On reflection after returning from the latest countryside adventure, I have to rate it another success even though there were a series of set backs. It all started out well with Gordon and Lindy on the back of our trusty steeds stressing under power up the mountain road that took us to Dalat. On the way, Tien and I met up with the 4 riders I arranged for the party that was to join us. Everything was set and I appointed another experienced rider to be the leader for the next two days……. That was mistake one.
I fell behind my appointed leader and quickly became aware that all of my words and pre trip discussions were going to be ignored. The leader I appointed is a very experienced guide and a nice person. He did the best as he knew how but I realized right away that he
was still stuck in the same rut that all the other riders were stuck in and what I had taught was forgotten….. Aaack!! I have appointed him leader and at this point if I override him, it will not look professional. Thankfully the kind and helpful personalities of the riders mad the trip enjoyable to all. It is a bit of a pity that we did not go on some of the roads or stop at some of the places that I have spent so much time searching for…… but lesson learned!! From now on I will not
delegate the leadership role to anybody unless I have 100% confidence that they understand my style of tour. The problem is that the Vietnamese and us from outsideVietnamthink very differently. The Vietnamese riders are great and I respect and appreciate that they were the ones that educated and trained me. There is one thing that has caused my tours to become so popular. Almost all of the riders whether from Dalat, Nha Trang, or Hue, take similar paths and think they know what the foreigner wants. Sorry…… They know what Vietnamese want. We think very differently, For example, after a period of time, a persons rear gets a bit sore and we plan stops for a bit of a walk.
Most Viet riders believe it is about the scenery and drop you in a location where you can see a nice lake, or rice field. Me? I will find a school of children letting out or a busy country market that has seen very few foreigners and leave you to your own. Oh what fun some of the stories are when the passenger catches up to where we are waiting. For me and my team, it is all about the interaction with the people and the joy and novelty we bring into their lives for a brief moment. In turn, their happy cheers and open kindness brightens our day making most of them memorable…… anyway…. I am droning on.
We cruised from Dalat down into the central highlands arriving in Lak Lake. We had called ahead and had a dinner of roast pork and BBQ duck prepared by Hien, a local M’Nông woman. After a good meal where would a person go in a minority village in the highlands of Vietnam? You guessed it…… Karaoke!!! Gordon the Karaoke God and all of us (Leanne, Gordo, Karen, and Mark) belted out tune after tune and fell back to our rooms laughing about the good time. The next day we headed to Buon Ma Thuot and treated the town to another round of Karaoke. In the next morning, we parted ways with Lindy, Gordon, Tien, and I continuing north while the others returned to Nha Trang. I have written before of the journey through Kom Tum and other northern destinations so I will only address what is new……. And new it was!
There are areas in the central highlands where foreigners have not been allowed to go since the French left Vietnam or perhaps even sooner. I have been trying for 2 years to find a rider that would be willing to go with me into some of these areas, but I have always run into a brick wall and a resounding no. They were afraid of the police and local tribal elders. Before we left on this tour, Tien and I had studied travel routes and as usual, many roads were to be off limits, however, thanks to my continual pestering, Tien made a call to his brother who lived in such a zone and was told that the ban had just been lifted and we could pass. Whoo Hoo!! What an opportunity! We started by making our way to a southern part of the original Ho Chi Minh highway that skirted the Cambodian border. We had our nervous moments when we were followed by local police and found it quite different in the reactions of people. Many of them looked in absolute shock as we passed. We did get some waves and smiles but a lot of the reaction was confusion. It is very probable that these people had never seen a foreigner in their lifetime….. What fun. Of course we made stops and befriended people along the way……Once kids realized we were friendly, they also came around and lost their fear. At one point it began to rain and we climbed a mud bank to a small wood house in the middle of this new adventure. We were hiding under the eave when the door opened and we were invited inside. On the shrine where pictures of passed away family should be was a giant Photograph of Ho Chi Minh Along another wall was 8 military and certificates that made very clear what he was…….. but no problem. He fixed us tea and shared his home made rice wine with us….. I was elated… It seems the bitterness is gone. I am so happy that parts of Vietnam are opening up and I truly hope that Lindy and Gordon appreciate and understand what a special event that was for all of us…….. I feel a bit like Christopher Columbus. Of course we battled a number of roads not fit for vehicles and poor Lindy and I even had a spill into red mud, but it was all part of the adventure.
Now off Topic….. I am off to do a trade show in Thailand soon to promote tourism inVietnam. I have gained weight so I went in to have a custom suit made with material imported from Italy. 1 Jacket, 2 pants, and 2 dress shirts come to a total of 180 dollars….. Hah!! Beat that!
The pictures on this post are from Gordon and Lindy