There’s nothing like hitting the open road in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, with the boundless blue sky above, mountains behind, and green rice paddies stretching all the way to the horizon ahead. Especially if you’re on the back of a motorcycle, with Phuong – your very own Dalat Easy Riders tour guide, host and friend.
Having spent some time in Ho Chi Minh City and wanting to make our way south to tropical Nha Trang, we headed to Dalat, a mountainous part of Central Vietnam with a uniquely cool, fresh climate. There, having heard of the Dalat Angels and their guided motorcycle tours, we connected with Phuong and made our plans. Over the next three days he would drive us to Nha Trang on the back of his motorcycle, take photos for us, order food for us, translate for us, share stories and laughter with us, introduce his family to us, and keep us safe the whole time.
We had the option to stay in a hotel the night before we departed, but Phuong instead invited us to stay in his family home; this set the tone for the whole trip, and gave us a chance to get to know and trust our friendly guide before spending three days on the road together. That night we went to sleep giddy with anticipation for the day ahead.
Our trip began with cloudy skies, and indeed was plagued with occasional rain and cool winds throughout; but from time to time, glorious sunny patches lit up the world around, and felt like the universe was rewarding us for some good deed. Those moments made up for the chill that occasionally required us to wear absolutely everything we’d packed, as protection against the wind and mist.
Being on the back of a motorcycle driving through the countryside was in itself a exciting affair for city-dwellers like us. The first morning we enjoyed the thrill of the ride itself, and then settled into an easy comfort as we traversed the many different landscapes, waving to friendly rural schoolkids who shouted to us in English.
The route was meandering, with stops along the way taking as long as we liked, adjusting the schedule to fit. We tried strong Vietamese coffee, fresh from the plantation, atop a misty mountain, and then later on down in the valley visited a coffee farm and saw the fresh coffee bean pods on the plants. We had complete freedom, pulling over to wander aimlessly into a rice paddy or take photos with some Vietnamese sheep.
An overnight stay in a rural area became a lesson in local drinking culture – after a dinner shared with members of Phuong’s extended family in their home – ending in hilarity, broken languages and hand gestures. The next day, we walked around a small village of houses on stilts, and the sun came out to play; sitting on the doorstep of a thatched hut and playing in the dirt with some curious kittens, we felt a million miles from the sprawling Hong Kong metropolis.
Other highlights included a visit to the stunning Elephant Falls; a ride across a small two-motorbike ferry; and stops at various real-life examples of local industry and agriculture, from a silkworm factory to a brick making shop to rubber plantations and mushroom farms.
Despite the exposure to the elements, this turned out to be the very best way to see Vietnam. When we came home from Vietnam, friends asked us to share highlights, and we can honestly say that just hanging out with Phuong and discovering the culture and ideas of Vietnam, through him and his family, were the most memorable aspects of the trip. What we experienced was utterly different from anything that can be gotten from a guidebook or traveling on one’s own. Forget about cars, trains or crowded buses, this is the real deal.
To learn more about the Easy Riders motorcycle tours, visit our new friends at Vietnam Easy Riders.