My Motorbike Is Not For Sale…YET! (Part 3 – Vung Tau to Mui Ne to Dalat)
While in Vung Tau, I was able to secure some plans of traveling the lower half of Vietnam with friends I had met while attending the TESOL class at AVSE in Ho Chi Minh City. My friend Trang (pronounced Cjhang…yes that J is correct in between the C-h) caught a bus to Vung Tau and was naïve enough to jump on the back of my bike. She is Vietnamese and it must be in the blood here to not worry when on a motorbike because no one in their right mind would get on a bike with me.
Trang and I were all set to leave VT in the morning, but my bike was making a loud screeching noise when I used the brakes. We took it to the local mechanic who immediately diagnosed it as a rear brake issue as we pulled up. He yanked off the back wheel and had the rear brake revealed in what felt like less than 10 seconds. The brake was rusty and he told Trang that he would have to replace it. He didn’t speak English so having her along for the ride was already a blessing. He went on to tell Trang that the OEM part was a Chinese version and that he would install a much higher quality Vietnamese part. I found this quite interesting since everything I had researched said the Detech Espero’s were a Vietnamese manufactured bike. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the bike is probably Chinese manufactured and assembled in Vietnam. The brake was installed and the bike readjusted in less than 30 minutes for 250,000 Dong or less than $11 USD. I wasn’t upset with that bill considering a 3 month old motorbike with 6,100km only cost me $450. This mechanic was a bit expensive, but in talking with other people in town he was the best and I will gladly over pay 20-30% any day of the week to get the best service. I worked for 3M before this and sold all day long on quality over price. Buy because of the lowest price and you can expect to get a cheap product!
The bike was fixed and the open road was finally ahead of us. Woah, it was another readjustment on the balance. Thankfully Trang packed light, but now I had the weight of another human on the bike to learn to deal with too. It didn’t take long, but I was definitely a little more nervous than before. Injuring or killing myself on this bike is one thing, but having someone I've only known for a few weeks life in my hands was a whole different thing.
We took the QL55 out of VT, but whenever we could take the more scenic and less of a death trip side roads we did. We ended up getting into Mui Ne just after sunset. We pulled into the Long Son Mui Ne Campgrounds Resort. The resort was huge and had big party banquets taking place, but there was a separate restaurant area for travelers like us. We ordered dinner and water at very reasonable prices without tourist inflation. They also had a pool table, games and organized activities each day for the guests to take part in.
We rented two tents on the beach with a mattress, pillow and blanket for less than $5 USD each. It was a little tough to sleep as the temperature at night was still 80+ degrees with about 70% humidity and no fan. I wouldn’t the tent for a long-term stay in the summer, but it was one night and I got to wake up to the sun rising over the ocean. They have air conditioned facility if you are looking to stay longer. Definitely well worth one mediocre night of sleep to wake up to the sunrise on the beach!
In the morning, we drove to town to hit the ATM and have breakfast. Mui Ne is heavily influenced by a Russian tourist crowd. Everywhere we stopped, the Vietnamese locals took note of my bike and how new it looked. They kept asking how much it cost and if I wanted to sell it to them. The same thing happened to me in VT and I was beginning to realize that this new of a bike was something everyone loved to see.
There were some red sand dunes close to town that were packed full of tourists who were climbing to the top and using makeshift plastic sleds to ride down them like a snow-covered hill during a Midwest Winter in the USA. We skipped on this adventure and headed out of town towards the less crowded white sand dunes. The views on the drive out of town were incredible and they got even better when we rented a 4-wheeler for 20 minutes with a personal guide for 600,000 Dong or $30 USD. The dunes sit right next to a beautiful lake and rolling hills. I highly recommend this pit stop if you’re ever close to Mui Ne because you can be in and out in less than 45 minutes and the tourist crowd was relatively small.
We were back on the road and headed to Dalat to meet up with Chris. The drive leaving the white sand dunes was re-energizing, but immediately the Vietnamese heat catches up to you. I didn’t think about it before, but the white sand dunes were a precursor to a Vietnamese desert like landscape. For the next couple of hours, we were driving on some of the hottest roads in Vietnam. It is very important to stay hydrated in this country because conditions like this could put you in a world of hurt real fast if you’re not prepared. We stopped and had lunch in a tiny town at the base of the mountains. After driving through the sun and heat all morning I ordered a nice hot bowl of noodle soup!
After lunch, we were immediately greeted by a blessing of cooler weather as we started to climb the mountain. The winds were getting stronger as we approached the top. The landscape was breathtaking at the top and we stopped for a photo. The winds were so strong and loud that they blew the bike over and I didn’t hear it crash to the ground. I was without my left mirror for the last hour of the drive as it was the only victim of the bike’s tumbling to the ground. Not having a left mirror (the most important mirror for driving in Vietnam) was a little worrisome, but the cool weather relief kept me distracted from overthinking it.