Finally I got this one out! Been so busy with other stuff that I had to postpone this post for ages!
Post for 4.-13.12.2012
Ding Quan – Da Lat:
After a long ride on a previous day I slept till ten. Quick packing and then I continued riding without breakfast (well, there was no breakfast in the hotel in any case).
I had around 180km ride to Da Lat, so I estimated it to take around 4 hours with this scooter.
I was happy that I did not have anything for the breakfast, because otherwise I would have suffered from seasickness (road was in such a bad shape) and given some supper for the small creatures next to the road.
During this day I passed three police checkpoints without a problem. I guess my eyes got used to pick these light brown (uniforms) guys early enough so that I had time to slow down…
Slowly but surely road started to climb towards green hills in front of me. Air got a bit cooler, which was more than welcome change after several days in sweaty hot climate.
Once road got steeper my scooter started to have problems climbing up those hills… In some uphills scooter barely made 30km/h!
Automatic scooter is good in a town and in flat land, but totally hopeless in uphills.
Villages along the road were looking really poor and dusty, except one. It was clean and colorful, surrounding a nice looking clean lake. Colorful flowers were blooming at the shore of the lake and their strong scent filled the air.
Wow, what a huge contrast to the other villages! I guess this must be some sort of “resort” village, because next village again was dusty, dirty and grey…
10km before Da Lat I got a bit lost, because scooters were not allowed on a main road. I tried to find another route, but after some time I decided that I had not seen this sign and continued along the main road :). Heck, I am a tourist and do not understand all the signs ;).
Road got steeper by every kilometer and I started to wonder if my little scooter (Korean gift (SYM) for scootering world) would make it up to the hill (maybe this was also one reason why they did not allow scooters on this road…).
At the slowest point I was doing barely 10km/h, but somehow I managed to get on top of that hill, what a big relief!
Da Lat is a famous holiday town in southern Vietnam. People usually come here to escape the heat and high humidity.
Originally this place was a holiday resort for French and this has left a lot of French style villas to this area.
I was surprised how much cooler it was in Dalat compared to the flatlands! At 1500m I was actually feeling chills already, because I was wearing only t-shirt and slippers (ok, ok, also shorts ;)). Well, it was not that cold, it was 24C, but after spending a lot of time in over 30C, it kinda feels cool.
On a previous evening I had picked 3 hotel options from Lonelyplanet, so when I reached Da Lat lake, I stopped there to check my GPS.
Before I got my helmet off, first “lonely rider” approached me to offer his guiding services to the nearby roads. I had read stories that not all the guys who offer these services are the original “easy riders”. Lot of people have copied their idea to make some money.
Guy was friendly even after I told him that I do not need his services. He was asking about my trip and we chatted some time about the area near Da Lat.
One of the pre-selected hotels was nice and small, so I decided to stay there mainly because there was a small bakery downstairs! Room was absolutely spotless and price was ok for the travellers wallet, 250 000Dong ($12).
I spent the evening by writing Indian translation, doing some laundry and getting familiar with Cambodian visa regulations.
Outcome with the visa was that I filled out e-visa application, this way I would save some valuable pages on my passport and would also pass faster through the border.
Best part on this trip is that I can sleep as late as I want, because I am not in a hurry :).
Around ten I got up and went to a bakery downstairs to have a breakfast.
Got many different kind of breads and cookies there. Their coffee was excellent, best coffee I have had for a long long time! I ended up drinking 3 cups of it and now I felt that my stomach finally started to feel alive again!!! Hooray!!! 🙂
After the breakfast I decided to spent another night in this nice hotel. Temperature is nice, cool and I could go for a ride without my bag.
Got going around 12 and my target was to ride towards east, roughly 50km to the one of the highest passes in this area.
I followed road #20, which was in a horrible condition for this scooter (small tires so I felt every single stone on a road in my spine). Speed was really slow, but a good thing was that this way I was able to look around.
Road went through several small villages. It was nice to see how locals were living here. Pace was really slow and people looked happy, at least they were smiling everywhere.
Transporting goods over here is quite interesting. Some are using horse-drawn carriages, some are loading their tiny scooters with huge piles of stuff. In Europe police would go totally crazy when seeing these loads and writing tickets to these riders :).
I had read from Lonely planet that from this pass I should be able to see the sea (if weather is clear).
Road looked really twisty on my GPS, but in reality twisty part comes when road goes down to a flatlands.
I checked the scenery from the viewing point, but could not see the sea, so ride all the way here was not worth it.
I chose a different route back to Da Lat. This road followed the bottom of the valley from one village to the next.
I rode quite slowly and looked when people worked on the fields only using their hoes. Seems like modern “effective and productive” farming has not reached this area yet but I guess people get enough from the field for themselves and a bit for sale.
On my way back to the hotel, I stopped in a small village for a coke. I just sat there around 30 minutes and looked people passing by.
I guess I was not looking local, because people stared me quite long. Of course I followed them all the time until they passed me (naturally smiling to them) and in return I got several warm smiles! Excellent! These people really make you feel warm and happy inside, because they are so warm and polite.
In Da Lat I tried to find a scooter shop, which could tell me if my scooter had enough oil in the engine. Seemed like our communication did not work well because they had no idea what I was asking (even I showed the oil light and oil stick). I tried several shops, but no luck… I decided that I will stop in next shop on my way which sells this scooter brand.
For dinner I had tasty chicken and at the same time I wrote my diary (diary starts to be quite long already).
Da Lat – Nha Trang:
I left the hotel after the breakfast and my target was to ride to the shore to Nha Trang.
Morning was surprisingly cool and I started to feel a bit cold (I was wearing t-shirt, long pants and slippers). Soon I had to stop and put my rainsuit on because I did not want to get sick (also few drops of water came down, but not so much that it would have made road slippery).
Road was excellent (#723), I would have really loved to ride this road with my bike because this little scooter really struggled to get up to the hills.
At one point I saw really strange looking sand spikes next to the road (really hard to describe). I stopped there and went to see them a bit closer. They were around 10-20cm high and really soft (crumbled really easily). I do not know how these have formed, but looked interesting :).
Some time later I passed another traveller with a motorcycle. Few kilometers later I stopped next to a small waterfall to see if he stops there also (to exchange few words where he is coming from and going to).
Guy just stormed pass me, so I decided to spent some time to take few photos of this gorgeous small waterfall (there was a wet log in the fall which made it look even more interesting).
I enjoy much more this kind of “nature things” compared to the cities, towns and villages. Somehow I just cannot find so many things to photograph in cities than in the middle of nature (would need much more practice to find those interesting things in cities).
Small roadside cafes are excellent place to have a short rest because they usually have hammocks available. Well rested I reached flatlands and saw some rice fields. Unfortunately there wasn´t any people working at the fields (would have made a nice photo), so after some waiting I continued towards the shore.
On my way to Nha Trang I rode over one chicken (again)! I noticed it too late to avoid hitting it. Chicken just ran straight in front of my front tire…
Once again there was people around, so I just kept ongoing. I know that I should have stopped there, but I decided just keep going on.
I do not know why chickens were there, because I could not see any houses nearby… Maybe someone brought few chickens there to collect some money from car (or scooter) drivers…
I reached Nha Trang and stopped to a main square to check recommended guesthouses from lonelyplanet. Picked few and started searching. I did not find any of the recommended guesthouses, so I randomly picked one, which looked clean from outside.
Older Chinese looking lady gave me the price ($10) and I checked the room. Clean, A/C and Wifi for that price was excellent deal so I rode my scooter to the lobby and prepared for a dinner.
This time I decided to have a pizza in a nearby restaurant. While stuffing hot and tasty pizza to my mouth I could not help noticing that this town had a lot of Russian tourists everywhere. (Later I heard that there is direct flight from Moscow to this area and this explained the number of the Russian tourists here).
Nha Trang – Mui Ne:
Rode most of the day on a really boring road #1, same as before, heavy traffic, lot of exhaust fumes and nothing to see.
I saw large area of white sand dunes in the horizon about 50 km before Mui Ne. This place looked worth of exploring, so decided that I would come back here on the next day.
Close to the Mui Ne I passed red sand dunes, which were right next to the road. These dunes looked interesting, but dunes were totally full of people and footprints :(.
Beach area north from Mui Ne is one of the most famous kite surfing areas in Vietnam, so no surprise that I saw many of them there.
I rode to the center of the town (old fishing village), but did not find any hotels or guesthouses there. I was a bit surprised and stopped to ask some directions from locals.
I was guided to the south side of Mui Ne, where roadside was full of hotels, motels, guesthouses and restaurants.
Mui Ne Packpackers hostel looked really nice, but unfortunately it was full. A bit later I found nice looking place and the price was ok (in such a touristic area), $17 for a big A/C room.
After settling in I met few other travellers and we agreed to go for a dinner together.
Totally there were nine other travellers joining me for the dinner (from NZ, UK, and Denmark). We had excellent dinner and cold beer together (I had best tasting fish I can remember, a big barracuda steak). Evening was nice, but I had to leave quite early (not early in the morning ☺) because I wanted to visit white dunes on Saturday.
I had planned to wake up really early to head to the white sand dunes (which I saw on a previous day) before the day would get too hot, but I totally failed this plan :).
Slept really late, so I decided to go to the dunes on afternoon. At noon time I spent a lot of time going through my photos.
I decided to pass red dunes again due to massive crowd and millions of footprints. So I kept ongoing towards white dunes which was around 40km away and much more quiet (for what I have heard). Dunes were visible from a long distance, only question was how to find a correct route over there.
I stopped in the nearest village to check where most of the jeeps are coming from and then picked a road. Soon I knew that this was a correct road because it looked to go around the small lake towards the dunes.
Road turned in to a soft sand and I had to kick more speed with my legs to keep my scooter going forward. Luckily road surface soon turned in to a hard gravel so I did not have to push my scooter all the way :).
I found a parking place near the dunes from a place where it was possible to rent ATVs. I purchased some water and then started walking towards the dunes.
Sand was really burning hot, so I could not take of my slippers. Scenery was nice, only thing what disturbed me was ATV tracks everywhere.
Sand dune area was big, but not a huge one. I was able to see the edges where this white sand area ends and trees start to grow. Could not tell how far it was, but I remember thinking how massive Sahara must be!
I walked around in the area for few hours before returning back to my scooter. ATVs where everywhere! This place would have been nice and calm without screaming engines.
I decided to ride around the dune area because it was still few hours to the sunset.
Road got smaller the further I got, still rideable, but slower.
I passed few small villages where dogs tried to get a small piece of tourist´s leg…
Route around the dunes was much longer as I expected and took quite much time. My original plan was to ride to Mui Ne to take some photos from the harbor during the sunset. But this plan started to look impossible due to my slow pace.
Sun was already setting when I rode towards Mui Ne as fast as my little scooter went. Luckily I did not see any policemen, because otherwise I would have received ticket…
I was even leaning forward on top of the scooter trying to make it go even a bit faster, but this did ntoo have any effect to the top speed.
Through the visor of my helmet I saw amazingly gorgeous red sky and I knew that I was late. What a nice photo opportunities I missed now ☹.
I arrived to the harbor area around 10 minutes late… Sun had already set and sky was turning dark, so no nice photos anymore. Damn, if I would have taken that shorter route…!
Depressed, I returned back to the hotel and searched nearby restaurant to ease my frustration and nourish my hungry stomach.
Mui Ne – Ho Chi Minh City:
I had around 200km to go and this time I had also pre-booked my hotel from HCMC.
I was riding the whole day on road #1, which was as boring as previously. Try to avoid this road, because heavy traffic and police traps make it quite tiring experience to ride.
I got pulled over once, but this time I decided that I will go away without paying anything.
Police was showing again my speedo and I showed that I was doing only 50km/h. He was still pointing around 60km/h and I just ignored him. This finger pointing continued on around 10 minutes until other police came and waved me away without paying! So lessons learned from this is just to keep your calm and disagree with the police, at some point they also get tired 🙂 (if they do not pull a gun in front of your face…).
Once I got to HCMC, normal scooter chaos started again. No issues on a traffic, always aim to the front of the queue.
I got the address to the hotel, but I had really big difficulties to find it. I asked direction several times, but still could not find my hotel.
Finally, after several u-turns I was able to find it. It was inside of one really narrow alley. After few turns in this alley I finally reached the hotel.
Room was clean and nice and they had underground parking for a scooter.
During the evening I asked hotel to arrange bus tickets to Phnom Penh for me. This way I do not try my luck with any travel offices (there are lot of them in HCMC).
Ho Chi Minh City:
After the breakfast I decided to return the scooter. I had ridden roughly 2000km with this tiny scooter! It was ok in flat land, but up in the hills my scooter with automatic clutch was almost useless… All in all, it got me everywhere I wanted and the price was extremely cheap, so I cannot complain too much :).
Once I got back to the hotel my next task was to find a place where I could do color printing of my e-visa to Cambodia.
Hotel recommended one printing shop few hundred meters away.
I got really rough map and then went searching this printing place. It was more than few hundred meters away and on my way there I saw many places where you could get companion if you would feel lonely…
I was surprised when printing place accepted memory stick, normally they do not like memory sticks (risk of viruses).
My laundry was also ready, so now I just needed to pack all the things for the next morning return to Cambodia.
Rest of the day I spent writing my diary and going through the photos.
Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) – Phnom Penh (Cambodia):
Phone´s alarm woke me up before seven. Quick breakfast and then checked that all the stuff was packed and room was empty (I do nowadays triple check for the room so that I do not forget (for example) my soaps anymore).
I was told that someone will pick me up from the hotel at 07:45 and take me to the bus stop.
At 08:00 I was still sitting in the hotel lobby and started to worry that I might miss my bus. I checked from the reception and they told that the guy is on his way to the hotel.
I was worried because I did not have bus ticket and no idea where this bus would start. I guess over here given time is just a rough estimation…
Ten past eight someone finally appeared and now I was quite sure that I would get to the bus station on time. On our way to the bus we picked also few other travellers.
At the bus stop I finally got my bus ticket. Guy was asking my receipt (which I did not have, because I paid this trip at the same time as my room at the hotel), but he agreed to give me my ticket without receipt.
It was already well past the departure time, but our bus had not arrived yet. Roughly 30 minutes later bus finally arrived and now I was able to relax because I knew that I would get back to Cambodia.
I sat next to a Chinese girl in the bus and realized how small the world really is… This girl had worked for Nokia and she had visited Finland several times, even in northern part of Finland where I am coming from!
After Nokia she had worked with few other Finnish companies (based in Beijing).
Now she was touring around SE Asia before returning to China (she was travelling with old couple. She was organizing all the tickets and hotels for them in exchange for her costs of the trip. She did not like this at all, because this older couple did not want to see anything, just sit in the bus going through different SE Asia countries).
Bus arrived to the border really fast. All things went as fast as on arrival, but this time we did not need to take our luggage to the x-ray.
Few hundred meters after the border we stopped for a lunch to a roadside restaurant. This time I skipped lunch and took a short nap.
Actually I do not remember anything from the 3 hour drive we did to reach Phnom Penh :).
In Phnom Penh bus dropped us 1km away from the bus station… It was not a big deal, because I had my GPS, but now I had to pay $1 more for TukTuk driver to take me back to the Sunday guesthouse.
I shared TukTuk with a guy from Holland. He was on a 9 month trip in SE Asia.
Soon we reached familiar Sunday Guesthouse. I was told there that they were full (which was surprise because I had booked room before I went to Vietnam). Well, no need to stress with this because they organized room from nearby guesthouse. I shared a room with this guy from Holland (unfortunately I have forgotten his name).
He was really a nice guy and we had good chat during the dinner in nearby restaurant. It is such a nice thing to meet other travellers and hear their stories :).
Woke up around eight when my roommate got up and headed to Thai Embassy. After he closed the door I fell asleep again.
I felt a bit ashamed, because I woke up when my roommate came back at half past ten :D.
Now it was time to get up and change to Sunday Guesthouse.
I had only one target for the day, to get the Finnish version of Thailand week 2 –story translated. Translation and photos took half a day, but now finally it was done!
Rest of the evening I wrote my diary.
Whole Thursday I spent thinking what I should take and what to leave to my bike for a Christmas holiday to Germany.
I was able to take all my clothes because they do not take any space :D, but camera things were a bit more problematic…
I decided to have a short break from the packing and took my bike for a spin. I planned to find a place where to get it washed, so that it would be clean when I come back from Germany.
I found nice looking garage and locals spent around 30 minutes washing my bike (5 people were washing her)! Well, it was not so effective washing because they were reading visited country list from the fairing and played with my GPS…
After several packing rounds I had all what I thought I would need during the holiday and then the rest of the evening I used repacking all valuables to the panniers and all other things inside the packsafe.
For final touch I covered my bike with a tarp, so that it would not draw any unwanted attention during my holiday.