Jun 13 2012
If you’re staying in Dalat, there is a good chance that your hotel or a member of the Easy Riders motorcycle club has offered you a motorbike tour of the surrounding highlands area. The only problem is that these trips tend to be light on details. If you’ve made the trip to Dalat and you’re considering purchasing a spot with the group, here’s a rough itinerary of what to expect.
The motorbike tour tends to start around 8:00 or 9:00, with you immediately hitting the road. Generally, you’ll have the option to drive yourself or ride on the back of a more experienced driver; either way prepare for around a 100-kilometre ride that will last the whole day. Although prices vary from place to place most motorbike tours will cost around 600,000 VND, which isn’t a bad price considering you’ll be on a bike for the better part of 10 hours.
Your first stop will be a quick visit to a cricket farm. Here you will get to see the ins and outs of cricket farming, from the breeding and storing process to the finished product. After walking through the farm, taking in the brightly coloured cricket baskets you’ll get a chance to sit down and have a taste of pan-fried insects. If you can get past the fact that you’re eating a bug they actually aren’t that bad — a bit like barbecue potato chips (we’ve tried them before).
After filling up on insects it’s time to climb back on the bike for a visit to a Vietnamese market. Unlike the markets in HCMC, like Ben Thanh and Binh Tay markets, the ones in the Vietnamese highlands are not nearly as accustomed to foreign guests so you won’t find as many designer knockoffs or souvenirs. Instead, you’ll see what the morning is like in a typical wet market, with people shopping for their daily necessities.
The next stop on the tour will be to a silk factory, where you’ll see the process of extracting silk from a silkworm then weaving that silk into something of real value. The factory is quite interesting, with machines that seem like they were pulled from the industrial revolution churning the worm cocoons into fine silk. Once you’ve seen the operation you can buy some of this very silk at a reasonable price.
After the silk show it’s time to see one of Dalat’s famous waterfalls. We visited Elephant Falls, where we were able to hike all the way to the bottom of the falls by way of a narrow, slippery path over boulders. From this point you get a great view at the price of getting relatively soaked, however the long motorbike ride to lunch following the falls provides ample opportunity to dry.
Lunch is basic — a sampling of regional fruits and a large, family-styled plate of noodles — but you get a much-deserved rest. Plus, right after your meal you take a short walk to what I thought was the most interesting part of the tour, a visit with some members of a Vietnamese hill tribe. You will be regaled with stories from these people, who go without many modern conveniences, of sons being sold into marriage for oxen and women sneaking out of hospitals to have babies in the jungle. You will also see a demonstration of them weaving traditional clothing, again are offered for sale.
After lunch you take a long ride back to Dalat, travelling through some scenic roads offering dynamic views of the surrounding highlands. This is about the time you may start to feel the fatigue of the ride, but your pain is at least eased by the view. As the sun starts to set, you’ll finally arrive at your starting point, exhausted but well travelled.
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