Our plan for the day was to do a little bit of exploration in the area surrounding Hoi An and later in the afternoon get on another sleeper bus going South. We started riding with no specific idea in mind, although someone had mentioned a nice beach to us. I am unsure whether we followed any signs (unlikely, as more often than not there are no road signs in Vietnam) but after about half an hour of relaxed riding we reached the seaside.
We parked our bikes when immediately a man came to collect a fee from us, we were a bit annoyed as we noticed that he asked us double what he was asking the locals, wasn’t worth arguing though as the whole fee for both of us was about the equivalent of 70p.
The beach was lovely and the water had a very attractive turquoise shade. The wind was blowing and it made it perfect to sit down underneath some palm trees and maybe slightly too cold to go swimming, so we didn’t.
While sitting, having a drink and “chilling” we were approached by a hawker with a basket full of souvenir-like objects. She was extremely talkative and spoke a basic English and stopped to chat with us for a long time, talking about her kids, about her job, improvising hilarious songs to convince us to buy something from her. At some point she even pretended to leave and sent us a “colleague” to demonstrate how she was the only one to have the wooden chopsticks I had eyed. She came back almost straight away and amused us with a few more songs. I ended up buying the chopsticks and I still now use them on an almost-daily basis.
She was such a good entertainer..!
After this funny episode we wandered around the beach for a little while. There weren’t many people there: only a few men sleeping on their hammocks, the hawkers and the random couple hanging out.
My back tyre had been periodically deflating for the whole trip, so while going back to Hoi An, when I spotted the yellow rubber tube of an air compressor outside of a house, I knew we were supposed to stop there.
We were greeted by an old man and his bold young granddaughter. I tried to explain in English what our problem was and in response the man started writing in French on the concrete using a piece of chalk so I replied to him in my super basic, partly made-up French.
After finding a hole in my tyre he started fixing it and in the meanwhile tried to chat with us- using his chalk of course- asking us where we were from and then discussing some Italian and European history; all of this while his granddaughter, who was not intimidated by us AT ALL, was trying to catch Silvia’s attention.
Once my tyre was finally (!!) fixed we went back to the centre of Hoi An and had lunch and since we had a few hours to spare before our sleeper bus would leave, we decided to do some more exploration and wasted a lot of time trying to find a Japanese bridge near the centre.
Around 5pm we finally headed towards our bus stop and had our motorcycles loaded, this time the people doing the job were not very careful and they broke some of our directional lights. I got a bit angry and told them to be careful but the people were not very responsive, they probably didn’t even understand me.
This time we weren’t as lucky as the first one and we got two “single” beds, which ere quite tight and waaaay to short to comfortably fit our (relatively) long legs so the travelling was a bit uncomfortable, I still managed to sleep, although waking up many times, Silvia had it a bit harder on her side.
In the evening we stopped at one of the service stations to have food, again everything was in Vietnamese se we just chose our dishes randomly and sat to eat outside with some other tourists that were on our same bus. There we met Giuseppe, an Italian young man from near Salerno who was in the midst of a 6-months long journey in South East Asia; he had taken a year off and worked in Australia for the first half of that time to earn money to be able to travel in the successive half. He had been travelling for several months at that point already so had many stories and anecdotes to share until it was time to leave again- we really had to be careful to who our drivers were and where they were as there was no warning whatsoever when the buses were leaving again.
The journey lasted in total almost 12 hours- including the stop- and we woke up in Nha Trang at about 5am. It was still dark outside and I was sleeping when we stopped so at first I was feeling a bit disoriented.
After we got our motorcycles and our backpacks back we studied the map for a while before heading towards the inland and Dalat.
Once we were outside Nha Trang the landscape soon became mountainous and the scenery beautiful. We decided to take an early stop to have breakfast when on our way we found what looked like a really big restaurant with a patio or maybe even a religious place, I’m not sure. We were welcomed by a man who brought us some warm pho and told us about the area, gave us some directions and explained how the building in construction on the opposite side of the road was one of the not many Christian churches in the area (8.2% of the Vietnamese population is Christian).
We then continued on our way to Dalat up a very curvy and steep mountain road, encountering some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen! The road was so steep that in some parts our 110cc motorbikes would not be able to go over a 20-25km/h speed, but I guess that gave us a chance to better enjoy the surroundings full of hills, plateaus, waterfalls, lush vegetation and every possible shade of green. We still stopped many times to take photos. At some point a white minibus also stopped at one of the viewpoint where we were and we found one of the passengers was Giuseppe; I guess they could afford to travel at a slightly higher speed than us.
While going up the mountain, a piece of her motorbike fell of Silvia’s bike (the part that covers the pinion), when we realised I went back for a few kilometres looking for it but wasn’t able to find it so we continued anyways.
We rode through a big park and then found the giant huts of an indigenous ethnic group, the Ma (Người Mạ), that preserves most part of their traditional life-style. Unfortunately no one was there when we arrived.
After more riding surrounded by nature and under some short monsonic rains, Silvia and I were very excited to arrive in Dalat, we found a hotel to leave our things and went out to have a look around- our room had some sort of bad taste plastic “LOVE” thing hung on the wall which was entertaining in a way.
The city is built on a hill so in the old part it had really narrow and steep streets. It was probably the most decadent and sad place I had ever been to; and I’m not at all someone difficult who complains about places not having every comfort and luxury.
The centre of Dalat was not very well taken care of and it displayed great examples of bad communist architecture and bad designs everywhere, including the shop signs. One of the squares in the high part of the city was full of malodorous rubbish and despite the few people around, the whole place felt somewhat abandoned. We could hear melancholic music coming from the bars and cafes and papered everywhere there were advertising boards with washed out images of pale Korean models that looked nothing like the dark-skinned Vietnamese we were seeing around, especially there, in the Southern inland. For some reason that was the thing that struck me the most and I was in some way very upset that the beauty standards of the country did not represent ANY feature of real Vietnamese people; even Duc, in Hue, told us that the popular movies and tv shows all had Indian actors in them because they were more beautiful.
After this slightly depressing tour we decided to have lunch with a Vietnamese-style barbecue and subsequently went to find a mechanic to try and replace the part of Silvia’s motorcycle that we had lost on the mountains but in vain. We found a mechanic shop where the boss was surly to say the least, he didn’t speak English so we communicated with gestures but for the whole time he seemed very annoyed by our presence (maybe because we were women? We noticed that there were very few women outside in Dalat). We managed to get the indicator lights replaced (the ones we lost in the last bus loading) and after sending a kid back and forth looking for the other piece, the mechanic told us he couldn’t replace the pinion protection.
Throughout the day there had been many monsonic showers, and that, added to the fact we had been up since 5am riding, to arrive in the city that everyone- with dreamy eyes- had referred to as the primary “Honeymoon destination” of the country and find it bleak as it was (it even put me off from taking pictures!), we thought it would be a good idea to go to bed really early to wake up and leave with the first lights as we still had many kilometres to go before getting to Ho Chi Minh City in just two days time, so we went back to the hotel and went to sleep, at 5pm, with the monsoon outside going crazy.
I want to specify that we did not hate the city, it probably just was in very strong contrast to what we were expecting and the vibe of sadness we received was also very different from all the other places we had been to so far.
The road to get to Dalat was the most beautiful of the whole trip though! And we figured out that probably the area with it’s natural beauty is the reason why people go there on holidays and honey moons, and not the city itself.
Thank you for reading about our Day 9 and 10 in Vietnam, I hope you enjoyed it!
Feel free to “like”, comment and share and see you soon with the next and final entry of this Travel Journal.