After spending a few days in Da Lat, we decided it was time to hit the road and continue north, with a brief stop over in Nha Trang. As luck would have it, whilst I was out for a morning ride seeing some sights I met a Vietnamese guy named Anh, who works for Easy Rider motorbike tours as a guide. He lives in Nha Trang and was heading back that afternoon so he kindly offered to show us the way on the nicest roads. The road from Da Lat to Nha Trang was simply beautiful, riding at over 2000 meters above sea level on a brand new paved road, with no trucks or busses was a very welcome change! We stopped at a few nice view points to admire the breath taking scenery this country has to offer, and a short 3 hour ride later we had arrived at a guest house recommended by Anh.
Nha Trang is a costal town, and is a favourite for tourists from all over the world. In particular, it seems, the Russians. Almost all of the signs, menus and shops are in Russian, and there seems to be a large expat community also residing here. Anh offered to take us to his brothers mechanic shop to service our bikes the next morning, and whilst we were waiting he mentioned his friend had caught 300 kilograms of fish that morning and invited us to go and feast with them. 10am, beers and fish with 4 new vietnamese friends was a great start to the day. As we got talking, he also offered to take us fishing on his boat the next day. We couldn’t believe our luck, Anh is turning out to be a very handy contact for us! Sure enough, the next morning we were back on our bikes and roaring off towards the port to board the boat and spend a day snorkelling and fishing in some of the most crystal clear and glassy waters I’ve ever seen. We dropped anchor in a secluded cove, and within 20 seconds of dropping my line I’d caught my first fish. This continued for much of the morning, within 30 minutes we’d caught at least 30 fish – Louis even managed to hook two at the same time!
Unfortunately for me, despite the dead calm surface of the water, I soon came down with a fairly horrific bout of sea sickness, so I was unable to partake in the feast which Anh and his wife had prepared for us. Louis made up for it by eating his share as well as mine though. Since being in the water was far more pleasant than on the boat for me, I spent much of the afternoon snorkelling and just lying on the beach of a nearby island. The city, from the view of the boat, has a striking resemblance to Honolulu in Hawaii, flanked by Vinpearl Island to the south which is a giant theme park and resort. Whilst on the boat, Anh asked if we would like to see the real Vietnam and hire him as our guide for the next 5 days and 1200kms… After some negotiations, we decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up and sealed the deal with a hand shake on the spot.
What followed was truly a remarkable experience. We rode for anything between 4 and 8 hours every day, stopping constantly to explore and discover the local culture. Everything from pepper & cashew farms, coffee and tea plantations, to hill tribe villages and rice wine distilleries in the basement of a village hut. Once we reached the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the road opened up and gave way to some of the most beautiful mountain, jungle and valley scenery I have ever been lucky enough to lay eyes on. The feeling of riding a bike through this country is so liberating and free that I couldn’t help but wear a constant smile on my face. It seemed the further north we travelled, the more stunning the country side became. We ate like kings at the finest local kitchens, and anything we wanted, Anh was able to arrange with only a minutes notice. As well as being a brilliant guide, he was an amazing companion and friend to us along the way. Indeed we shared more laughs than I can mention together over the 5 day journey, and with his trademark phrase being “Why not?” there was very little we couldn’t do with him by our side.
All good things however, must come to an end as they say. So it was with no small measure of sadness that we finally said good bye to Anh in Hoi An, and went out into the wild on our own once more. Our time spent with Anh was truly an incredible experience. We saw things we would never have been able to see on our own, met a great group of people from all walks of life, and learnt more about how the rural Vietnamese people live than I’d ever imagined. Whilst it may have been a very different way to travel than if we’d done it on our own, experiencing the country with a local, on a bike, is definitely the best way to do it.
We were now almost at the half way point of the journey, however after such an intense 5 days of riding we decided we’d take it a bit more slowly from now on, and really make the most of the remaining 1800kms. It proved to be the right choice, and what came next was arguably one of the most enjoyable 3 weeks of my life… Stay tuned for more details!