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Vietnam Visual Diary: Da Lat Easy Riders Tour

Posted on Monday, May 16, 2016

So we stepped out of our Da Lat hotel at 7am shivering our asses off in 14C weather asking ourselves why oh why did we not just book a normal tour so that we could hide in the warmth and comfort of a bus. But you know what? Taking the Easy Riders Motorcycle Tours was the BEST and craziest decision ever, and it turned out to be one of my favourite days the whole trip. It's true - the best experiences in life are sometimes not the most comfortable choices, but they are so worth it in the end!

What is the Easy Riders Tours?
The original Easy Riders Tours began right here in Da Lat, but because of how accessible and abundant motorcycles are, plenty of copycats have popped up all over Vietnam! Quality differs from agency to agency, so it's always best to do your research beforehand, especially if you are relatively new to riding motorcycles like we were. They have one-day tours, which is what we chose if you are unsure if you'll like riding motorcycles and don't want to commit to anything longer like their tours that stretch over a few days, driving you between city to city in Vietnam (maybe I'll try this next time!)

Our Easy Rider Tour
Because every agency will claim to be the "original" Easy Riders, we went to the tourist office in Da Lat and asked the staff there which they would recommend, which is how we ended up at shop number 66 Truong Conh Ding. Our tour cost us USD35.00 (there is a USD25.00 one but it ends earlier), which is kinda expensive for Vietnam, but checking in with the other agencies, it seems that this is the market price so... fine. At least it was a private tour for just two of us, so we had the freedom to change the itinerary to our preference!

It's a romantic notion to come to Asia and ride a motorcycle around the countryside, but I feel that it is also important to warn people that if you've never ridden one before, I would definitely recommend riding pillion and not be all gung ho to ride one on your own. If you never consider riding one in your home country, why would it be a good idea to ride it in a foreign country like Vietnam where you don't understand the traffic? Taking care and having adventures within reason is my motto, heh.

Our Riders
Our riders / tour guides came slightly late, around 9:30am in the morning, but it was a good thing because the sun was out and it wasn't so cold anymore. They didn't look like creepy guys, so... we jumped on the motorcycles and off we went! Although they didn't speak English well, they were really friendly and flexible in letting us dictate where we wanted to go, patient and enthusiastic in sharing their culture the best they could!

I noticed and was very appreciative of how my rider was very defensive in his driving and didn't over-honk in a road rage-y way. With so many moving parts on the road (we saw an accident!) I finally understand why the Vietnamese honk so much - it's not because they're rude, but it's really necessary to just warn people that "hey, there's someone behind you, be more alert!"

Comfort and Riding the Bikes
Our motorbikes were super comfortable with wide leather seats - 8 hours of tour and I never felt any aches at all. I also noticed how our bike was actually much bigger than some other bikes we drove past, hence more stable. Not something I cared for until you are the one on the road, exposed and surrounded by dozens of buzzing motorcycles.

What We Did on Tour
The night before we took a little time to research on what sights be visiting the next day based on the pre-planned itinerary from the tour agency so that we could make the best use of our time. We ended up skipping a lot of things, such as this place called "Chicken Village" which literally the main attraction is a... giant stone chicken statue that is like 3 stories high. Yep. I told you Da Lat was kinda kitschy :'D

Waterfalls - A lot of travellers come to Da Lat for their waterfalls and to do adventurous things like hiking and abseiling. The first one we went to - Pongour Falls - literally had someone die there the day before we reached, and a few days earlier more tourists died at Datlana Falls (another waterfall in Da Lat), so I really would advise against doing anything more than just looking at them, if you're kinda paranoid, like me.

Also, do come prepared in sports shoes because you have to trek in to see the waterfall, and to say the least... the path is treacherous. Luckily nothing happened, but it's not something I would do again! I don't know why I had this impression that we would roll up on our motorbikes along the road and hoorah, see a waterfall in front of us! Haha. City girl much.

Anyway, I personally preferred Pongour Falls over Elephant Falls - a much easier trek and prettier option for the less adventurous people like me!

Weasel Coffee Farms - producing Kopi Luwak / Civet Coffee. For those of you who know, the Civet Cat /  Weasel sniffs around trees and eats only the BEST coffee beans, digests it with it's special juices and poops it out. Vietnamese farmers collect said pooped coffee beans and sell them for an insane price. We went to the farm but didn't buy any, and I would also advise against doing so, because I saw how the weasels were all kept in cages and being fed random beans - which defeats the whole purpose of them sniffing out the best ones! But either way, we just enjoyed the free cuppa that came with the tour to wind down after a busy day. It tastes like chocolate (because they roast it with chocolate) and they add tons of condensed milk, typical Vietnamese style! I seriously wish I drank more Vietnamese iced coffee, by the way.

Crazy House - Another kitschy apparition of the people in Da Lat. 40,000 dong (slightly less that S$3.00) entry each and just something we felt like seeing because it's one of those places they say you should. The place is as described - crazy. Many a times we had to climb up steep steps with low banisters and getting a bit of vertigo; wondering who on earth approved this building when it looks like it is literally still under construction at some parts... and are tourists even allowed here?? But either way, I'm quite glad we did it because we got a spectacular view of the sun setting on Da Lat, and having all kinds of feels for the end of our adventurous day!

Final Thoughts
I'll never forget the cool breeze on my face when we first left the hotel, the winding mountain roads, and the soft morning sunlight filtering through the pine tress just generally feeling like, "HELL YEAH we are actually going ahead with this!!!"

I remember our guides cutting open a random passionfruit from the roadside and letting us try it, cause #ghettolife; nibbling on the fruits of the Arabica tree to reveal a single wet coffee bean inside; and that very last view on the edge of the Da Lat countryside jumping up and down and yelling "DA LAT!!!"

ALSO, I got a horrible sunburn post-tour because we were exposed all day. Luckily I was wearing long sleeves and jeans so most of my body was saved. I always think of using sunscreen when at the beach and just didn't put the pieces together that I would need it, so do yourself a favour and wear it; bring some sunnies because the winds when the motorbikes are moving can be brutal; and always lean WITH the driver around the bends. It's fun! There's only one first time for everything, and I'm so glad we had it with our Easy Riders!

Photos by Myself and Trishna Goklani