CROSSING CENTRAL VIETNAM BY MOTORBIKE...
Trip Start Jan 12, 2003
20Trip End Dec 20, 2003
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So, yes, it did sound crazy at first, but then the idea of crossing the Central Highlands of Vietnam on the back of a motorbike began to shape into something akin to a wonderful idea. From using them as a city taxi to using them as the "family car", they are the most common way of getting around in Southeast Asia. They are much more affordable for the local people to own, and are much more practical in the small geographical areas where automobiles would cause traffic gridlock and parking nightmares. To put it mildly, picture the LA freeway at 5pm on its worst day, and multiply it by 6. Best of all, motorbikes allow for that wind in your face, almost unobstructed 360-degree view that you just can't get in a bus or a train. They allow you to get to places that other forms of transport could never go, and they give you a closer feeling to the outside world as you make your way along
To have found them was just a stroke of luck. At each city we visit, there are always many people competing for your "tourist dollar". Tourist companies, private individuals, hotels, and restaurants practically beg for you to take their tour, stay in their rooms, or eat their meals. Most of the time you kindly refuse, sometimes you firmly refuse, and occasionally you, how should we say it, VERY firmly refuse. So it was not unusual for these two gentlemen to approach us touting their day tour of Dalat. At first we declined their offer, but they persisted just enough and had an air about them that finally made us reconsider. After a day with them, there was no doubt that 6 more just had to be done. They had two very different personalities: Thai, a taller, lean man in his early 40's was soft-spoken and calm. He enjoyed talking about such things as the government, religion, and how fate plays into one's life. He loved his family very much, evidenced by his extreme homesickness by the end of the week. Although his family originally lived in the north near Hanoi, they had moved to Dalat when he was young and Thai was somehow lucky enough to avoid fighting for either side during the Vietnam War
It all came into focus over 6 days how different life was for them and how few their opportunities could be. You see, if you lived in the South, and especially if you fought for the South or the Americans, you were treated as a second class citizen when the war was over. The jobs went to those connected to the government of the North Vietnamese
So, we'll let the pictures alone speak for this part of our journey. Sometimes it is hard to put the great little moments into words, but we don't think we'll ever forget the time spent with these two. We won't easily forget evening meals, swapping stories and drinking beer, when Loc, after his telling of a funny joke and upon the punch line, would slap his hands together and laugh hard enough to force him onto his feet and out of his chair. Or visiting villages where the children have seen so few westerners that they ran in fear into the jungles while Loc translated for us their "challenges" to the other children to leave the jungle and go see us. We'll remember when we came down out of the mountains and towards the coast on day five - the views of the valley before us would rival some of the best scenery we have ever taken in
And then, all too soon, the week ended. We bid farewell to them in Hoi An, and it seemed strange that it was just the two of us again. Now, as we make our way through northern Vietnam, we continue to find new experiences to fill our days. We'd like to tell you more, but that will have to wait...
Until Next Time,
Jon and Liz