On our second travel day we headed back to the inland. Our destination was mountainous Da Lat that is located 180 kilometers from Mui Ne and 1500 meters high from the sea level. The climate in Dalat is much cooler than in other places in Vietnam. That’s why the French colonialists used to go to Da Lat to cool down back in the days. The coldness frightened us a bit but also sounded attractive after four months in the heat so a couple of days’ stop in this city was more than alright.
Like our first day of driving, also this day turned out to be quite unpredictable and exciting. Let’s say that way that if you think some trip in Vietnam takes five hours, you should at least double that because anything can happen on the way.
We jumped on the motorbike at half past eight after packing and having breakfast. We were planning to stop by at a repair shop to quickly tighten the chain and check the tires before starting the trip. Yeah right, that visit ended up to last three hours! That’s it about starting early then.
A good motorbike repair shop in Phan Thiet.
The repair guy was looking at the smoke coming out from our exhaust already when we cruised on the spot. He told us “no good”. We had been driving only about 20 kilometers after the previous, expensive repair. Anyway, we just had to let the repairmen investigate the engine again. When the engine was opened, it turned out that several parts were corroded and had to be changed. We had been wondering earlier how much smoke coming from the bike is normal but Jarkko though it was just because of the new oil and stuff. That wasn’t the case though.
Luckily these repair guys did much better job than the previous ones. They cleaned the whole engine besides changing the parts. The final repair price was 450 000 dong which is less than the previous repair. Even though they also changed the same part that cost us s a lot just a few days ago. At that point we felt a bit annoyed but on the other hand, we couldn’t have avoided that anyway.
We finally got on the road around noon. Now the bike was rolling much better than earlier! We drove a while on Highway 1 that is not only the most dangerous road because of all the trucks and buses but also doesn’t offer any nice views. After a while, we turned to a small countryside road with real rural landscapes though.
We took a break in a roadside cafe and asked the old lady if they sell some food. The discussion took a while because of the language barrier but finally we found out that they serve rice. And that was a good rice meal! Besides juicy pork steaks and veggies we got very tasty vegetable soup and the lady even brought a big extra bowl of that to the table. This meal set us back 90 cents each, wow.
After dessert coffees it was time to continue as we still had a long way to go. The landscapes changed more mountainous and the journey went smoothly on a quiet small road. From time to time we just had to dodge minibuses and holes on the road. The air smelled very fresh and we remembered that there are eucalyptus trees growing here. After a while, we came to real serpentine roads and started to get higher to the mountains.
Just when we expected the least, the motorbike started to feel a bit funny. Jarkko noticed that the back tire was almost flat! And that was of course in the middle of nowhere in the mountains even though we had just passed several villages earlier. Apparently the repair guy had put too much air into the tires and the back tire exploded when we drove to bumps. We read later that this is a quite common problem and you shouldn’t let to fill the tires too much.
We could just check on the map where the next village is (luckily we have internet on the phone at least). There was a cafe in four kilometers so we decided to roll there slowly and ask for help. In the roadside cafe, we found two guys drinking coffee and women and children cleaning shells. We explained our situation mainly by using hands and one of the guys brought a pump from the house. We filled the tire but heard the air coming out immediately. It was totally broken.
The guy asked to take the luggage from the motorbike so we did that. Anyhow, he didn’t go to get more repair tools from inside but told that there is beer and coke in the fridge and jumped on our motorbike. And drove away. There went our bike. The situation was a bit weird and even funny but on the other hand, the guy’s supposed family continued doing their own stuff normally. We couldn’t do anything but grab drinks (we didn’t go for beers though even though it would have tasted good in this situation) and sit down to wait. We were waiting for almost half an hour and wondered if our bike will come back or not. In the meantime, the sky got dark and it started to rain heavily.
Finally we could hear a familiar sound around the corner and there our friend came – soaked wet and with black hands. Apparently he managed to change the tube and the bike seemed to be alright now. What a nice service from the cafe owner! The best things about driving a motorbike in Vietnam are definitely that the people are so helpful and that almost everyone knows how to repair a motorbike. The man asked us only 2 dollars for the whole thing so we were happy to pay that and a little extra.
It was already 4 PM at this point and we still had almost 100 kilometers of mountain road to go. We didn’t want to drive in the dark so we had to speed up and get going.
Then we started to go up and up! The landscapes turned more fabulous all the time and this time the motorbike brought us nicely all the way to the top. The uphill just continued even though every curve seemed to be the last one. It was pouring rain all the time but apart from that, the driving was fine. On this road, we saw the most awesome landcapes by now and forgot about all the troubles while watching them.
We were supposed to go to Da Lat via small roads and check out some waterfalls on the way but this remained just a plan. After we had passed the mountains, we headed straight towards Da Lat. It was already getting dark and it was raining continuously. The last 20 kilometers to Da Lat were quite horrible to be honest. We couldn’t see the road in the pitch-dark rainy evening and especially not those geniuses who were driving motorbikes without any lights. The temperature had sunk to under 20 degrees so it was cold on the bike.
We were lucky to survive the rest of the trip and eventually we made it to Da Lat and to our hostel where we had a homemade dinner and hot tea waiting for us. Never again driving in the dark if we don’t really have to! We also learned that it makes sense to bring the motorbike to the mechanics already previous day if we don’t want to waste half of the day for repairs.
We can only hope that our luck will turn and we don’t need to repair the motorbike on our next trip, especially because it’s not getting less mountainous on the way. Keep the thumbs up for us!
Read the previous story about our journey from Saigon to Mui Ne here.