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You may have noticed that Vietnam has involved a lot of tours. First we did the tour with Sapa Sisters. Then there was the tour of Hanoi, then Halong Bay, followed by the tour in Hue, and most recently the tour in Hoi An. All of those, however, were but warm-ups for the biggest tour Vicky and I have been on since our trip began; A four day motorbike tour through the Central Highlands with the Easy Riders.
We had heard about these exotic motorbike tours even when we were in China. Travelers, recently from Vietnam crossed the border and raved about their multi-day experiences traveling through off the beaten paths of Vietnam with knowledgeable locals. They are private tours – one traveler, one local, one motorbike and as far as we know, not offered anywhere else in the world.
Many companies offer Easy Rider tours. For example, you may remember the cyclo man from our earlier post in Hue who offered us one. That said, there are many posers, so to speak, and if Vicky and I were going to be spending four full days on a motorbike, we wanted to go with the presumed best. We found the Easy Riders like we find many of our tour companies – through trip advisor, where they had perfect ratings. We contacted them and agreed to begin our Central Highlands tour in Dalat.
We woke up around 8am from our hotel and patiently awaited our guides. We were expecting a Mr. Bin and Hai to meet us. Not before long two men walked through the door. We immediately knew these two came for us. Not just because they were on time, of course. Bin had an air about him that smelled of a modern day cowboy – black boots, black jacket, a pair of a dusty jeans and a black hat to top it all of. He was the true personification of an Easy Rider, which, not knowing what an Easy Rider was at the time, I imagined to be sort of Hell’s Angel, if they had a presence in Vietnam that is. I’d say Hai had a much softer appearance if not for a pair of killer sideburns I didn’t know Vietnamese people could grow. We sat down for a cup of tea before heading out.
Bin is not a man of few words, in fact he’s quite the opposite. He took us through the history of the Easy Riders, the company, and our planned itinerary. Hai seemed quite happy to let Bin discuss the details while smoking a cigarette through a long stemmed filter. When all was said and done we grabbed our helmets, leather gloves (in Bin’s case), and ascended our thrones on top of the motorbikes.
Our first stop oddly enough was a flower farm. Apparently Vietnam exports a lot of flowers, particularly from Dalat. Frankly, I was surprised that flowers are exported in such large quantities. How do these survive the journey?
Next up – a coffee farm. Unbeknownst to us before our arrival, coffee is extremely popular in Vietnam, perhaps more so than tea. Undoubtedly the French played a part in this. Still, I had yet to see a coffee plantation (or any plantation for that matter) during our travels. In fact, as the tour went on it became widely apparent that I had little clue as to how any plant grows.
We parked our bikes and without hesitation walked straight into the farm. I half thought that a disgruntled farmer was going to come barreling out with a shot gun yelling at us for trespassing. Hai took us around, talking as we went. Apparently coffee sells for quite a lot (compared to other Vietnamese products) and there were multiple kinds. He took some beans off the stem and showed them to us. They smelled…like coffee. What surprised me most of all is that many of the farms were simple households, not large plantations. As we drove further we say many instances of coffee beans drying on some family’s individual property.
We boarded the bikes and, after probably about another 20 minutes, arrived at our next stop; a silk factory. This time Bin took the reins and showed us around. This was, without a doubt, one of my tour favorites. Once in Korea we had been served silk worms for dinner, but outside of that we didn’t know much about how they were used.
The factory is a collection of pulleys, levers, and massive machines which separate and collect the silk from the worm pupae. Later, it’s dyed and made into cloth. There were dozens of Vietnamese workers manning this factory – an entire assembly line.
We had one more stop before lunch at Elephant Falls, which as you can guess is a very picturesque waterfall.
Bin and Hai were great about giving us a bit of privacy when the time was right, and let Vicky and I wander off a bit ourselves to see the waterfall up close and discuss the previous sites. We lingered there for a good half hour before gearing up for lunch.
As I mentioned before the Easy Riders do everything with you and lunch is no exception. It’s important to note that lunch and lodging are not included in the tour, yet in many ways this is preferable. I often find that when lunch is included in the price, it creates an incentive for the tour to economize on the food. On the other hand, the Easy Riders have an incentive to take you to a good cheap lunch, since they eat there as well and the bill is split between everyone. We heartedly enjoyed all the meals they took us to; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a time for conversation and cultural exchange. Since the Easy Riders do tours around all of Vietnam, they are experts about the country’s history and culture, however, they are also regular people with wives, children, and parents and were very open to talking about all things personal. While the farms and factories are fantastic, it’s really these personal interactions that I remember the most.
In the afternoon Bin and Hai took us to some of the minority villages to see how they live. Vietnam has over 50 minority groups, which comprise several million people. Each of them speak their own language (usually in addition to Vietnamese) and have their own unique heritage. As one would guess, they are generally the poorest class of individuals. Still, the children always seemed in good spirits and quite happy to see us.
While we were driving we came across a large lake that had houses on it. Bin explained that fishermen and their families actually live on the water in these floating abodes.
After only the first day, Vicky and I had seen more farms, natural landscapes, and minority villages than we had seen in all the previous days combined.
As we were driving to our hotel something unexpected happened; a flat tire. In many ways this only added to the authenticity of the tour, but in other ways, it delayed us on the side of the road for about an hour.
Luckily, Bin and Hai had some friends in the area (we weren’t that far from the hotel) and they were able to call them to come and pick us up. Vicky and I ditched the motorbikes for a bit and took a ride in a new import sedan to our guest house where we waited for Bin and Hai to arrive.
Our delay didn’t cut into dinner. On the contrary, we wined and dined for about 2 hours. Our first day had lasted from around 8AM to 10PM. We retired to our separate quarters, excited about what the next days would bring.
Note: In exchange for this review we received a partial sponsorship from The Easy Riders, however, all views expressed are entirely our own.
ORIGINAL VIETNAM EASY RIDERS
Head Office: 35 Dinh Cong Trang Str – Dalat – Lam Dong – Vietnam
Office: 54 Phan Dinh Phung Str – Dalat – Lam Dong – Vietnam
Cel: (+84) 0982 11 00 50 (Mr Bin)
Email: [email protected] com – [email protected]
Website: www.vietnameasyridertours.com – www.easyridertours.net