Finally, after being grounded in Mui Ne for 3 extra days I was able to get out to Da Lat today.
I was out the door of my guesthouse at 10am and walked next door to rent my bike for the next 4 days.
Even though a few people have cautiously questioned me leaving my passport behind I felt completely safe doing so. When you’re taking someone’s bike out of town for a few days, it’s just what’s done normally. It’s basically a form of collateral. They know you have to bring back the bike.
Of course, to the same end, he knows he can’t do anything nefarious with my passport because I have his bike.
He then drove off to get his registration photocopied and to get a business card with his contact info on it.
After handing me the papers he insisted on being paid the 800,000 dong ($40) up front which threw me for a curve.
I had only expected to pay upon my return. I guess it doesn’t really matter but there’s now this voice in my head that’s saying “what if he says you didn’t pay when you get back?”
I didn’t feel great about paying up front but he had already taken my passport back to his place so I couldn’t really say anything.
I’m not going to worry about it. Worst case scenario is that he actually does try to scam me for another payment and I’m out another $40.
Doesn’t it suck that in Vietnam you always assume people are trying to find some angle to scam you because generally that’s exactly what they’re trying to do?
Which brings me to ten minutes later…
As always, the gas tank on the motorcycle was empty. I’m actually convinced these people sit there at night siphoning off the gas of their rentals for themselves so they’re always empty when you rent them.
In fact, I bet that’s what my man did when he rode off to get the paper photocopied.
Wouldn’t shock me anyway…
So, I pulled into a gas station. I made the stupid mistake of not watching what he was doing and, lo and behold, my total was 120,000 dong ($6).
Now, I know from my limited experience that about 70,000 dong ($3.50) fills up the tank and he hadn’t even been pumping long enough to get that amount
I’m pretty sure I got the old don’t reset the last person’s total to zero scam..
I couldn’t really do anything about it. I knew I had been scammed but there was the total on the pump. I paid him the 120,000 and rode off. To make matters worse the tank was only 3/4 full so he probably only put in 40,000.
Son of a bitch!
As if that wasn’t bad enough I actually wiped out coming out of the gas station as I tried to make a sudden turn right and I think I hit the accelerator while I was trying to turn the bike.
No harm done. The bike was fine. I only had a couple scrapes on my knee and elbow. Don’t worry – the rest of the trip was injury free…
Of course my ego was somewhat fractured. Especially after just getting scammed by these guys. I could just picture them sitting there laughing at the stupid foreigner.
Not the best start.
The rest of the ride was problem free.
I had the route mapped out on my GPS on my phone and would stop every once in a while to double check I was going the right way and didn’t miss a turn off.
The GPS said the 150km trek would only take a little under 3 hours. Of course the GPS doesn’t take into account the pot-holed filled road for a third of the trip or the winding mountain road for another third.
Luckily I had also looked online and knew it would take about 5 hours to do.
It was about 30C today and the sun was shining bright. The breeze from riding the bike disguised the heat and I only noticed it when I would come to a stop. I played it smart this time and sprayed on the sun tan lotion before I headed out so I should be fine.
Like I said, a third of the route up to Da Lat was a long stretch of road covered in pot holes. I was on that stretch for close to 2 hours and I think I might have seen 5 other vehicles during that time.
I would have to constantly slow down to 20 km/h or even slower to navigate around them. It was probably the most challenging and obviously least fun part of today’s journey.
Once I was done that, there was a small stretch of highway where for the first time in a couple of hours I had to deal with other traffic.
This stretch of highway, though, wasn’t that congested and I felt perfectly fine on it.
And then came the mountain road.
The pavement was virtually pothole free. I say virtually because there were a couple of spots that were bad.
Of course the pavement being so nice most of the time lulled me into a false sense of security and the potholes would sneak up on me and I hit a couple pretty hard.
That bike handles well though and just went on through like it was no big deal.
Luckily the road going up was once again pretty barren so I could take my time and my space to navigate up the mountain.
Now, before you start to imagine crazy, winding and narrow roads up an unsafe mountain – let me put you at ease. It was none of those things.
The roads were wide and very safe. The corners weren’t that crazy and there were big mirrors around alot of the blind corners.
Just after 3pm, or 5 1/2 hours after I started, I finally arrived at my hostel here in Dalat.
It was such a feeling of accomplishment when I entered the city and then found my way to the hostel.
The hostel here, I found out, has only been open for a little more than a month and as such is nice and shiny and new. It’s also pretty empty because no one knows about it.
For a brief moment I thought I had royally f’ed up by leaving my passport behind. The hostels also require you to leave a passport behind while you stay with them.
I just assumed a photocopy would suffice so I had one to give the woman at the front desk.
Turns out, it doesn’t suffice as they actually need the passport on hand with the visa stamp in it in case the police come by and want to look.
Yikes, I hadn’t even contemplated that being a possibility!
And for a few minutes I actually thought I’d have to go all the way straight back to Mui Ne…
But then she just basically said I wouldn’t officially be here and if the police came by I should hide.
I am staying in a 16 – yes, sixteen – bed dorm but thankfully there are only 3 of us staying in it. There are 7 people total in the hostel.
It was better a couple of nights ago (of course, when I was supposed to be here) but, oh well, you get what you get.
So, having so few people here is both a blessing and a curse.
I mean, I do like having all this space to myself and I would think it would just be hell to share a room with 15 other people.
Of course, the downside is that you don’t really meet too many people unfortunately.
I did meet Parker from Washington, DC who turns out to be very similar to me. He’s been here for a few days but is leaving tomorrow.
Of course, if it weren’t for the food poisoning I would have also been here the last few days but, you know what, life isn’t always perfect. Things don’t always turn out the way you would like them to go.
Anyway, I’m here for 3 nights total. I actually have no idea what to do in Da Lat as, even with all that free time in Mui Ne, I never thought to look up what to do here.
The honest truth is I just envisioned hanging out here relaxing and doing nothing. I obviously had never planned to do that exact thing already in Mui Ne. Of course, I was sick there so that doesn’t really count.
Besides, this whole trip to Mui Ne and Dalat was never about what to do in either city – it was always about that motorcycle ride.
And it was awesome!