so I asked them if they had any tools so I could fix the bike. Would you know that they not only came with an entire toolkit, but they personally fixed the bike for me themselves? It didn’t take more than 5 minutes, but their help to me was invaluable. They didn’t even want a single penny! So thank you to the unknown truckers that saved me from this pickle.

After the generosity of these truckers, I rode a bit, finally ending up on the quieter mountain road. I was actually kind of glad to be here, since I wasn’t going to be in traffic anymore! However, I was not glad to see mountains rolling in, as it started getting colder. I stopped, put on my jacket (for the first time this trip!), and as soon as I did, it started pouring on me. And this time, it was cold. Very cold.

Oh no, the rain's coming!

Luckily, the rain didn’t last too long. I learned my lesson, and drove slowly over the wet ground, not falling this time. But oh boy, was it cold! Even with all my layers on, I was shivering due to the temperature and the wind blowing on me. These were the worst shivers I had this whole trip (worse than before Hoi An!); I could not wait to be somewhere warm and dry.

This was my ride into Da Lat; all the farms were in a greenhouse!

Which, when I made it, I was soaking wet. I immediately took off all my wet clothes and put on something dry, after which I got in my bed. After doing so, I was still shivering so much that my teeth were rattling! I almost couldn’t fall asleep due to the shivers, but the blanket warmed me up just enough to where it was manageable.

After waking up, I had to figure out what to do tomorrow, as I was staying here for two nights. I originally planned to do a generic waterfall tour, but there was a group that was talking about some sort of “Secret Tour”, which I opted for instead because:

  • A bunch of others were going.
  • The people that came from it couldn’t stop talking about it.

The night was pretty uneventful, as I wanted to get some sleep to be ready for the secret tour tomorrow.

Day 19: The Da Lat Secret Tour

Well, since the secret tour should be a secret (it’s in the name!), I won’t divulge too much into what made it a secret. But, it was also partly a “see the entirety of Da Lat” tour, so I can go into those parts.

The first stop was a Cricket Farm, where we could try crickets! They actually sell them here in Switzerland too, so this wasn’t so crazy for me to see them like this. But I did try one with hot sauce, and I actually really liked the crispiness of it! I would recommend this as a more protein filled alternative to french fries if you could find it.

You see them?

Afterwards, we went to a local silk farm. Unfortunately, this was closed today, so we didn’t really get to see how the silk was made, but nevertheless, we saw a lot of cocoons.

These would be spun up to make clothes.

The next stop was Elephant Waterfall. I didn’t really enjoy this one so much. Sure, it was a massive waterfall, but it was extremely dirty. There was trash everywhere, and to get to and from the waterfall, you had to step on some very slippery rocks. I much preferred the waterfalls in Ha Giang or Pu Luong; at least there, I could swim in them!

Forget the waterfall; this is all I could focus on!

We headed off to a coffee farm afterwards. It was actually really cool seeing how coffee grew, since I’ve never seen it before. It wasn’t much different than a regular tree, actually. It wasn’t in season yet, but the guide said that it would ripen in November, and then, workers from all over Vietnam and Cambodia would come and help harvest them, since it’s good money.

Did you know Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil?

Across the street, there was also a curry farm (yes, that’s a thing!), where there were plants growing with red spices in it. Food wasn’t the only thing that this plant could be used for!

Curry: the hottest makeup product coming to a store near you!

Finally, we had a lunch. Here, we had some noodles that somebody from a village made in their house. Afterwards, we had an introduction of the fruits in the local area. I’m a huge fan of any fruit, or so I thought, before I tried durian. I heard it had a nasty smell, but the fruit itself tastes really good. This could not be further from the truth. I actually didn’t really mind the smell so much, but the taste was absolutely abhorrent. It almost made me gag, it was really so bad.

I definitely wish some of these grew in Switzerland :cry: (except durian).

This is about all of the tour that I’m willing to spoil, since the next part was where the secret really comes in and is what makes the tour really amazing. If you really want to know what happens next, Jet Setting Fools (Spoiler alert!) did a great piece on it, and my experience largely matches theirs.

I made it back to the hotel quite late, went to my bed, and then realized that all of my stuff was moved! They wanted to make room for a group that missed their bus, but I wonder why they had to move my stuff instead of giving one of the people in the group a bed somewhere else??

I lost a bunch of stuff that day, including:

  • The straps that held my bag onto the motorcycle.
  • My towel.
  • My gloves (which I eventually found the next day, but this still left me worried that I wouldn’t have them.).

I also got somebody else’s shirt. I don’t know whose it was, but I found it quite unprofessional from this hostel to do this whole act without telling me.

But besides this, the hostel in Da Lat might have been my least favorite hostel on my whole trip. The food and drinks were overpriced, and the staff would threaten to kick the guests out if they didn’t book all their Da Lat Tours with the hostel! I’m not going to mention the name to not bring any attention there.

Da Lat was a mixed bag for me. I didn’t really enjoy the fact that it was colder (I would have rather been at the beach), and the hostel I stayed at was not good. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the secret tour! Seeing coffee being grown was especially cool, as well as trying out all the fruits from the area. Of course, the secret part was amazing as well :wink:.

One final thing that I did in Da Lat was go to the Maze Bar, a popular tourist attraction. It is a bar that has a very interesting design in the middle, almost like a jungle. It was very easy to get lost inside. Of course, drinks would be more expensive here, but I think that paying a bit to have a fun experience inside was totally worth it.

It's hard to see, but there are a lot of hidden staircases in this narrow bar. It spans a total of six floors, and it is very easy to get lost here!

I went off to sleep, preparing for my final day of riding tomorrow. I planned another long day, 300 kilometers (200 miles). It would be my last one, and I could relax on buses between cities for the rest of the trip.