The moment that Rot started making naughty jokes about vegetables in the middle of the market, we knew this tour was special. Mr Rot’s Secret Tour is a refreshing alternative to conventional Da Lat Easy Rider tours. And though we left the market in stitches, it’s not all fun and games. The Secret Tour is a window into Vietnamese and K’Ho minority culture.
We have been on countless market tours in Southeast Asia. To our surprise, this ranks as one of the best we’ve ever experienced – not necessarily for the information, which was good, but because Rot made it fun. Life is too short to be serious about squashes. We don’t want to give away too many of the tour’s secrets, but we’re letting the cat out of the bag on this one: the big secret of the tour’s success is Rot himself.
Rot grew up in a K’Ho minority village, one of 14 children in a family of poor coffee famers. When he was eleven, a family in the city sponsored him and he became the only one of his siblings to attend school, a fact that he always carries with him. A walk through his home village’s muddy streets was a reminder to us all of how much of Vietnam’s 95 million people have simple, hard lives, living off the land.
Rot is energetic, engaging — and mischievous. It certainly helps that he speaks K’Ho and we found ourselves invited into a woman’s home, a one room wooden hut with dirt floors. A hullabaloo ensued as more and more women dropped in to find out what was going on and to add to the chorus of opinion on every question we asked. The K’Ho are decidedly different than the majority Kinh (who make up 87% of the country’s population), and Rot explained the nuances of the matriarchal society where women must buy their husband, paid with precious family heirlooms. By the end of the visit, we had sold one of the strapping young German lads off to a grandmother for a 200-year-old bowl.
The full day US$35 tour will have you zipping on motorbike through Da Lat’s gorgeous countryside southwest of the city. There are stops at a few tourist sights such as a silk farm and the Elephant Waterfalls. The tour includes lunch and transport, either riding your own or on the back of average rental semi- or automatic motorbikes.
By Cindy Fan.
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