In the mountains
Trip Start Mar 07, 2009
69Trip End Apr 08, 2010
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Bus to Dalat was nice until matey in front reclines into my lap. Was supposed to be a tourist bus but I think not as it was full of locals, the guide bloke could not speak English, and the film was some Vietnamese tripe! Despite this I still enjoyed it, broke out the ipod and watched the world go by. Dalat is the first stop towards the Vietnam Central Highlands, altitude about 1500m and rising so nice and cool. Unfortunately it rains a lot as well but it is rainy season now so can't complain, actually makes me think of home. We got touted as soon as we got off the bus but the dude seemed okay and the hotel was nice, but as soon as we had put our bags down they were throwing various tours at us left right and centre so we thought maybe we had made a mistake staying there. Went our for tea and found a better gaff so moved in there the next day, same quality hotel but more friendly, less in your face and right in the middle of town. plus beers are only about 40p, winner.
The hotel is a local hangout for the Dalat Easy Riders, a 90 strong group of Vietnamese motorcycle tour guides that take people like me all over the country so after a chill day we agreed to go out on a local test run around the surrounding hills. There was a bit of controversy at the start though as we were originally going out with 2 guys Hung (AKA Scimitar) and Mr Hian as they saw us first but the Mr Hian dude didn't show as he had booked a longer tour with someone else so Scimitar said that Mr Bean would be taking his place (they all have funny names!) as we saw him 3rd but then this other guy (Mr Lam), who's wife runs the hotel apparently said that he should take one of us instead and Scimitar kicked off. They started yelling at each other in the street and it looked like they might come to blows but it all seemed to fizzle out after a couple of minutes. I would have fancied Scimitar in the fight as he is a kung fu expert, hence the name. Plus the previous day he was telling us how he used to rob people at knife point after the war as there were no jobs, top fella though, he still has the knife! Seriously he is sound now, I think :) Tells us later that Mr Lam is a bit of an imposter as only been an Easy Rider for 2 years after bribing the police to get a badge. They are very serious about their status as easy riders, I guess that is good for us.
So went went on the tour with scimitar and bean and had a great time. The bikes are classic bikes, 175cc imitation Harley style bikes and Ang & I sat on the back of one each for the day while they took us round a few local sights like coffee plantations, silk worm farms, cable car, water falls, temples and a minority village (one of 154 different cultures in Vietnam, all with different customs and languages. They told us how monkeys sneak in after dark and cook up corn on the fire embers and peel fruit and stuff with left knives but I think they maybe winding us up!! One thing Scimitar didn't lie about was that he will never eat dog meat (which many people do here) because one of his neighbor's stole his dog and ate it, though he never found out who. Got back and Mr Hian got the hump because we booked a five day trip, starting Thursday 28th up the central highland to Hoi An with Scimitar and Mr Tue (two-ay), Bean couldn't make it, and expected to take part in it, but he let us down on the day trip so tough luck to him. The other guys were all pals again despite the earlier altercation.
Next day went on a cool canyoning trip about 10 miles from Dalat with Phat Tire Ventures. It was awesome, did 2 dry abseils 20m and 16m into a stream below (after practice) and I was crapping it the first time I went over. Haven't done anything like this since scout camp and I think I bottled it then. Not this time though and after the so-called easy ones we did a water slide down a small water fall on our backs which looked like it would hurt but was okay, even did it backwards. Then did a 25m abseil down a running water fall, yes down the slippery cliff with tons of water coming down on our legs, then the final one called the washing machine. Only 16m but after abseiling down about 5m of rock we went over the top and just hung and slowly lowered our butts down para style until we reached a point where two waterfalls converged and went right through with the water coming down on our heads and spinning us round and round, hence the name washing machine. In between we also did a 7m jump off into the river which I nailed straight away but Ang agonised over for what seemed like half an hour before jumping in while screaming like a lunatic. I was laughing my arse off, stopping briefly only while she hit the water but she was okay, it was so funny!
Also, bizarrely, the geezer who instructed us, Khanh, was the lead local safety expert last month when none other than Bear Grylls came to Vietnam for his born survivor series. This proves that our guy is for sure the best at what he does, and he was very good. Bear Grylls set the show in the exact same place where we did the canyoning course, except without ropes and stuff. He was saying that they had to work for 7 days to prepare for the show, clearing trails, cleaning slippery rocks and carefully placing vines and stuff. they also caught a rake of catfish so the Bear could choose one, then placed it in some shallow water and creating a discrete rock dam so that the fish could not escape, conveniently allowing Grylls to catch it with his bare hands. The Bear also stayed in a private villa and stayed in so no one could see him as he was supposed to be sleeping in the jungle in a hammock made with a spiders web or something. Of course I knew all this went on already but it was funny hearing it for real. I love Bear Grylls so this was exciting for me. So if Bear Grylls Vietnam comes on, watch it, we were there!
I'm starting to feel that this trip is kicking off now as we are doing more trips rather than bumming around looking at stuff, and as a result we are spending more but believe it or not we are about 1.5k under budget at the moment so we are set for the full 12 months at the moment, nice.
Tomorrow we are off on our epic 5 day bike trip, it's gonna be awesome!!!!
Oh and good luck Barca, sorry Jon, Ian :)