A Travellerspoint blog

Dalat and the Central Highlands

Adventures in Vietnam on the motorbike.....getting lost in the jungle and some amazing scenery.

semi-overcast 33 °C

After my 50th Birthday celebrations,it was time to leave our Russian resort,Mui Ne,on the eastern coast of Vietnam and head into the Central Highlands.We weren't sorry to leave....Mui Ne is the 'Fish Sauce' capital of the world!

guess the smell,as it was manufactured and sold everywhere!We were tempted to fill up the hotel's 'Tip Box' with lots of useful tips.Like 'learn how to clean' and 'smile at the customers' and 'get off the pool table,it's for the guest's use'.....but we desisted.Another time,eh?
So we loaded the bike up and off we went.....hoping we'd make it to Dalat with one full day on the bike.The scenery was immediately a lot more interesting..almost dramatic!The temperature also started to drop considerably too....lucky we had our anoraks with us...
We had booked into a guesthouse in Dalat...all we had to do was find it before sunset.Eventually we did,despite the usual Vietnamese indifference to helping lost travellers.It was very comfortable,clean and decent food so a good base for the 4 days we had given ourselves to explore the area.
We visited a silk farm,saw a variety of waterfalls and had a few trips into town to explore the market and shops.I became the owner of a pair of teddy bear ear muffs.How fab did I look?? We also met Mike,Peggy and Robyn,a family from Seattle.We met them later on our trip,but I'll get to that later!
Apart from the the silk farm and waterfalls,we did the majority of our sightseeing the day before we left-cable cars(yes,there were 2!) and luge ride.We also visited the Silver Pagoda,where Allan was given a book on Zen Buddhism by a monk.The book had been written by a monk from Ebbw Vale.....small world.....
So on the 16th January,we left Dalat,saying goodbye to Mike,Peggy and Robyn,ready for a 'soft' day's ride to the next town,Buon Ma Thuot.We reckoned it would take about 3 hours to get there and were well prepared with a picnic and plenty of drinks.We decided NOT to go south and make a big loop around the town,but to head due north,much more direct,going over a monutain.
The morning started well,though a couple of times we ended up on dirt tracks and had to go back to the main road.We did ask,but it was difficult to get much sense out of any of the locals!
We picnicked by the side of the road,next to this most amazing Wild West theme park.....which was completely deserted.The Injuns had run!We then set off for the last part of our journey,on the most perfect of roads,
towards Buon Ma Thuot.FAB!
But about 5 miles later,we ran out of road!All of a sudden,the fantastic,perfect road we were on disappeared under our wheels!We were on a mud track but it was still ok-the road signs were still along the side of the road.The road then became narrower and there were lots of major road works/excavations around,but no one to ask,as they had all gone home for Tet,the new year.The road surface then changed into a soft mud....by this time we had come off the bike at least twice,but still people,when we met them,kept pointing along the track...at this point we had gone downhill quite a bit through the mud and we knew that there was no way the bike would ever get back up.By this stage,the road narrowed until it became little more than a track-great if you're scrambling but not if you're trying to ride comfortably with 2 big bags on the back of your bike.So I decided to walk from this point-there was no way I could stay on the bike-we both kept falling off.We had also started to damage the bike(brake lever etc)
We met another couple whose bike had broken down.They were desperate for water so we gave them our last bottle.We even told them to keep it(it was a 2l bottle) as we felt sure that we'd get back on the main road within the next few minutes...how wrong were we?
So we carried on,deeper and deeper into the jungle,with nothing and nobody in sight,except for trees and exotic flora and fauna.It was very hot and of course,we now had nothing to drink...
By about 4.30pm,we knew that we were going to have to spend the night in the jungle....We really were in the thick of it(no pun intended).We were also aware that once the sun disappeared behind the mountain in front of us,we wouldn't be able to see anything,as it gets dark very quickly here,but even more so in the jungle,where there is very little natural light at the best of times.We met a guy on a motorbike,who told us that there was a small village about 3km away,if we stayed on the track.We figured we would make it if we hurried.....so on we went,Allan mostly pushing the bike this time,as we had done something to the clutch too....
Eventually,just as the sun was setting,we found the village.Well,it was more a collection of small wooden huts,about 8 in total.We went to the first one and asked for water,as we were so red,hot and thirsty.They gave us some water but when we asked to sleep there(all sign language of course,as they had no English and couldn't read the Vietnamese phrase book anyway),they all ran away!We could see the whites of their eyes peering at us from inside their hut,but they wouldn't come back out.
We noticed some boys playing volleyball on a muddy patch just over a little bit from where we were.Again,no English and they didn't want to know but luckily one of the young men,André,realised our predicament and took us to his mother's hut.He pointed to the floor.....we obviously said yes!By this stage,the hut was becoming very full,as everyone wanted to have a look at us!My beautiful ear muffs became a gift to our host,as did my little bouncy ball,which was a mini globe.They also loved our Nescafé coffee sachets!!They were then kind enough to feed us;we have no idea what it was or what made the rice pinkWe were just very grateful to have food in our tummies and a floor to lie on for the night....
Allan was treated to some of their 'home brew'....I'm sure it helped him to have a better night's sleep!
They couldn't tell us how far the main road was away.....but they told us that if we left at 7.00am the next morning,we would reach Buon Ma Thuot by 2.00pm.So we left before 7 the next morning and headed off,not even sure if we were on the right path,as they just pointed vaguely then disappeared....Again,I walked and Allan half scrambled/pushed the bike,coming back every few minutes to make sure I was ok.
Eventually,just after 1.00pm,we reached the main road!!!What a relief!We were never so happy to see a road as we were then!We had a few quick repairs done to the bike,bought some food and drink and were finally on our way to Buon Ma Thuot.At last!
It was only afterwards that we discovered what exactly DID live in the jungle......I'm glad we found out after and not before,that's all I'm going to say on THAT matter....
But on to Buon Ma Thuot.......Allan's accident and some interesting food.....

Posted by Jules et Allan 13.03.2012 21:08 Archived in Vietnam Tagged landscapes mountains trees in jungle lost motorbike Comments (0)

So,we're still in Asia but a lot of miles have been covered.

Cambodia,Vietnam,the motorbike and lots more....Jan 2012 and my 50th Birthday!

sunny 32 °C

So much time has passed since our first entry,but the main reason for not keeping up to date with our blog ws that I was ill.3 times.....New Year's Eve,so missed all the fireworks in Pattaya,then just after that other little milestone,my 50th Birthday and 2 weeks later,during 'Tet' or the Chinese New Year.But I have managed to discipline myself so that my written journal is now fully up to date.....so here goes!!

As we said earlier,Christmas was a little disappointing on Ko Samui,as the waves were horrendous;we thought they were going to join us in the beach hut.So we decided to call it a day and head to the opposite side of the Gulf of Thailand,to where we hoped the overall weather and sea conditions might improve.
So-back to Surat Thani and the overnight train up to Bangkok.Really good fun.....cosy little bunks so a good night's sleep is almost guaranteed(with the help of a couple of valium,naurally...).We arrived in BKK at 6.30am and caught the 6.50am train round the coast to Pattaya,for 30baht,which is about 60p,for a 4 hour train journey.FAB!Just wish I hadn't eaten the cold rice/fried egg/pork/fish sauce breakfast though.....I believe this is where my 'problems' began...

But all that aside,we had a lovely few days in Jomtien,a resort just south of Pattaya,before heading to Cambodia.We hired a motorbike whilst we were there and on one of our days out discovered a Thai Naval beach,which you had to pay to get on to plus leave your ID there....but when we finally got there....WOW!Stunning,amazing place.Monkeys wandering around and the most delicious turquoisy clear water.

After a couple more days AND when I was feeling up to the travel,it was time to leave for Cambodia.Originally we were going to go to Phnom Penh to get our visas for Vietnam,but,on a whim,had decided to buy a motorbike fom a young guy in Sihanoukville,in the south of the country.So we made our way down the coast and were across the border within a couple of hours.Luckily,we had an honest taxi driver who actually managed to get us on to a bus bound for S'Ville,otherwise it would have been about $80 for a taxi....phew!
The first thing that struck me when we got back into Cambodia was the poverty.Indeed,my heart sank initially,when I remembered what it had been like the last time.But this time,although the poor living conditions were still prevalent,there were lots of happy faces and children smiling and waving as we passed through lots of little villages.I was again struck by how beautiful parts of this country are.I was also both dismayed and bemused by the other passengers on the bus-not one person was looking out of the window,to see what was happening,the vast differences between there and Thailand and just how different this country was.They either were glued to their 'bible'-'Lonely Planet' or were busy playing Supermario on their consoles.Ah,the youth of today!!

We arrived in Sihanoukville just as the sun was setting and were immediately whisked of by tuktuk to our hotel-the 'Golden Sands'......believe me,it both sounds and looked much better than it actaully was.But for 2 nights,we weren't going to complain.
As soon as we arrived,Jed,the young guy who was selling the bike to us,made contact.He was only 24 and,to all intents and purposes,could have been Jesus in a previous life.He was his double!!
We paid the $350 dollars,as Allan reckoned he really needed the cash,but,to be honest,we never thought the bike would get us out of S'Ville,never mind all the way to Phnomn Penh then Vietnam...it was a bit of a wreck,to say the least,but Jed assured us it would definitley get us to Vietnam and Laos,so we decided to place our trust in him!

After a couple of short little trips around town(one,to get our Visas) we decided it was time to head to the capital.We honestly thought we'd break down within the hour,but old Hondy kept going and going until we finally arrived in Phnom Penh!I should add here,that,apart from the wheels going round and the brakes working,nothing else did!No speedo,no petrol guage etc....we think the brake lights worked,but very little else.Our first run in with the law happened in Phnom Penh....we were driving in daylight with our lights ON,which is an offence during the day,though it isn't an offence to drive at night without lights.Crazy,eh?Still,once we had handed our $10 over,they were more than willing to help us get to ur hotel...
By the way,our main reason for 'flying through Cambodia' was that I had booked a really nice hotel in Mui Ne,on the East coast of Vietnam,for my 50th Birthday,so we had to get on with it.

But this hotel (Blue River) was delightful.....we even had the use of the hotel's Merc for a trip into town.Not bad for £20 per night!!!
Still,enough of all this enjoyment....time to get back on the road and into Vietnam.

So on Saturday 7th January,we left Phnom Penh very early in the morning-the traffic was busy busy busy,like you wouldn't believe,but we finally made it through the city and out into the countryside,towards Vietnam.
This is one of our best memories....after the mayhem of Phnom Penh and as our confidence was growing with the Honda,we all of a sudden were beaming from ear to ear as we realised we were riding through a geography lesson from High School......we wer riding through the Mekong Delta,with paddy fields as far as the eye could see and people wearing coolie hats,busy in the fields.It was just one of those moments!At one point,the river was right in front of us,so we found ourselves on a ferry;10p each and 5p for the bike....then we were back on the other side and almost at the Vietnamese border!!!
Evntually,we reached it.It was a very easy border crossing and they weren't particularly concerned with the bike either.Who knows?
The actual area just before crsooing the border-no man's land,was like a mini Vegas...loads of Chinese casinos.But as we had neither the time nor the inclination,we left them well alone.We also had to get to HCMC,or Saigon,before dusk,as we had a hotel to find!!
Nothing could habe prepared us for riding a motorbike in Saigon.The noise,speed,aggression,constant horns,traffic on every side of the road;even the pavements weren't safe.And as for crossing the road......no chance!We also found the people to be quite unhelpful too,but I'll dicuss that further,later on.

At last we found our hotel;pretty basic but good enough for 1 night before heading out to the coast the following day!There were lots of things immdeiately noticeable about Vietnam....everything was very cheap,even by Asian standards.And bringing our motorbike into the hotel was also a new thing.And very few supermarket type shops.....all first impressions.Also,very little English was spoken.Still,things could only improve....
So the next morning we left Saigon at about 6.30am,to try and dodge some of the relentless traffic but even at tht time it was still horrendous.Allan had plotted a good 'escape route' to get us out towards the coast road,where we needed to be for that afternoon.So we thought we'd fill up with petrol on the outskirts of the city.After about a quarter of a tank,the guy realised we were holding US$ and said he would only accept dong.Well,we hadn't any,as we had been told by several people that US$ was fine......wrong!!!So he went on to fill other people's cars/bikes and just ignored us.Luckily,a young girl noticed what had happened and took me off on her bike to the next village,where the jeweller's opened up specially,to change some of my dollars into dong.Phew!

And on we went....getting closer and closer to Mui Ne.Hard to believe it's almost my 50th......I still feel like a young slip of a thing.If only...
So,by the afternoon,our little Hondy got us into Mui Ne.Can I just explain,the bike is a very small Honda Win 100,probably meant for 1 person,maybe 2 small Asians.But not the pair of us.Plus our luggage......half of which we had to give away in Thailand.
So,Mui Ne.....what can I say?We were on the coast,but we had somehow been transported to a Russian Resort!!!Signs,menus,everything.Our actual little bit of luxury looked stunning but,on closer inspection,was a bit of a let down.Dirty bathroom and the pool was virtually unusable as the pump wasn't working.And the private beach could have done with a bit of a clean too.....at least get rid of the dead dogs,when they appeared.But enough of my moaning.....there were amzing coracles and beautifully coloured fishing boats AND the most amazing sunsets.
And so on January 10th,2012,I became a 50 year old!!!Can't believe it!To celebrate,apart from the Kindle from Allan,he took me for the most amazing meal in a stunning reosrt just down the road.Truly fab food.I also got the chance to wear the beautiful pearls he bought me too!!
The next part of our journey certainly becomes a lot more intersting and colourful from here on.....so I shall carry on later....hopefully I will now upload some photos to show a little of what this part of our travels has been like,so far!!!

Posted by Jules et Allan 03.03.2012 00:49 Archived in Cambodia Tagged landscapes beaches Comments (0)

First week over already!

Brunei,Thailand and a lot of very friendly people.

semi-overcast 30 °C

It is Sunday morning and we can't believe we've been away for a whole week already.Time really does fly when you're enjoying yourself.I have been writing every evening in my 'little black book' so will share some of our thoughts and experiences with you.
Our first overwhelming feeling has been that of people's kindness and generosity.We have had so many lifts to where we have needed to go and people have been kind enough to let us try things before we have bought them-always important when you haven't a clue what you've just been offered!

After a pretty uneventful flight we were glad to finally reach Brunei.We had hoped to catch a bus for $1 into the centre of the city but,as luck wold have it,were immediately offered a lift into town from the Egyptian Ambassador's daughter.She gave us a quick tour of the city,pointing out important buildings etc then dropped us off right outside the hotel.Excellent!
We were a little earlier than expected but it was no problem to the staff-they found us another room-really lovely hotel and helpful staff.
Although it was raining,we decided to go for a walk;it was like walking through the hothouse in Roath Park.....hot,steamy and very moist(that one's for you,Lydia...).

We were amazed by how cheap everything was-$1 would buy you pretty much anything(about 50p).We joked that Allan's mum would have loved it there!We had a little snoze in the afternoon;to be honest,our body clocks were all over the place,but we managed to make it back out again in time for dinner.Someone had recommended a restaurant on Lonely Planet Thorntree forum(I regularly refer to this when travelling) and,as it was just around the corner from our hotel,seemed like the place to go to.It was again ridiculously cheap and was,as the guy had said,the best chicken curry ever.What was most impressive was that they made the naan bread fresh for us!After another quick stroll around town,it was back to bed,as we had another early start,to Bangkok,the following morning.
What was most impressive about Brunei was all of the huge buildings-Mosques,Palaces,Government Offices.We both wished we could have stayed there for longer but have a funny feeling we WILL return,as I have always wanted to visit Borneo.(3rd year Geography lessons.)
And so to Thailand,one of our very favourite places in the world,so far...

Posted by Jules et Allan 17.12.2011 18:58 Archived in Brunei Tagged people Comments (0)

5,4,3,2,1

And we're off

sunny 23 °C

A: What an intense year, with my Mum passing away in January (Time hopefully heals all) . Getting married in July, carrying out major works on the homes leading to the sale of Julie's and setting up our marital home in my house. All these Lows and Highs leading to today.
Left Cardiff on the 10th of December on a cold and frosty day, lots of tears from Julie as she bade farewell her children. Must confess I found it very emotional saying my goodbyes to Dad,Jo, Lee and the Grandkids but we are only planning to be away a year.

Posted by Jules et Allan 14.12.2011 23:53 Archived in Thailand Tagged adieu Comments (0)

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