Motorbiking Vietnam Part 4 – Da Lat, Nha Trang, and Qui Nhon

In Part 3 I wrote about my twisty ride up through the mountains to Da Lat, a town situated 5,000 feet above sea level. I was expecting a sleepy mountain town, but what I got was more of a city feel, with proper traffic and a bustle to it you wouldn’t expect from a town seemingly hours away from anything else. That being said, it has been one of my favorite destinations in Vietnam (so far), and I wish we could have stayed there longer. It is the perfect destination for outdoorsy people. Our first full day there we went rappelling ( abseiling for you Brits ), zip-lining, swimming, and ended it with a nice trek through the woods. That was just the tip of the iceberg should you want to pursue more in the area. If you’re not interested in the outdoorsy stuff, there was plenty of other things to do around town. One of my favorite places we went was the Crazy House, one of the weirdest hotels in the world. I don’t want to get into it now, but follow the Youtube link and you’ll get the idea. When you’re done watching that video, check out 100 Roofs Cafe, which was designed by a student of the architect who designed Crazy House. You won’t find anything like either of them anywhere in the world, except for Da Lat of course.

Crazy House Da Lat
Part of the “Crazy House”

I could go on and on about Da Lat, but this post is about motorbiking, not my actual experiences in each city. For that, be on the lookout for some posts coming up from Breada. I think she’s much better at writing about these things than me.

I’m skipping ahead a little bit, mostly because the ride from Da Lat to Nha Trang was nearly identical to the ride from Mui Ne to Da Lat and it would be a little boring hearing the same thing all over again.

The ride from Nha Trang to our next stop, Hoi An, was just over 500km and since we didn’t feel like riding that in one trip (I don’t know how people do it), we broke it up into 3 segments. There really isn’t a whole lot between the two towns, but we managed to find three towns to sleep in: Ninh Hoa, Qui Nhon, and Quang Ngai. We could have broken it up into 2 segments, but we left Nha Trang a little late and didn’t feel like riding for very long so we only went about 30 miles that day.

Honestly, this ride sucked. Like I said, there really isn’t much going on between the two places and the most direct way, Highway 1, is not fun at all if you’re on a motorbike. You’re just constantly surrounded by transport trucks and busses who have no regard for your well being, or even their own for that matter. The busses are the worst. They just don’t care. They constantly overtake each other, driving on the opposite side of the road as cars are heading towards them, and only at the last second will they move. It’s like a constant game of chicken with these guys.

Our first stop, Ninh Hoa, wasn’t so bad. This town clearly does not get foreigners at all, not westerners at least. There was a beautiful beach in town that we took a look at, and it was just filled with Vietnamese locals. I imagine in the next 5 years it will develop into a small touristy beach town, as the beach was one of the nicer ones i’ve seen during the trip. For now, it’s quiet and honestly I like it better that way.

Doc Let
Doc Let Beach

The one problem with having no foreigners is there wasn’t a single sign in English at any restaurant, so you have to rely on the basic words you know to decide where to eat. We couldn’t really find anything we recognized, until after about 15 minutes we found “Banh Xeo” , which is like a Vietnamese fried pancake flipped in half and filled with pork, shrimp, or both. We stopped and sat down and this little old lady was so happy, probably because she has never had a westerner stop at her roadside stand. We had never had Banh Xeo at this point, so we were a little clueless as to how to go about eating it, but she showed us the ropes and using hand gestures showed us what to do. It’s amazing how much you can convey using no words whatsoever.

The banh xeo was exactly what we needed at that time, filling and at just 10,000 VND (.45 cents) each, it was friendly on the wallet.

As we were heading back to our guesthouse, we saw a crowd of about 30 people all standing around looking at a group of traffic police putting about 5 motorbikes on a tow truck. Nervous they were confiscating bikes, we pulled into our guesthouse and walked back over to the commotion. Turns out there was a big accident on the street. Kids were flying down the street on their bikes, hit some sand and all had a big collision and they had to be taken to the hospital for their injuries. Like I said earlier, it’s amazing what you can get from someone with no words whatsoever. For us, it was a reminder to always drive slow, constantly pay attention, and avoid sand whenever necessary, but I learned that lesson in Thailand.

The next morning we left for Qui Nhon, 185 kilometers (115 miles) and unfortunately not a whole lot going on in between. There was some decent scenery at points, but for the most part it was just Highway 1 the whole way. Have I mentioned how much I hate Highway 1?

One of the few HW1 scenic moments.
One of the few HW1 scenic moments.

During the ride Breada started having a fuel issue with Donna, her black beauty of a motorbike. She kept eating gas like it was her job, which I guess it is, but you know what I mean. We had gone maybe 60 miles and all of a sudden her bike starts bogging down and stops dead in its tracks. At first i didn’t even think of it being out of gas since we hadn’t gone very far, but sure enough it was. Luckily we keep an extra water bottle full of gas while we ride, so we filled her up and went on our way.

Breada and Donna
Breada and Donna

We finally arrived in Qui Nhon as it was getting dark. We didn’t have a place booked yet, but we had a place we found on Booking that said had space available. We figured let’s cut out the middle man and negotiate a better rate. We showed up and the guy working reception speaks zero English, so he called somebody (his boss maybe? I really have no idea. ) and he gives me the phone. The guy tells me there is no room available in the hotel that night, which makes no sense considering Booking says there’s 4 rooms still available. He insists there’s nothing, and I’m getting a little aggravated. I show him the Booking app and ask the guy on the phone what will happen if I just hit reserve for a room right now? He tells me again there is no room. By now we’re tired, aggravated, and our phones are dying. I said screw this, even if they did miraculously find an empty room I didn’t feel welcome and we left.

At this point we have to scramble. It’s now almost dark, Breada’s phone has died, and mine only has 10% left. When you’re using navigation apps thats maybe 20 minutes of battery life MAX. We jump on Hostelworld and find 2 hostels in the town, but they’re about 12 kilometers outside of the city the way we came in. We also haven’t eaten anything since the morning, so we’re hangry and getting snippy at each other so this last wrench in the gears isn’t helping whatsoever.

We backtrack the way we came. I’m trying to avoid opening the phone in fear of it dying before we find the hostel we picked out, because if that happened we would really be screwed. Qui Nhon is technically a tourist destination, but for Vietnamese not foreigners. We didn’t even book the hostel. We just wanted to get there before it was pitch black and hope for the best since by this point we were all out of options.

I’m riding ahead of Breada, leading the way to the hostel and following the directions from the navigation. I normally look for her in my rear mirror every 30 seconds out of habit, but I was focused on the directions so I went a minute or two without looking. When I finally did, I realized she was gone! Fearing the worst, I turned around and backtracked until I found her standing on the side of the road with 2 other backpackers on their Honda Wins. I remembered driving by these guys and just assume they pulled over for any number of reasons. When I got there I found out Donna ran out of gas AGAIN and the two backpackers, Robbie and Chase, were lost looking for the same hostel as us.

Robbie saved the day for us. He had plastic hose he kept handy in case something should happen, so we decided to siphon some of my gas into her tank. I tried the traditional way of sucking up one end till it was close and letting gravity to the work, but there wasn’t enough difference in height for it to work. Robbie, again, saved us by trying a method he had learned from a local. He put one end into my bike and one end into Donna and then made a seal around my tank with his hands and sucked up directly from my tank, creating a suction, which successfully took the gas from my bike to Breada’s. It wasn’t much, but with any luck it would get us the 5km or so to the hostel.

We just barely made it to the hostel, and honestly I was half expecting Breada to run out of gas again. When we finally got there I took a peek into the tank and it was bone dry. Luckily, we didn’t have to venture out for gas because they had an available bed in the dorm room! Success! We threw our bags on the bed and proceeded to the bar, where a much needed beer and some dinner was in order. When we got there, we ran into some familiar faces: Dingo, Hayden and Ryan. Small world, huh?

I’ve been slacking on my Motorbiking Vietnam posts lately, so expect Part 5 to come out pretty soon. We’ve just been enjoying ourselves so much it’s hard to sit down and type! That, and I have my nose in a really good book right now 🙂

Feel free to comment!! Also, a new GoPro video will be out shortly!

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