On our last day in Dalat we were determined to take an Easy Rider tour of the countryside. Sounds easy enough, right? Just go to the Easy Rider office and book a tour, right? Well, it would be, if only Vietnam had decent intellectual property laws. (Yeah, yeah, only I would look at it that way).
The original Easy Riders were a bunch of men who had sided with the US during the war. They couldn’t find jobs after the war, and spoke English, so they decided to act as taxi drivers for tourists, using their motorbikes to shuttle tourists around. Word got around and they started offering tours. But as is often the case in Vietnam, others have tried to piggyback on their success. There are several Easy Rider offices in Dalat, and something like 8-10 Easy Rider websites. And numerous guys on the street who claim to be Easy Riders — all you need is a motorbike and a blue jacket that says “Easy Rider” on the back. At this point, I’m not sure anyone really knows who the original Easy Riders are anymore, as various normally reputable websites conclude that different offices are the “original.”
In any event, we picked a company to go with, and away we went at 8:30 in the morning. Robert’s driver was friendly, safe and had a decent command of English. My driver, on the other hand, was a bit weird. At one point he started laughing because in the US if a wife is beaten by her husband and calls 911, the police come. Apparently, that isn’t true in Vietnam. Why that is funny, I will never know. Thankfully Robert forcefully said that husbands should not beat their wives and that ended that discussion…
The first stop was the Dragon pagoda, with one of the coolest dragons we have seen. It is hard to tell in this picture, but the dragon had a tail that extended something like 75 feet.
Then, we drove around the countryside, stopping to see vegetable fields, flower fields, and coffee fields. The fields were quite beautiful, set in valleys in the hills, and the whole area smelled of pine trees.
Next was a stop to drink coffee. But not just any coffee. No, this coffee had been eaten by a weasel, and digested by a weasel, and then left behind by a weasel (if you get my meaning). Of course, Robert had to try it. He tells me it smelled good, but that he doesn’t understand the fuss. And, just to reiterate how weird my driver was, when we asked him if he liked coffee or tea, his response was “I like beer.” Robert’s driver quickly explained that my driver only had one cup of coffee each morning and that ended that discussion…
The coffee place also made rice wine. Including rice wine with snakes, rice wine with geckos, and rice wine with something furry (I didn’t ask). We didn’t try any of those, but we did try the plain rice wine straight out of the distiller. It was still warm. Robert liked it, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have any enamel left on my teeth after that experience.
Then it was off to a silk worm factory. This one was a bit more advanced that the previous silk worm factories we have seen elsewhere. It was actually quite fascinating to watch them spin the silk from the cocoons. Two rows of women take the cocoons, toss them into warm water, and then use chopsticks and their hands to connect a strand of silk to a machine that pulls the silk out of the cocoon.
The worms inside the cocoons are then fried. Robert, of course, had to try the fried silk worms. He tells me they were fine, but nothing special.
Next stop was Elephant Waterfall. No, there weren’t any elephants anywhere nearby, unless you count a couple of statues. This being Vietnam, the path down to the waterfall was like nothing we had seen before. When even your guide tells you to be careful and to take it slowly, you know you are in for a treat. Uneven and slippery steps going straight down, except for when a tree was in the way, and then there were just slippery rocks to step on. Fun, fun. But the waterfall was pretty impressive and we were glad we saw it.
Then, it was off to another pagoda, where we saw what has to be the happiest Buddha ever.
After that, it was lunch time. We ate with our guides and had a feast. Spring rolls, beef wrapped in some kind of leaf, pork stir fry, pork skewers, fried fatty pork, roast chicken, cabbage, soup, tofu (yuck) and rice. I thought it was enough for 10 people before I realized our guides could eat enough for eight!
Last stop was to watch a couple of guys break rocks for roads. With nothing but some steel points, some mallets, and their own muscles. Crazy.
This was definitely our best day in Dalat and we are already looking forward to taking an Easy Rider tour elsewhere in Vietnam. Only, next time, Robert gets the weird driver…