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March 8, 2010
Over the past few days we’ve ascended and descended some high mountain peaks in the highlands of Vietnam. This past weekend we arrived at this mountain town called Da Lat. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we rolled in. DaLat used to be a French resort in the early 1900’s and still has the colonial villas, boulevards and charms in amongst the chaos of Vietnam. There were times where we thought we were in Paris. It’s a surreal place high up in the middle of nowhere with some terrific riding.
One thing that has stood out at us as being a massive and obvious difference here in Vietnam is the motorist’s attitude towards each other and us. We’ve been advised to take up an entire lane to give ourselves some presence on the road. This way the trucks have to go around us instead of trying to squeeze by us. Sometimes we’ll hold up a line of trucks and buses for a few minutes. Rarely have we been on the receiving end of an aggressive honk or dodgy move. Everyone passes us in due time with a wave and a smile on their faces. They don’t have a choice. Many of these Vietnamese people in the rural areas we’re riding through are extremely poor. They have too many other things to worry about. Getting stressed about the traffic is just one more thing that will make their lives even harder than it already is.
I realize we’re a novelty to the Vietnamese motorists and therefore they cut us some slack, but we haven’t seen one sign of road rage between drivers either. Everyone gets along on the road and things just seem to work.
I don’t want to give the impression that driving is safe here. It isn’t. We passed 6 chalked outlines of scooters on the road today. There is an order to the chaos however. You just have to flow with the sea of traffic and you’ll be okay for the most part. The expectation that everything is unpredictable is what makes it predictable. If there were hot-head drivers who got stressed out at every hold-up the entire system would fall apart.
Here are some photos from the past few days. Only a couple more days of riding and then we make our long journey of stop-overs back home to Melbourne.
View from our hotel in Nha Trang. From there we rode inland to Da Lat. GPS file here. Massive climb with spectacular views.
At this point on the climb to Da Lat it was 36 degrees. After a week of even hotter temperatures this felt like a relief. Amazing how the body adapts.
Danny in the hurtbox
When we got to the top there were two military guards who were very curious of us. This guy was very fond of the Parlee Bitsa. Unfortunately he needed a 40cm frame.
It was easy to mistake Da Lat with Paris when we rolled in. The familiar feeling of civilization was refreshing for a couple days
This surely cannot be Vietnam!
This view of Da Lat is more like what you’d expect in Vietnam. What a beautiful city
The markets and fresh fruit here were sensational. They could grow many different kinds of produce up in the highlands in cooler temperatures than what you’d see at sea level
I gotta get me a scooter when I get home. We’re trying to find Danny a Vietnamese girl to marry so we can get 3 motorpace sessions a week.
Riding down from DaLat back to the coastal roads. We descended from DaLat to Phan Rang (GPS File) for 110km!
This is typical of the Vietnamese towns we’d pass through on our way to our destination
It’s a tough life here for many of the Vietnamese. It’s amazing how friendly everyone is to us.
Every single kid would go bananas yelling “HELLO!” to us as we passed.
The second most significant part of our day – eating. The baguettes here are fantastic. The French left a few gems behind.