“Easyrider” motorbike tour of the Central Highlands

RTW: 2007-2008, Southeast Asia, Vietnam — By on September 18, 2008 2:39 PM


I continued to have a horrible night, getting no sleep because I was so so sick. We were scheduled to depart Nha Trang at 8:00 AM for a four day motorbike tour through the Central Highlands with “Easyriders” a group of Vietnamese tour guides that provide long distance tours via motorbikes. The tour was highly recommended to me by my new friend Jane, an Aussie girl I met in Laos. I loved the idea of the tour that would take us off the normal tourist circuit in hopes of experiencing more of the “Real Vietnam”. Danny and I were both really looking forward to the tour and I could not believe the timing of my first episode of food poisoning in SE Asia! At 7:00 AM I was still incapacitated and sure I was going to die. Danny called our tour guide and explained I was sick and asked if we could depart later in the day, in hopes I might feel better. I had begun taking my antibiotics for travelers diarrhea, which was suppose to start working within 10 hours. I was doubtful we would be able to go and could not imagine a worse scenario than me riding in the scorching hot sun and heat, bouncing on a bike, with the possibility of liquids coming out of both ends! The only upside of my sickness is that I got to watch Obama’s speech at the Democratic Convention which I would have missed otherwise!

DAY 1 – THE LONGEST AND MOST PAINFUL DAY OF MY LIFE

Noon came around and despite the fact I still had not successfully retained any food or liquid, I decided that I wanted to go ahead with the tour knowing we would turn back if I felt too bad. Danny and I were on such a tight schedule that we would not have been able to do the tour if we didn’t leave on the scheduled day. At 1:00 we departed Nha Trang in route to Hoi An, a distance of 800 KM north through the Central Highlands. I rode with Mr. Hao and Danny rode with Teo. We headed out of Nha Trang riding along the coast…very pretty views.


It was incredibly hot and I began to feel really bad about an hour into the journey. We stopped at a brick making factory where I thought I might pass out. I tried to lie down in the dirt but the workers took me to a hammock in the shade. The women took it upon themselves to nurse me with their natural remedies as I looked like death. One lady pulled up my shirt and began to pinch my stomach very hard in four different spots around my belly button. She pinched me so hard that I screamed out loud and I had bruises on my belly for 3 days! She then rubbed tiger balm on my stomach. All the while Danny was entertaining himself by laying bricks. The woman left me for a while and returned with a sharp piece of clay from a broken pot and I realized she was going to try to cut me! I told her to stop and Teo explained that she wanted to pierce my stomach to release the poison through my blood. And that is where I drew the line with the local remedies! Danny and Teo went for a cafe sua da (Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk) leaving me to rest in the hammock. They came back sooner than I had hoped for. I decided to keep going as I knew the weather would turn cooler once we got into the highlands and figured it was the heat that was making me feel so bad.


As we rode through the country there were times I smelled poo and I honestly had no idea if it was me or the cows nearby!! I wondered over and over again, why I hadn’t just stayed in bed?! Thankfully my medicine helped me on that end; however, I began puking instead. This photo depicts me in my misery just minutes before I puked on the side of the road. I was seriously in hell but I knew if I could power through the day I would be fine for the rest of the trip. Looking back through my photos, I am still amazed by the beauty of the country, although I don’t think I appreciated it that first day!

Mr. Hao and Teo were both very worried about me and insisted that I eat something at lunch. They got me rice soup and Teo sent someone to fetch him fresh ginger which he cut up and put in hot water and told me to drink it all. I was actually feeling a bit better after eating the soup but the ginger water didn’t stay down very long. At this point it was just as long a ride to go back to Nha Trang as it would be to continue to Lat Lak where we were to stay the first night.

Had we departed at 8 am we would have gone to a very big waterfall along the way and would have arrived at Lat Lak at 4 or 5 pm as it was an 8 hour ride by bike. Due to our late departure, we weren’t going to make it to Lat Lak until 9 pm. At 4 pm it began to storm off and on again. Our guides gave us rain jackets and pants and our backpacks were safe in plastic bags. As we continued to ride, I continued to feel horrible and we had to make many stops for me. Many times we were in the middle of nowhere and Teo would knock on someones door and ask if I could use their toilet. One lady tried to get me to lie down in her bed and I realized she also wanted to try to release poisons through my blood as well so I got out of her house ASAP! We had two more hours to go when I felt so bad that I decided I would have to lie down on the side of the road and rest for a bit. It was scary as it was pitch dark and we were in the middle of nowhere! There was a small house nearby and Teo asked the family if I could lie down on their couch and they let me. It was all very strange and they all just stared at me. At this point Teo was really upset and worried about me and suggested we stop at the next small town for the night instead of driving another hour to Lat Lak. I knew that we would be staying in a “resort” in Lat Lak and feared the kind of guest house we would find where we were so I told him I wanted to keep going. Had I know what was ahead for us I would have stopped at the nearest town!

It was about 8 pm and pitch dark outside with no street lights when it began to STORM with downpours of rain, thunder and lighting! I was just beside myself in pain and fear and have never been so miserable in my life! And then it happened…Mr. Hao hit a large pothole that was filled with water and I was tossed two feet off the bike into the air! I was so stunned and even more shocked that I somehow managed to land back on my seat without falling off! Danny was riding very close behind me and freaked out when he saw what happened. I held Mr. Hao so tight the rest of the ride. As Danny later said “It was the scariest thing he has ever done in his life”! We both thought that we were going to die.

When we finally rode into the resort at Lat Lak we were soaking wet, totally freaked out, and exhausted. I tried to eat something but all I wanted was a hot shower and a bed! Needless to say, I passed out within minutes of hitting the pillow!

DAY 2 – FEELING SO MUCH BETTER

I arose on day two feeling 100% better and excited for our bike ride! We had breakfast overlooking the lake and then went for an elephant ride. We rode the elephant through the center of the lake, it was such a pretty view!


Danny’s commentary video of the elephant ride:

After our ride, we set off toward Kon Tum which would take us 8 hours to reach. We made many stops along the way.

Thes guys were cutting pieces out of a large granite stone. They said they cut 70 pieces a day!


We stop at a home where we had all sorts of fun with dragon fruit and a big snake!

Danny cut me down a dragon fruit…


This python had already eaten this week, so it was safe to play with!



We stopped for lunch at a place that only served one dish and you had to make it yourself…authentic Vietnamese spring rolls. They were good!


We visited a rubber plantation and learned about the process of making rubber from trees.


We saw some killer views!



We chilled in hammocks on the side of the road and drank fresh coconut water.


We stopped at a coffee and a tea plantation. I loved the ease of being able to jump on and off the motorbike quickly and felt like we saw alot on day two.

We ended day two in the town of Kon Tum.


We had bbq deer for dinner, it was really good…


DAY 3 – HO CHI MINH TRAIL

We started off our morning with the standard Vietnamese breakfast of Pho (noodle soup with beef). Our guides took us to the store and bought us candy to take to the children at a nearby orphanage. I wish we could have given them something besides candy but of course they loved it! One tiny little boy took an immediate liking to Danny and begged to be held. Whenever Danny tried to put the little guy down he cried hysterically. It was very cute and very sad at the same time.


Our guides took us to “Monkey Bridge” and old rickety bridge where we were told to cross the old bridge and come back on the new bridge. The scenery was beautiful.


This is the day we began to ride on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The original Ho Chi Minh trail is close to the new Ho Chi Minh Trail, which serves as a major highway that runs through the center of the country. The original trail was a complex web of different jungle paths of truck routes, paths for foot and bicycle traffic, and river transportation systems which were used by the North Vietnamese as a supply route during the war.

Part of the old Ho Chi Minh Trail…


Views as we road on the Ho Chi Minh Highway..




We saw a pretty waterfall…


Riding on the back of the bike is so much fun!


We stopped for the night in the town of Kham Duc. For dinner we shared a seafood hotpot and sweet Mr. Hoa gave me most of the shrimp and even peeled them for me. I love him! After dinner…it was time for karaoke. Asians LOVE to sing! When we arrived at the “karaoke bar” it appeared to be closed. Teo knocked on the door and a lady let us into her home where we proceeded to go up to the second floor of their house where a guy was sleeping on the couch. He left and we basically hung out in their living room, and sang songs for a few hours. Danny started feeling ill that night and little did we know at the time that he had contracted the MUMPS!!!

Danny sings “Wish they all could be California Girls” in my honor.

Mr. Hao asked me to sing “Imagine” by John Lennon with him. This is a song that always brings tears to my eyes, and even more so with Mr. Hao. I had become quite fond of Mr. Hao and felt such compassion for him after hearing about how his life was affected by the war. He told me of the hard times he faced after the communists took over in 1975 and closed the countries borders until 1979. The story of him having to save each year to buy a single part for a bicycle in order to build his own bike just broke my heart. He told me that each person was only allowed 1 kilo of rice per month to eat and he and his family were always hungry. He and his father fought for the South in the war and he lost many people who were close to him. Mr. Hao is such a kind man and he looked after me like a grandpa would. My bum would get very sore after hours on the bike and whenever he noticed me squirming around in my seat, he would stop without me asking for a “bum break”.

DAY 4 – HEADING TO HOI AN

We stopped at another waterfall and Danny enjoyed standing under the cool water as it was the hottest day yet!

We stopped at a local minority village. Minority people are Catholic and in these villages the women own everything and they also do all the work and the men are just lazy says Teo. Danny played a guitar for some villagers and we went into the home of one family. There were several tiny babies sleeping in hammocks inside the house. It was obvious the people there were extremely poor. I felt very sad for them.

Danny and I agreed that the people in the Central Highlands were so much more friendly than the people we encountered in Saigon.

We stopped by a place where a lady makes rice paper all day, the ones used to make spring rolls. We watched her cook each paper and then she would lay out in the sun to dry.


Here are a few video clips from our ride…

After riding 800 KM, we finally arrived in charming Hoi An.!
I would HIGHLY recommend a tour with Easyriders to anyone planing to visit Vietnam. The Central Highlands are beautiful and so different compared to coastal Vietnam. The mountains and valleys reminded me alot of Laos. This tour was by far one of the best experiences I had in Vietnam (minus Day 1)! I felt that we were able to see the “Real Vietnam” and go to places of the beaten track that we would have otherwise missed. And cruising along on a motorbike was loads of fun! I totally trusted Mr. Hoa, he is a great driver and the nicest person I met while in Vietnam.

If interested in booking a tour, contact Mr. Hao: haus180752@yahoo.com.

To see all of my photos from the Central Highlands CLICK HERE.

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    hey baby!!!!

    that was the most memorable holiday experience that i ahve eva done!!!

    what great memories!!!

    Lov Danny

  2. Stacy says:

    Girl! You never cease to amaze me!

  3. matthew says:

    nice video

    nice posting

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