An Easy Ride. Sort of.
04.12.2007 - 08.12.2007 28 °C
When I last wrote, I was trying to decide on the length of my trip with the Easy Riders. I had met Long, who had offered a five day trip to Hoi An from Dalat, which would take me through the Central Highlands, a part of Vietnam you can really only see with these guys. In my indecision on whether or not to do the trip, another traveller had snapped up Long, and he was gone. I waited a day for him to come back, but when I couldn't find him, I booked a six day tour to Hoi An with another rider named Buddha, a short, plump, jolly man who seemed very friendly and knowledgable. The night before I left with Buddha, I found Long and tried desperately to change my trip to go with him, but since I had already placed a deposit with Buddha, the deal was sealed and there was nothing that could be done.
I had heard from other travellers that the driver you choose can make or break the trip, and I found out that couldn't be more true. Within a few hours on the first morning, and after only a couple stops, I realized that Buddha and I had trouble getting along and communicating. His English was more broken than I realized, and I found myself asking him to repeat things more often than I would have liked. I don't like doing it, but when you can't undertand, you can't understand. This made him extremely irritated, and he would raise his voice and talk to me like a little kid. This, in turn, annoyed me, and I ended up just nodding my head and saying yes to everything he said throughout the rest of the trip, regardless of whether I understood him. He was never very interested in having a conversation with me either, he would just brush me off and tell me what he thought I wanted to hear. On top of that, we stopped about every 20 minutes to look at rice fields or crops or goats while he made some analogy relating it to the Vietnamese people, which is fine, but when you stop to look at rice fields for the fourth time, it gets old. That morning I decided to change the trip to a three day ride to Nha Trang. He seemed relieved.
Despite this clash of personalities, the trip was pretty memorable. The scenery was breathtaking. We rode down the side of a mountain on a winding road, through vast fields of bright green rice paddies, and through little villages where EVERYONE stared at me. I don't think I've ever felt so away from home than I did when we stopped at these villages. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but when you meet local people who are just happy to meet you and you have little kids following you around because you look different, you realize how removed some people are from your way of life. I also ate local food for every meal, sometimes at a family's house where I didn't have to pay because I was basically joining them for dinner. I would listen to them chatter away in Vietnamese for an hour or so, trying to read body language and pick out the few Vietnamese words I knew, and trying to not mind the kids staring at me for the whole meal.
Besides my driver, I do have another not-so-great experience that happened to me on the second night. We were staying in Ca Na, a little beachside town, and after dinner, Buddha recommended that I get a massage from the masseuse at the place we were staying at. He said they were great after a long day of riding, so I agreed; I had gotten a lot of massages since I'd been in Asia, and I didn't expect this one would be any different. A woman came to my room (don't worry, this isn't dirty), and she went to work. I couldn't see what was happening as I was on my stomach, but I later realized she had taken these glass jars, heated them up with a mini homemade torch, and suctioned them onto my back and shoulders in about 15 different places. It felt funny, but nice, and I didn't want to complain or object, so I just let her do her thing. I would later regret this decision. When she was finished, I paid her and she left the room (I know it SOUNDS dirty, but it's not), and I caught a glance of myself in the mirror. Usually, this is a pleasant experience, but to my horror, there were 15 deep red hickeys/burns all over my back and shoulders. It looked like I had been shot with a high-powered tennis ball gun. I was pissed. The next day, I showed Buddha my massage wounds, and he laughed and told me they would go away in a couple days. Well, it's been a couple days, and they're as dark as ever. I don't expect them to fade away for a good couple weeks. I'm in Nha Trang now and it's got a great beach, but there's no chance in hell I'll be taking my shirt off here, I look absolutely ridiculous.
So that was my Easy Rider trip. It was very memorable and I don't regret it at all, but I guess it could have been better. Here are a few pics:
Dalat is a beautiful town. This is just a slice of the countryside outside the city centre.
We stopped at a cafe that had a few monkeys chained up, along with numerous caged birds. See the length of the chain? That's all the slack he had. Kind of sad.
A gecko on the outside of my door. These little guys are everywhere, and they range from the size of your pinky toe to the size of your forearm. I've been trying to get pictures of them the whole trip, but as soon as I get close enough they scurry away.
A group of workers at a Vietnamese War Memorial we stopped at. They knew how to say "hello" and "goodbye", which is about the extent of my Vietnamese, so we had a good conversation.
So that's it for now. Feel free to leave comments. No seriously, leave a comment.