Motorcycle Diary

When I was a kid I went for a ride on my neighbour’s motorcycle. As I got off, I put my ankle down on the side of the muffler. My leg sizzled. Searing pain.

This has forever clouded my view of motorcycles.

Despite this, on our second day in Nha Trang, Vietnam Sara and I signed up for a motorcycle tour into the central highlands. For two days we would drive from the beach city of Nha Trang up into the mountains nearly 2,000m high to Dalat where we would stay for the night and down through jungle roads to the beach at Mui Ne.

Sara would be on the back of our tour guide Si’s bike. I would drive my own.

I do not own a motorbike license let alone have I ever driven one or even a scooter. I could count on one hand the amount of times that I had ever been on a moto (including that listed in the introduction).

So what did I do? That night I typed into Google, “How to drive a motorcycle.” The YouTube videos didn’t seem to work, so I was left with reading a 10-part series in About.com.

Perhaps I was a bit over my head. At least that’s what I thought in a night of uneven sleep.

However, all this worrying was for naught.

We arrived with our bags at 8:30 a.m. and didn’t hit the road until 9:30. As we sat around, I was told that late the night before five Irish guys also signed up for our trip and a second guide was needed. If I wanted, I was told I could ride with this guide for no extra charge. It seemed like a good idea.

Our motorcycle trip was by far the best way to see Vietnam. I would say it was a turning point in our travels in this country.

Getting away into the countryside and seeing its sheer beauty certainly instills a deep appreciation and understanding why so many foreign soldiers – be it Chinese, Khmer, French or American – turned their backs and went home.

As mentioned, the first day was high into the mountains to Dalat. The weather began with hot sun near the beach followed by cooling and a downpour during our “com ga” (chicken rice) lunch. More sun, cloud and heavy, heavy rain as we entered Dalat cold and wet.

Ask a Vietnamese (at least the ones I talked to) and they’ll tell you Dalat is such a beautiful, romantic place perfect for honeymooners. But, in the black rain, it really didn’t impress much ¬– although we had some tasty spaghetti (I have found the noodles in Vietnam are good if not better than most Italian places) and a strawberry pancake.

Day 2: Dalat to Mui Ne.

Up bright and early, pack up, coffee, baguettes and jam, and on the bikes. Stop briefly at what everyone calls the “Crazy House” in Dalat, a strange hotel that looks like it was designed by someone inspired by Gaudi.

From here, we start our descent heading down past mushroom farms and coffee plantations. Apparently Vietnam is the #2 exporter of coffee in the world behind Brazil. Impressive.

The view heading down through the jungle is stunning.

The weather is a mix of cloud then rain then hot, humid sun, then intense tropical downpour with drops the size of cherries, then hot humidity, then another downpour to make us thoroughly soaked as we enter Mui Ne.

We repeatedly stop to put on and take off rain gear. We also stop because of a mud slide across the road where a car gets stuck. One guy helping to dig out the car stops, looks up and frantically starts to run. His large truck has started rolling backwards about 50m away. He catches it just in time, jumps in and puts on the brake.

We walk through the mud and get on our bikes at the other side then drive to Mui Ne. I get off at the hotel. My ankle is fine.

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