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Vietnam forum

easy riding: warnings and recommendations

Posted by maria_s on 8/12/2009 at 13:08

when I was in dalat, I wanted to take an easy rider-trip to saigon via mui ne, and looked for the riders on a sunny afternoon. I walked into the "hangout cafe" because travelfish told me to do so :)

there was nobody inside (bad sign) so I asked the barkeeper and he called a guy who showed up some minutes after that. his name was tuan and he spoke excellent english and seemed to know a lot of stuff. we chatted about possible routes and it seemed that anything is possible, and when I asked him, who would be the driver, he said "me". price would be 65 $ per day when we are two persons travelling, 70 $ for one. (the guy I was travelling with wasnt quite sure at that moment if he would come along, but then he decided to come). tuan mentioned all kinds of stuff we are gonna see on the route and also said we would be able to go around saigon on the last day. accommodation and all entry fees were included, but no food and drinks, just for the first night (homestay). he told us the first two nights are in the highlands and the third night in mui ne.

we had quite a tight schedule so we did not shop around and compare, which was clearly a mistake. but tuan seemed trustworthy and so we decided to go from da lat to saigon via mui ne on a four days / three nights-trips and an american guy joined us for the trip.

we had to pay the full amount in advance (which is kind of strange) and then we asked if we could meet the other drivers before we leave, so he called them and we met them, one of them was nearly fluent in english, one was ok, they both seemed nice.

the three of us were staying at different places so we were picked up by our drivers and met up at the crazy house in da lat. I was picked up by a guy that I haven't met before, which was strange, but I figured they had some kind of last minute change. but when we all met up, only one of the drivers was one of the guys from the night before and two new guys and no tuan, although he said he's gonna come. the guys explained to us that one has to stay at the office and check mails and stuff so that's tuans, the "bosses" job. so apparently he never goes on trips himself. we were quite pissed to hear that, not because the guys were not nice, but because tuan had lied to us.
one of the guys took the "guide"-role and his english was quite ok so we figured we are just gonna make the best of it.

stops on the first day included
- crazy house
- dragon pagoda
- minority village where a guy guided us around and wanted money for that (we were irritated by that because we were told all entry fees are included and told them, they promised it wouldn't happen again)
- walk up a hill with a nice view
- coffee break (where they asked us if we wanna "smoke some ****"... we said no, especially not at 11am)
- lunch stop (excellent food. but only easy riders with tourists ate there)
- elephant waterfall and nearby pagoda
- check out coffee plantation, one of the guys is also a coffee farmer so he could explain it to us in detail
- homestay at one of the guy's families - this was really great, we fed the chickens, saw a duck being killed for dinner, helped cooking and had a great time singing, and drinking a lot of ricewine with the guys.

we had to pay for dinner on the next day, although tuan told us first night was included. it was not much and again, we were not angry because of the money but just because he lied to us and we couldn't do anything about it.

2nd day
we got up quite late by ourselves, they didn't really wake us up which would have been good, because our trip on that day would be quite long. over breakfast, we discussed the route, because apparantly tuan only told them "da lat to saigon via mui ne" but not when to stop where and he clearly did not tell them what kind of stuff he had promised to us. turned out to be a problem troughout the trip - some things he promised were just not possible timewise or not on the route at all. wouldn't have happened if we would have talked to the real drivers.
anyways, on the way to mui ne we saw:
- agricultural stuff (mushroom farm, tea, something else I forgot).
- great ride trough the highlands, most beautiful scenery and terrific views
- short trekking trough the jungle to move our sore butts
- coffee break with beautiful scenery
- lunch break (we always ate at really cheap places but it was always ok, one of the guys is a vegeterian, which was not really a problem but he mainly ate rice, morning glory and eggs on the trip...)
- they had not pre-booked a place to stay in mui ne and the place they usually stayed was full, so we waited in a parking lot until they found a place. first it looked really nice, with pool and at the beachside, but the sheets were dirty, fan only. later on the drivers told me that the manager of the hotel raised the price because two of us shared a room and we wanted hot water. they only get 5 $ for each of us for accomodation, and had to pay the extra money by themselves. which made me feeld bad for them, but actually they could have looked for a cheaper place in advance.
- we were promised a "afternoon at the beach", because that was actually why we decided to go via mui ne. but we only arrived in mui ne at 3.30 pm, dropped our stuff at the place and went to see the sanddunes. which was nice, but not a must-see.
then they told us it was their night off, which was ok but when we wanted to go out for dinner, we realized that our place was really far from the "center" of mui ne - quite annoying.

3rd day
again, we left late but that was mainly us not getting ready fast enough.
- see cham tower in mui ne
- take picture of harbor in bigger city close to mui ne, see whale temple there
- short walking stop in countryside
- beautiful ride trough countryside
- stop at small village at the beachside, drink coconutjuice there, talk to the fishermen and their families - this was really interesting because they have never stopped there before and the "village" actually was a slum, with about 20 families living in dingy huts. our guys where quite shocked about how the people lived because "the government should give money to all poor people".
- last part of the ride on highway - hot and really dusty
- shopping for dinner at the market (we paid) - really cool though, everybody staring at us and laughing and I love markets anyway

homestay at one of the guy's families in a small village I don't know the name of. cooking dinner together (really cool), chatting, by that time we really got along well with our drivers and had a lot of fun and could ask them anything we wanted. and we have not seen any western people at all after we left mui ne.
after dinner (accompanied by a lot of ricewine) we left for karaoke, some of their friends came along. that was really fun, never saw people singing with so much passion at karaoke.

the three of us shared a room, two persons in one bed and me on the floor. but the guys had already "warned" us that the second homestay wouldn"t be so cosy so it was ok.

4th day
all of us were quite hung over, so we left really late and didn't have breakfast. we started to drive along the highway in the heat and dust and dirt and first stopped when one of the bikes had a flat tire.
we asked them if we could take any other route but they said no, maybe there is one, but they don't know the way. that was one of the many times when I wished I had brought a map.

this ride took maybe 2,5 or 3 hours and was really horrible - this highway was a wide road packed with all kinds of vehicles, many trucks, everyone driving really close to each other and moving very slowly, no scenery next to the road at all, just lines of dingy shops and houses and garages. we all covered up with scarfs and stuff and put earplugs in (honking and trucks etc - really loud). didn"t get anything to eat until we told them to stop.

one of them got lost for a short time but we met up again at the cuchi tunnels. while we visited the place, they slept and afterwards they drove us to ho chi minh city, straight to the backpacker area. going to hcmc city on a motorbike = no good idea.

to sum things up:

- I advise against the route from da lat to saigon via mui ne. go trough the highlands or up north, that is said to be far more beautiful and they could have told us about the road/highway situation.

- be sure you talk to the guy(s) who will really drive you and not to some pimp. because that's what that tuan guy basically was. he keeps most of the 65 $ for himself and pays the guys a daily wage, but already including money they need for our accommodation and gas.

- the guys in the black/blue jackets really are the REAL easy riders. they do not hang out at the hang out cafe. shop around and compare prices also when you are in a hurry.

- agree on a detailed and realistic schedule, leave some extra time for extra activities alongside the road. write it down or mark it on a map. do some kind of documentation you can refer to. you can change it anytime anyways after mutual agreement. but you have a starting point. also agree on what time to get up and if they should wake you up, when you have lunch etc. and take a map! "hang loose" seems to sound attractive but if you only have four days and a long trip ahead of you it can get annoying.

- do one or more homestays, it is a great experience you will never forget.

I am still pissed that I spent a lot of money on that pimp, but still had a great time on the trip. our drivers were really making an effort to make sure we have a great time, always willing to stop anywhere, answering all our curious questions and taking us the places only locals go. nevertheless, I would not recommend them as they were a little bit chaotic and attached to that pimp. I am sure there are people who can recommend someone specific and I guess that is the best way to find a reliable driver.

sorry for the long post, just wanted to keep it as detailed as possible for the people who think about a trip :)

#1 maria_s has been a member since 14/9/2009. Posts: 22

Posted by Fattymac on 9/12/2009 at 06:33

Awesome post Maria,

Thanks for your insights. Can you let us know which Cafe you went to to try to get the riders? I take it there are heaps there??

It looks like it definetly pays to shop around for your riders.

Thanks again..

#2 Fattymac has been a member since 10/7/2009. Posts: 28

Posted by KazAussie on 9/12/2009 at 14:57

Great post thanks Maria

#3 KazAussie has been a member since 18/7/2009. Posts: 221

Posted by maria_s on 12/12/2009 at 17:22

you are welcome :)

the tuan guy was at the hangout cafe. but a lot of the black/blue-jacket guys are hanging around on the street and they seem to be the "authorized" ones.

#4 maria_s has been a member since 14/9/2009. Posts: 22

Posted by toxic8 on 21/12/2009 at 08:35

Fantastic report. I will keep my eye out for the easy-riders - you know, all in all, even though you were deceived, it still sounds like it was worth it. I will definitely try the homestays, as per your advice!!

#5 toxic8 has been a member since 19/10/2009. Posts: 19

Posted by busylizzy on 25/12/2009 at 00:44

I am currently on an Easy-Rider tour and I can't speak highly enough of our drivers.

The 'real' Easy Rider website is: http://dalat-easyrider.com/Websites/English/

Yes, these are the guys in the black and blue jackets, with the above website printed on the back. They hang out at the Peace Cafe.

We booked a 4-day trip (Dalat to Mui Ne ) but on Day 3, decided to skip Mui Ne and head to Saigon and the Mekong Delta instead. We wanted to have an extra day in Saigon so tehy reduced the daily rate on that day, and took the day off.

These two guys (Mui and Quan) are extremely informative, careful and trustworthy. They have made the world of difference to our overall experience in Vietnam. The bikes are high quality, they look after us and our belongs very well. They are more mature (40's) and sensible - something that you want if you are going to entrust your life with someone on these crazy roads! They have been doing ER tours for the last 10-1

At one place we stayed, there were some 'copycat' Easy Riders there with their 'clients'. They spent the evening in the bar getting pissed. Fun at the time, I'm sure - but I wouldn't want to be driven by someone with a hangover on these roads.

Our drivers stop at regular intervals along the road - at a place of interest, or just for a coffee stop. It's good for us, and good for them. They have arranged all the accomodation, and so far, it's all been fine.

We paid a deposit up front, and had an agreed payment plan. They have quality bikes - no problems at all. They have been doing this for 10-15 years each.

We possibly paid slightly more than others (averaging $72 a day, with one day off for the guides while we rested up in Saigon) - but we got quality guides, and a quality experience.

#6 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by busylizzy on 25/12/2009 at 07:36

Oops - my last post was submitted while I was in the middle of editing it.

The end of the 5th paragraph should have read:

They have been doing ER tours for the last 10-15 years. They had a good range of personal 'contacts'which gave us a good range of places to visit.

I highly recommend doing an ER tour - it made such a difference to our Vietnam experience which was otherwise becoming a bit jaded for me! Find the guys in blue and black, and sit down over a cup of coffee and have a chat. Ask lots of questions, make sure there is some synergy with your driver. If you find on the day that they switch drivers on you, don't go. There are enough good guides around.

#7 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by bumblebee0930 on 28/5/2011 at 13:03

Hi guys,

Just another warning about easy riders. We had a 4 day tour booked. Paid all the money to our tour guides (who were awesome by the way!). On the second day, I fell off the bike (with the tour guide as well) due to a flat tire. Completely an accident, and the injuries were horrific road rash (thank god that's all it was!). The tour guides were very good about the accident, and helped take care of us at the hospital.

We could not continue the tour due to the injuries, and we needed to go back to Ho Chi Minh for better medical treatment. The money was not offered back to us, and I had a feeling the manager would now allow the tour guides to give us any sort of refund. The manager also said to keep the accident a "secret" and not put "anything on the internet."
Again, the guides were awesome, and we felt very sorry for them. It seemed the manager (Tuan) was more focused on the "business" rather than safety.

Since then, we have returned home, the road rash is infected, and I'm missing out on work. We have heard NOTHING from the easy riders.

Hope the rest of you can make more informed decisions before you go on the tour.

Cheers everyone!

#8 bumblebee0930 has been a member since 28/5/2011. Posts: 2

Posted by busylizzy on 28/5/2011 at 14:09

Sorry to hear about your accident - that was my worst fear! You make reference to 'Tuan' the office manager, which according to the post above means they possibly weren't aren't part of the 'official' ER group. (I say possibly, because it's hard to ever know anything for sure)

There are a couple of recurring themes that I have read recently: firstly, that people are booking with people they think will be their drivers, then someone else shows up. The other thing is that people are paying for the full tour up front.

When we organised our trip with the blue/black jacket guys, they outlined a payment plan that we would use during the trip. I can't remember specifics, but it was basically something like no payment on the day we organised it, and the first day's payment was made on the day that they picked us up. The balance was due when we arrived at our final destination. When we decided to extend our 3-day trip to a 9-day trip, we discussed a new plan, which was to make progress payments every 2-3 days, and a final payment at the end. This was fair all round for both parties.

If anyone else reading this is considering doing a similar trip, discuss this payment plan up front. Do NOT pay the entire amount up front, and insist that the first payment is made only at the time that they pick you up. If the driver's don't offer a progress payment plan like this, chances are they aren't the real deal.

Bumblebee - I hope your injuries heal soon!

#9 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by bumblebee0930 on 28/5/2011 at 15:20

Thanks for that info. We booked with :http://www.easy-riders.net/

They didn't ask for payment until the second day, and they only asked for part of the payment. We just gave them all because we really did trust them. Again, we thought our guides were great. Just emphasizing the fact the manager told us to keep the accident a secret, and did not seem concerned at all with the injuries. Not a good way to run a travel business. Either way, motorbikes are dangerous. No matter where and when you ride or drive them. Make sure you have travel insurance.

#10 bumblebee0930 has been a member since 28/5/2011. Posts: 2

Posted by 69bertie on 30/5/2011 at 21:32

bumblebee09-30 Just emphasizing the fact the manager told us to keep the accident a secret, and did not seem concerned at all with the injuries. Not a good way to run a travel business. Either way, motorbikes are dangerous. No matter where and when you ride or drive them. Make sure you have travel insurance.

The accident part is unfortunately too easily glossed over. You'll find that any insurance that is mentioned has more to do with the bike rather than you. Indeed max payout for 3rd party injuries is about $2000. And that is it. It's why one motorbike touring website does actually say they prefer to say there is NO insurance.
Travel insurance is fine but do make sure it covers riding pillion (most do). If you are the one actually steering the bike, sustain injuries and most travel insurance will not cover you simply because most people riding don't have a Vietnamese motorbike licences. Again read the small print of what is covered but you'll find most people that rent bikes etc don't even bother to tell you that.
There has been lots of print lately in the press about foreigners riding bikes without the correct paperwork or of their riding not being up to scratch (???!!!!) so expect a clamp down sooner rather than later.
Ride safe.

#11 69bertie has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 90

Posted by MsMalika on 31/5/2011 at 15:23

6 of one and Half a dozen of the other really isnt it?

I have booked my "Easy Rider Tour" from Da Lat to Hoi An for 5 days.
Now the company I have booked through may not be "The Easy Riders" but who is after so many years and so may posts of: who they are, what they wear and where they hang out!

I was recomended the company I booked with by a friend http://www.vietnameasyrider.com/views.aspx?groupid=1&id=1
The Guy 'River' has been super at keeping in contact with me and helping me arrange my trip from Da Lat to Hoi An.

I guess there are always going to be "cowboys" out there no matter what activity it happens to be and we just have to share out experiences.
Will be sure to post something after my trip!

#12 MsMalika has been a member since 19/5/2011. Posts: 7

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