A solo highland tour

Today the craziness ends and tomorrow life should get back to normal…. Of sorts. Every year TET (New Year) brings this country to a stand still. The mass phycology around the holiday may be a part of whyVietnamseems to be so far behind others in the business word. In past blogs I have spoken of the “nap time” where almost everything shuts down between 11:30 am and 1:30 pm. It can be a frustrating thing fot those of us that are used to normally open business. Here is how it might go.

I will pull into a motorcycle repair shop at around 10 am after morning chores and breakfast to have a job done. Well….. the job might take up to an hour or so, therefore, I am often told to come back at 2 pm. I do not think so!! At 2 pm, I should be returning to work…. Often when I do return after 2pm, I get told they are now too busy to be able to do it today and come back tomorrow. Ack!! What nonsense. Amazingly it gets worse as TET nears. In November I was having some shorts custom made. “you better hurry” I was told, “They will be too busy getting ready for TET. Wha? Well by golly…. It was true. For 2 weeks prior to TET I found it impossible to find a mechanic to do repairs on one of my large bikes. They all claimed the job would take more than 4 hours and therefore I have to come back after TET. Sheesh!! I am sooooooo happy. Luckily for the first 4 days I was booked on a Solo Central highland tour. It was a good distraction from the tedium of a shut down country and with the exception of difficulties finding placed to eat. The tour took us to Tuy Hoa and then over to Ho Lak. On the 3rd night I asked Toril if she would be interested in continuing sightseeing or if she would be interested in venturing into the unknown….. two foreigners lost in the jungle. To my surprise and delight, she dais go for it so out came my map and gps. After some study, I had a plan and to confirm this was a good idea, I went to discuss the rout with a couple of easy riders. “Oh no” they declared. They claimed that nobody goes that way and the roads are too bad….. especially for a bike like mine. Aha!! I had my confirmation!! If they would not attempt to go there, then it was exactly what I was looking for. South of Lien Son we drove until we reached a crossroad about 125 km north of Dalat. After about 30km of drivable road, we passed a giant Dam they Toril was thrilled to see as her husband worked in this very area in the past with the department of energy. This was most likely where he worked. Not much further up the road is when the real adventure began… Oh Oh… we ran out of pavement! Using my much less than perfect Vietnamese, I was able to get directions from some young men buzzing around on a motorcycle with a death wish. Until now I do not know if we were the but of a joke but I ended up on the worst road of my lifetime. It wad 15 km of hell but I had no way of knowing how far. We bounced and grinded for many Kms in 1st gear to the wide eyed amazement of local farmers who had never seen a foreigner, less a big motorcycle before. I would have enjoyed the reactions if I was not so consumed with surviving the drive. Unknowingly we were about ¾ they way through and I could not take much more. My arms were sinew and vein swelled by the effort and the road actually tore away some metal from beneath the bike severing the spring for the kickstand. I had Toril walking sections of the road when we encountered a father, and a newlywed couple dressed in the colorful hill tribe garments catching us with their smaller and less cumbersome bikes.  I asked ( and he obliged) for him to carry her for the rest of the way and I bounced along behind. Finally we made it to drivable pavement at which time we turned in the totally wrong direction and headed directly away from where we wanted to go. Again my
amazingly bad Vietnamese was able to get us turned in the correct direction and in a couple of hours, we ended in the destination that we had set out for. Dusty, worn out and hungry, we found a place to eat and grinned at each other widely in that we had done something that no other foreigner in this country had ever done. The 2 hour experience of the 15 km road is now part of the most cherished of my memories….. The amazement and genuine friendliness of the hill people and their helpful nature will be with me always. Did those young men send us off on a road to hell for a joke? I should probably thank them for that….. It was one of the best days of my life……. Adrenaline flows.

Tomorrow I hopefully will repair the wounds to the bike because later in the morning I am off on a trip toSaigonon roads skirting the Cambodian border……. More Adventure….. I love retirement. Sadly, I wish my wife was an adventurer also….. I do miss her on the long trips.

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

3 thoughts on “A solo highland tour

  1. Can I get a recommendation on a reputable Vietnam-based tour company? Am considering a 3-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia for two persons in February 2013. Spent 10 months in the Meking Delta courtesy of the US Army in 1971 (advisor in Choung Thien province — Kien Hung). Budget is not a big factor. Thanks in advance for your help. Jim

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