Today we’re going from Bảo Lộc to Ma Đa Gui. We left our nice hotel where we have spent the last 2 nights.
I could say “what we hadn’t expected…” but we did expect an incredibly long and fast downhill, as we always prepare next day’s route and see the elevation. But it was fun to confirm it.
After the long downhill came a small pass, called “the Banana Pass” in Vietnamese, but it was nothing. We are so used to climbing that this was nothing for us.
Right before the “Banana Pass” was a tourist resort called Madagui Tourist Resort. We decided to go and ask the price for one night, but the cheapest they had was an 80-something-euro room. What? Maybe not.
Finally we got to Ma Đa Gui. We spent like 40 minutes looking for accommodation because we were trying to find a room with a fridge. None had a fridge. Macià tried to ask for a fridge in Vietnamese, but people don’t listen, they think you are speaking English and just say “yes” without knowing what you’ve asked.
Finally, we found a place with a fridge and a reasonable price. We found a cake shop in the main street and decided to buy some cake. It is horrible! It tastes of plastic and colourant. We ate some but threw the rest.
There´s not much in Ma Đa Gui in terms of restaurants. I was trying to find something that is not the usual phở or bún, something like fried sweet potato or roasted tapioca but could not find anything.
New highest speed today, 59.9 km/h, totally stable, felt good, but only possible on a good road surface!
Today was all ups and downs again, but we made good time. Coming down from the mountains has improved the weather, it is now hot and sunny all day, so we need to slap on the sun cream again.
As usual, we had breakfast after about 2 hours of cycling, in a small roadside place where they were very friendly, and once again they were impressed by Matt’s Vietnamese!
Having spent Tet in the coffee capital of Vietnam, we are now heading towards the tea capital, Bao Loc. The roads are now lined with fields of tea plants, all neatly trimmed, ready for the new growth in the ‘spring’. Actually they do not have 4 seasons here in the south, just 2, wet and dry. The temperature usually stays around the same all year, but from about mid November to June it’s the dry season, the rest of the time it rains!
Tonight’s hotel was a pleasant surprise, a large room with a seating area as well as the sleeping area, but we did pay a lot for it, 19 Euros, (the room we had last night was 8 Euros).
When we arrive in these bigger towns we tend to look for sushi or pizza, as spicy noodles does get a bit tiring after a few months, and tonight we found a place that looked very good, but there must have been something in my meaty pizza that didn’t like me as I have had a serious attack of food poisoning!!!
But, at least it helps with losing weight, since we started I have lost over 7 kg, and now when I stand up my shorts fall down! (just as well I have a spare belt!).
After spending the weekend in Dalat, seeing the sights and eating bacon wrapped sausage rolls, it was time to leave. The town has a very vibrant nightlife and there are plenty of things to do there.
The route today was mostly down hill, which made a change after all the climbing we have done. But, apart from the first few km when we left the city, which was through a forest, the roads are now lined with nonstop buildings, with the odd glimpse of green fields every now and then.
The good news is, the roads are much better and have a wide shoulder, except for some bridges, and we are not harassed by the buses and coaches.
There is new annoying habit the scooters have started to do, they come past at the top of the hill, and then knock it out of gear and coast down the other side, Usually we have time to go round them, but a few times they have done it right in front of you, but a loud ‘get out the “£$% way’ usually works, (I know, it’s not very polite, but they are really doing my head in with this).
When we reached our objective for the day we found a small guesthouse to spend the next 2 nights, but it was sooooooooo bad!!!!! Fortunately we had seen one at the top of the last hill, so we back tracked about 2 km and stayed there, it wasn’t very big and had no windows, but it was clean, new, had hot water and towels, and good internet, exactly what we need.
The plan tomorrow is to visit some water falls, and come back to the room before moving on the next day.
We started the day with a glass of hot tea from the owner of the guest house, which was a nice surprise, and we still got away early.
We started on the same main road as yesterday with all its pot holes and heavy traffic, but instead of staying on it we turned left to follow a smaller road, which turned out to be a great idea. There was a lot less traffic, and the road surface was much better. Also, it was 2 km shorter and a few metres less to climb!
The forecast was for cloud and thunder, but although it was cloudy the rain didn’t materialise, but the lack of any breeze was a pain and we were soon soaked in sweat, and cleaning the sweat off your glasses when your t-shirt is dripping wet is impossible!
The first part of the ride was a gentle climb with some short descents, and we were going very fast. When we stopped for breakfast we were averaging over 16 km/h.
Our first detour was to visit the ‘famous’ elephant falls, a sheer drop over a granite cliff, but to get to the view from the bottom involved clambering down a very slippery path, with a flimsy hand rail, not easy when you have metal cleats on your shoes. After that we headed towards another tourist trap, the Coffee Garden. As we approached you could see this huge scaffolding construction on the hill, which looks totally out of place in the rolling hills, and when we arrived at the car park there were a million people there. The cars were abandoned on the road making it difficult for the buses to pass, people were milling about all over the place, and the parking attendants were completely useless.
It is very common to have a parking attendant to look after the many scooters here, they park them for you, and get your scooter out from the mass when you want to leave, but the guys here didn’t have a clue what they were doing, and at one point one of them was about to lift the back of my trike while I was still in it! Again we are treated like the local cyclists, poor people who can’t afford a scooter! It only took a few minutes for us to have had enough of this and we left.
This was also the start of the real climb, from here the road became steeper all the way to the town of Dalat. But the good news was it was also the start of a newly surfaced section of road, with plenty of space for us and the traffic.
Once again the trikes attracted a lot of attention from the hoards of bikes and scooters using the road for a day out, and people were slowing down to take photos as they passed us, and at times stopping us for selfies with them.
The climb itself was not too bad, the steepest sections were only posted as 8% gradients…easy! The smooth surface and the shade made for a pleasant ride, not fast, but slow and steady, without needing to stop too often. Once again the trikes showed their comfort compared to doing this on a bike.
When we finally reached the top and the town of Dalat it started to spot with rain, but with a few hundred metres to go to the hotel we just pushed on, But that was all it did, just a few spots!
The hotel is nice and the owners are very friendly, but the parking for the trikes is a piece of waste ground next to a building site, totally open for anyone to interfere with them, which they do!
We are now here for the weekend, to get more repairs done to Matt’s trike, (one of the pedals has come loose and the front left tyre (which was new when we left) has totally worn out (tracking problems I think, but impossible to reset here)), and to have a proper look around the town.
This is the end of the mountains, from here it is down hill to Ho Chi Minh City, although there are still hills to climb, but there should not be any more 800-1,000 m days…yeeeey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The day we arrived in Dalat the forecast was for heavy rain and storms all weekend, but apart from one heavy shower it was bright and sunny! But the canal that runs through the city rose from a slow stream into a raging torrent very quickly.
Once again we had to get one of the trikes fixed, new tyres and a pedal tightened, which took two trips to the bike shop. But it gave us time to look around the town centre.
This is a very popular tourist destination, and the hotels are full at the weekends, there are plenty of restaurants and bars full of people, but the one thing we didn’t see was anywhere to taste wine (Vietnamese wine is named after this town?).
The lakes in the centre of the town are a real tourist trap, with horse drawn coaches and expensive cafes, but the lakes themselves are dirty, and although there are pedalos to rent you are not allowed to swim in them!
We walked halfway around the main lake towards the flower garden, but when we got there we had a beer in a café and took a taxi back.
There are some local specialities that we tried, like meat stuffed snails, that come with handles to pull the snails out of the shell.
There is a very vibrant night life in the town, everything from bars and clubs, to a large plaza where families go for fun.
Like most towns in Vietnam the architecture can be quiet austere, but there are also some quite striking modern designs!
When things finished last night there were a lot of drunken people trying to go home, the homemade rice wine had been flowing freely! It tastes like the French eau-de-vie, but is only about 15%. Fortunately, my many years of intensive training paid off, and it was not a struggle for me to find the room.
When the alarm went off this morning, someone, not me, was not feeling very well, so, once again, we didn’t get away until after 9 am! As we were packing a group of cyclists from Dalat were having a coffee in the café next door and came over to chat. They were out for a round trip of about 4 days. This is the first time we have met a Vietnamese cycling club.
Once again most of the day was spent going up! It was not as steep as yesterday, and there was no sun, or wind. But, we were still soaked by the time we got to the top.
Today we did get the joy of a down hill, and some of it was on a good surface so we could let the trikes run, upsetting a few people on their scooters as we whizzed past at 59 km/h.
With only about 10 km to go a big black cloud appeared, and I hoped we were going to be able to out run it, but it had other ideas. When the rain came it hit with its full force and we took refuge in a café that was actually closed, but the owners were happy to let us sit it out.
Once it had eased off we were back on the road, but now the pot holes are hidden in the puddles! All this slowed us down as the risk of hitting a big hole and damaging the trike is too great.
When we arrived at tonight’s guesthouse the lady who greeted us was very friendly, and offered us a ‘special’ Tet meal, again, but this time without the hooch!
Tomorrow is all up again, a climb of about 800 m to the town of Dalat, where we will spend the weekend.
Again, having planned an early start we didn’t get away until almost 9 am!
We have decided to take the main road as the ‘scenic route’ is mostly dirt tracks.
The day was basically one long climb of about 800 m. The original plan was to do 80 something km, but after the first 500m of the climb we decided to stop at the next gusts house.
Being off the Ho Chi Minh Highway now he road conditions have become variable. When we left this morning the road was ok, but had some pot holes, the climb was a dream, with new smooth tarmac, but one we got to the top it became a nightmare, full of holes.
The other highlight of the day as being almost run off the road! A car had followed me down a series of bends, leaning on his horn but refusing to pass me, all the time scooters were passing both of us. Eventually he went for the overtake on a sharp right hand bend, cutting me off as he went. He was close enough to touch…so he now has a fist sized dent in his back door! The scary thing is, he must have heard me punch the door, but he didn’t stop, if he had run me off the road I would be laying in a ditch and he would have just driven off!
The guest house we found is nothing special, just the normal run of the mill place to sleep, but, we were invited to share dinner with the owner and his friends. This entails lots of locally made rice wine, and an assortment of dishes, mostly special Tet food, only eaten once a year. The language barrier was not a problem as Matt’s Vietnamese gets better the more he drinks. It was a great evening, spent with good people.
Breakfast was in the same restaurant that we had eaten lunch and dinner yesterday. Instead of the early start that we had planned, we got away for just after 9 am.
The plan for today was to get to the point where we had to decide which route to take to get to Dalat, the ‘scenic route’ or the main road.
The scenic route may not be paved all the way, and has photos of motorbikes being consumed by mud! The main road is longer and means the last 30 km will be the first 30 km when we leave the town.
Today was one long climb, followed by those annoying ups and downs, but at least the road was OK. The weather was hot and sunny, which is not good for laying on the sunbed/trike all day.
We had phoned the guest house before we left to make sure it was open, but when we arrived in the town it did not look that appealing, so we hunted around for some alternatives, one place that looked good was actually still under construction, although it was lit up as if it was open. But, we found a basic but clean place near by (until we moved the bed and found a used condom under it!!!!).
Dinner was in the town, cheap but good, and then it was time to work.
After a few days off in Buon Ma Thuot, we set off quite late. We have left the Ho Chi Minh Highway and are heading south towards Dalat, where we will have another break.
The roads today were very busy, with lots of buses and scooters again. At one point we were suck in a traffic jam, where a market had encroached onto the road. There were 2 policemen there trying to keep traffic flowing, but by standing in the road directing traffic there was only enough room for one car to get passed at a time.
Plus, the locals have this habit of shopping on their scooters, they slowly ride past the stalls, stopping whenever they see something and wait for the stall holder to bring it to them, still sitting on their scooter. The general rule of the road here is don’t stop, but this is the exception!
Although we have come down from the mountains, there are still some quite steep hills to climb, but most of the time it is a series of ups and downs, which just go on for ever.
When we arrived in the town where we are staying the night there were 2 guest houses opposite each other, the first was closed for Tet, but the second was open. And there are 2 restaurants open as well, but the rest of the town is still closed.
This evening, I craved for some bánh mì. So I went around the village looking for someone who sells them. I went everywhere, even in the market. But no bánh mì in Liên Sơn. So I finally bought some bánh cuốn. The 2 ladies selling them were very nice and friendly. They asked me lots of personal questions in Vietnamese.
So with 76 km to go, the first 50 of it uphill, we set off early to get to Buon Ma Thuot in time to work.
Things were going well for the first hour or so, the wind was sort of behind us, the hill was not too steep, and then Matt’s seat came off, again!
This has been a constant problem with this trike, due to its bad design. Once again, fixing it properly need a bike shop that can find the specialist part…or a bungee? Fortunately, I always have one or two handy in case we need to carry something, and in this case it worked, with some minor adjustments later. The seat still moves, but tomorrow I will redo it and hopefully it will hold for the next month.
Once we were moving again the wind had moved round a bit more to the east, which meant it was now in our faces at times. Although the trikes are quite low and more aerodynamic head winds still slow you down.
By the time we stopped for breakfast we had already done 32 km, which was very good, and it was here that we turned right, away from the wind!
We had chosen this route for 2 reasons, firstly it cut out a 300 m climb, and secondly it was shorter, just. As a bonus it meant he wind was now at our backs and that was good. Also, we were now on the long descent after all that climbing.
The road here turned into a bumpy ride with lots of holes, unlike the smooth road we had just left. Also, the traffic had been very busy today, mainly buses full of people going home for Tet, but that stayed on the main road. However, the descent was not steep, and with the wind assistance we just sat back and relaxed for most of it.
At the bottom of the hill we stopped for a coffee, but the place was closed for Tet, and while we were getting ready to push on a guy from the restaurant across the road came over to help. He lead us to a small café down a side street that was run by his friend, which was sited under good tree cover, so it is cool and sheltered from the sun.
We have discovered that if we do a controlled look at the trikes, where we show people how to sit on them without standing on the seat or kicking the mirrors, they tend to leave them alone and we can sit and drink our coffee without having to get up every two minutes.
With about 20 km to go, and one small hill, we set off again feeling refreshed. The last stretch was still with the wind behind us and over the 76 km we had averaged 16 km/h, which was much better than expected considering the hills.
Now we are here for a few days to see in the new year, and do a bit of maintenance on the trikes.
After a few long days we finally made it to Buon Ma Thuot in time for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year.
We were hoping to find a party to join in, but apart from the flower market that ran until after midnight most people seemed to be spending the night at home, and a lot of the restaurants were closed.
As we are in the coffee capital of Vietnam it is only right that we visited the museum and tasted a cup of their rather expensive coffee.
Most places are shut for Tet, and the only real choice to find something to eat is street food. And even the cafés were full to overflowing.
We did find a pizza place that was open the day before and the day after Tet, so we didn’t starve.
We spent 3 days here and did not really find anywhere for a drink, except the café in the centre of the town, but that closed at 10 pm every night.
Last night’s hotel was just before the town and the restaurant had not opened yet, (the place was so new). The only option was to walk over 1 km each way or buy some pot noodles in the local shop. However, the receptionist offered to go and get some food for us on her scooter.
We left quite early this morning, and did very well for the first hour, with an average speed of 22 km/h. Then we started climbing…
The wind was behind us again, and still gusting quite strongly, which did help on the climbs, but as the road twisted and turned there were moments of quite strong head winds.
One of the major transport systems here is the grey Ford Transit bus. They are everywhere, stopping to pick up people in every town and village. Unfortunately they are driven by morons, who have no respect for any other road user. It is very common for them to hurtle past, and then stop dead in front of you to pick someone up. Today, as one of them passed me, the guy who opens the door threw a bottle of water at me, which missed. Just goes to show there are idiots everywhere!
We are now 76 km from Buon Ma Thuot where we are going to be for Tet, so tomorrow is going to be an early start and a long day.
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