On the bus ride to Dalat, Dev and I decided we would check into The Dreams Hotel. The selling point for us is that it has a sauna, jacuzzi, and steam room. That would make the premium $30 rate worth it. On our first night there, we rushed through check in so that we could enjoy the spa before it closed at 7pm. We got about 20 minutes of pleasure.
The next morning we had an amazing breakfast, with a variety of fruit. Afterwards we headed out for the day. After 5 minutes of walking we got stopped by someone from Easy Rider. Easy Rider is a tour company that takes you on tours of the rural parts of the country, and it requires you to be willing to ride on a motor bike. So Dev and I are talking with a tour guide named Happy, who is trying to convince us to go on a 6-day tour to Hoi An. Dev and I are reluctant to do that long of a trip. We ended up negotiating a 3-day trip, to Nha Trang. Throughout, Dev and I were apprehensive about the 6-day trip due to time, and money ($400 per person). Our 3-day trip will cost us each $180. And without a written itinerary, all we know is that we’ll be riding on a bike for 3 days, seeing certain businesses and sites along the way.
Our tour was to begin 8:30 am the next morning, and as a preparation, Happy gave Dev and I lessons on how to ride the motorbike. We practiced by riding around Dalat.
Our first stop was an old train station, designed by two French architects in 1932. Below is Dev riding into the entrance.
Decorative train engines.
Next we visited a pagoda (Buddhist temple).
There were seven floors – you can walk all the way to top via spiral staircases. Each floor contains a statue. Each floor also gets smaller as you ascend.
Writings on a large bell.
At the topmost floor. Enlightenment.
Day One of Motorbiking
Our first day of motorcycle riding!
We checked out of the hotel and began our journey at 8:30am. I sat on the bike with Happy, and Dev was the first one to ride the motorbike solo.
On the road in the rural area. Our backpacks were strapped to the back of the motorbike in a plastic bag, as it rains daily.
Our first stop came quickly. We stopped at a flower and rose farm. Took a few photos, and proceeded from there.
We next stopped by a coffee plantation. The highlight here was coffee beans that have been through the digestive system of a weasel. Neither Dev or I felt the urge to try this coffee – I enjoyed a Butter Mocha bean instead. We enjoyed the views here for a bit, and life seemed very romantic and relaxed here, the lady who was helping us was polite, relaxed, and smiley.
Below is a coffee plant.
Coffee beans digested by a weasel.
The weasel is shy, hiding in the corner.
Weasel beans come in two flavors!
There was another woman in the coffee shop trying to sell us handmade silk scarves made by the locals, and she was saying I should buy one for my mom. I didn’t feel compelled to. And I would have felt worst if I had, because…
Our next stop was a silk factory. Now, I’ve known silk isn’t vegan, but that day I got to see the process firsthand. They have silk worms, which they feed for a few days.
These worms are then go into a cocoon state after a few days.
When they do, these cocoons are then tossed into hot water for 5 minutes, the silk extracted. It was pretty hot and humid in the factory.
The larvae is then disposed of in some way. Below is the remains of the cocoon with the silk extracted.
The rest of the factory processes the silk, by spooling it or weaving it into a cloth.
And below is the final product. Odd something so beautiful comes from a worm. One article of silk clothing is perhaps the result of a few hundred cocoons.
For a bit of a change, we next stopped by at Elephant Waterfalls, for a nice 40 minute trek. It felt good to have some real time in nature.
Behind the waterfall:
I think at this point I took over, and started biking on the road. Overall, the experience felt very comfortable and safe. The rural roads are empty, there weren’t many big trucks, and there aren’t people speeding around everywhere – they take it easy.
We left the waterfalls and rode to a restaurant where we had lunch. Leaving the restaurant we put our ponchos on, as it would continue raining. Below is Dev modeling how we ride motorbikes with ponchos on.
We then rode to a rice wine farm. We sampled some rice wine for 20,000 dong ($1 USD).
Fresh rice wine being brewed!
We continued down the road and saw the cocoon factory – basically a hut with silk worms eating leaves, and then being laid out on frames at the right time where they would become cocoons. These cocoons would then be sold to the factory we visited earlier, where the silk is processed and spooled.
Our guide liked to show us the entire chain of how things are made.
The silk worms are put on these frames; eventually they go into a cocoon state here.
Inside the hut, where the floor is filled with worms and leaves.
En route, we had beautiful views like below. What a simple life these fishing families live.
Riding to our homestay, I got a flat tire on my bike. I fishtailed a bit when the tire popped, and then I honked a few times for Happy to hear (he was riding with Dev on the motorbike ahead of me) and stopped on the side of the road. He came back and repaired the tire, and we were on our way in 10 minutes. Luckily this happened at dusk, when we still had sunlight.
When we arrived at our guesthouse, it wasn’t what we expected. we thought we would be staying with a family in the rural area. Instead we got a dorm in the rural area – there’s about 20 beds in one long cabin.
Bad photo, but there were ladders to the entrance. All the houses here are raised about 10 feet from the ground, as the nearby river floods during the heavy rain season.
My bed for the night, with mosquito net.
All houses are long like this; there’s about 20 beds in here.
We showered and then had dinner at the on site restaurant.
Overall the day had been great, and I’m glad we decided to do this 3-day motorcycling trip. I don’t think I’d like to do this beyond 3 days, as its would get tiring with a tour guide, your days being managed by someone else. And there was also some sales pressure, since Happy was hoping we would really love the tour and want to upgrade it to 6 days.
I thought how motor biking could be quite useful in other parts of Vietnam where attractions are near cities, 10-30 km away. Its not always easy to get there via bus, or too expensive via taxi or guided tours.
I also fancied the idea of owning a scooter when I go back to SF. Maybe.
Next post: Days 2 and 3 of motorbiking!