Easy Riding in Vietnam Part Two

by Sasha Savinov

We’re halfway through our Easy Riders trip in Vietnam, which was easily the highlight of our month in the country. If you missed the first part, get caught up here. Now let’s get on with the show!

Day Three

We awoke on the third day of our trip feeling refreshed and ready to hit the road again. It certainly helped that it was going to be the shortest and easiest ride. We were only traveling about 80 km from Kontum to a small town called Chu Se. We fueled up in the morning with eggs, baguettes, Smiling Cow cheese, and coffee. Then we took in the view from the bridge while Mr. Chinh strapped the bags onto the bikes.

 

View from the bridge near our hotel.

View from the bridge near our hotel.

Learning About Village Life

It wasn’t long until we made our first stop, as we were spending the morning visiting places around the town. First up, we dropped into yet another minority village. This time, we got to go inside one of the villager’s homes, where we were greeted by a group of shy children. Our guide described the cultural differences between the ethnic minorities and the Viet people, and he also told us a little bit more about village life in Vietnam.

Pit stop in another ethnic minority village.

Pit stop in another ethnic minority village.

Next up we stopped to check out the famous wooden church, a Catholic church that was built in 1913. Churches aren’t so common in Vietnam, as only about 8% of the country are Christians. It’s a beautiful building, and we enjoyed exploring the inside and the grounds for a few minutes.

Visiting the historic wooden church.

Visiting the historic wooden church.

From the church we headed out to visit a local orphanage. Before we got there, we decided to stop in a small shop and pick up some candy and toys for the kids. When we arrived, they were all busy eating lunch. While we waited, Mr. Chinh explained to us that most of the kids were there because their parents either gave them up or passed away. There wasn’t much time to talk, though, as a huge swarm of smiling kids poured out of the cafeteria eager to meet us and of course to grab some candy. We spent some time playing ball with a few of them and taking photos.

Smiling kids in the Kontum orphanage.

Smiling kids in the Kontum orphanage.

All The Tea

After spending most of our morning around Kontum, we finally hit the road and headed south. It wasn’t long before we made another stop, though, and this was definitely the easiest day on the bikes. We pulled over to the side of the road for a few minutes to visit some tea farmers and learn about the different kinds of tea that are grown in the area. Rachel tried her hand at picking tea leaves with the ladies, and it was pretty clear that she isn’t cut out to be a Vietnamese tea farmer.

Don't quit your day job...

Don’t quit your day job…

Just a few kilometers down the road, we noticed a very colorful and enchanting temple set in the middle of the farmland. When we asked Mr. Chinh if we could stop to check it out for a minute, he of course gave us the green light. This is the best part about doing an Easy Rider trip in Vietnam – the guides show you the way but also give you lots of freedom to decide what you do/don’t want to do.

Beautiful temple we stopped at for a while.

Beautiful temple we stopped at for a while.

Shrine inside of the Buddhist temple.

Shrine inside of the Buddhist temple.

In a jam-packed morning, our last stop was the Ya Ly Lake. It was a short and sweet stop to check out the beautiful lake and surrounding mountains, as all of us were getting a bit hungry and cranky. As such, we jumped back on the bikes and cruised into the town of Pleiku.

A short but sweet stop at the lake.

A short but sweet stop at the lake.

The first order of business was finding a place to dine, and we all settled on a local vegetarian restaurant where we ordered up a feast. For us, the highlight of the meal was definitely the bánh xèo, a pancake-like dish stuffed with plenty of veggies. Once again, the three of us enjoyed a fantastic meal for just a few bucks.

Amazing vegetarian lunch.

Amazing vegetarian lunch.

A Local Market

When lunch was finished, we walked around the corner to explore a bustling local market. From vegetables to spices, to flowers, to toys, to live animals, just about everything was for sale here. One thing’s for sure – shopping in Asia is just a little more interesting than visiting a Whole Foods back at home.

A variety of sights, smells, and sounds at the local market.

A variety of sights, smells, and sounds at the local market.

Chickens, ducks, and more in cages.

Chickens, ducks, and more in cages.

After yet another cup of coffee, we had to hustle out of town. The sun was going down and it was getting a bit chilly. We did, however, make one last stop, as we pulled over to the side of the road to check out a beautiful view with Cambodia off in the distance. Mr. Chinh gave us a brief history lesson about the conflicts between Vietnam and Cambodia back in the 70s, something we knew absolutely nothing about.

Cambodia in the distance with the sun setting.

Cambodia in the distance with the sun setting.

Just before the sun went down, we pulled over and checked into a hotel on the side of the road. After a short rest, the three of us met up for some noodles and beers before calling it an early night.

Day Four

Our fourth and final day began with breakfast and coffee in the hotel, and then we drove for a while before stopping at a coffee farm. Mr. Chinh explained to us how families that grow quality coffee actually earn quite a handsome living. After all, Vietnamese coffee is considered amongst the world’s best.

Coffee beans on a roadside farm.

Coffee beans on a roadside farm.

Not far from the coffee farm, we stopped at yet another minority village. They really are everywhere in the highlands of Vietnam. It was interesting to see the differences in how people live in the villages versus in the big cities.

One more village.

One more village.

Traffic Jams

During another roadside coffee break, we had a laugh about a central highlands traffic jam – a bunch of cows slowly making their way up the road.

Central Highlands style traffic jam.

Central Highlands style traffic jam.

As it had been decided that this would be our last day on the road, we were in a bit of a hurry to get to Buon Ma Thuot so that all of us could catch a bus. We had to speed it up and make less stops, but we did get to enjoy some amazing scenery along the way. Before we hit the home stretch, we pulled over to take in yet another viewpoint.

Last stop on the road before hitting the city.

Last stop on the road before hitting the city.

Upon our arrival in BMT, we headed straight for what can only be described as a coffee theme park. Actually, BMT is considered the coffee capital of Vietnam. In the park, we checked out some antique coffee machines and learned about weasel coffee – coffee beans that are eaten and then crapped out by weasels. Believe it or not, the stuff has a high price tag, at over $700 per kg. Not surprisingly, we didn’t try it out.

A map of Vietnam made out of coffee!

A map of Vietnam made out of coffee!

Visiting A Former Prison

Before parting ways, Mr. Chinh took us to visit the former penitentiary. This French-built prison housed many political prisoners during the days of colonial rule. Our guide gave us some time to freely explore the grounds and peer into the rooms full of creepy statues. Throughout our trip, we learned a lot about Vietnam and its rough past. We are incredibly impressed at the strength and perseverance of the Vietnamese people.

In the halls of a deserted French colonial prison.

In the halls of a deserted French colonial prison.

Creepy depiction of what the prison was like.

Creepy depiction of what the prison was like.

Four days had flown by, and it was time for us to part ways. Mr. Chinh loaded the bikes onto a bus headed back to Hoi An so he could get some much-needed sleep, and we booked tickets bound for Ho Chi Minh City. With a few hours to spare, we wandered the streets, found a good local restaurant, and had a few beers before boarding our overnight bus.

Although there was much debate about whether or not to do an Easy Riders tour, we were both so happy that we decided to go through with it. Sure, it was a bit pricey ($140/day plus food and drink), but it was more than worth it to get off the tourist trail, see some of the “real” Vietnam, and cruise on motorbikes through some stunning scenery. If you’re traveling to Vietnam and have the means to do so, definitely sign up for an Easy Riders tour – it’s something you won’t regret.

Here’s a map that shows the route from the second half of our journey:

4 comments

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4 comments

jre June 29, 2014 - 3:48 am

hey, do you have a twitter?

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