Nha Trang to MDrak

Rice Fields, Sugar Cane and the Foothills of the Vietnam Central Highlands

Rice Fields, Sugar Cane and the Foothills of the Vietnam Central Highlands

I leave Nha Trang mid-afternoon after spending most of the day with my Russian friends and seeing them off to the airport; sadly, they are headed home and I will miss their company. I get no more than 15kms before I have my first flat tire of the trip.   I go 300 meters and find a shop that repairs my tire in under five minutes for the price of 10,000 Dong (50 US cents).

I slide up the coast and head inland, my first foray into the Vietnam Central Highlands. Into the mountains I go and QL26 is the road I am taking. I think I might head for Buon Ma Thuot, the coffee capital of Vietnam. But I don’t make it there. Too many stops for photos, and a very hilly, bendy road. Continue reading

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Maria Enjoying the View and the Day - Road to Bai Dai

Maria Enjoying the View and the Day – Road to Bai Dai, Vietnam

My friend Keren and I were recently discussing how the people we meet on the road can shape the opinions we have of certain locations. And while I agree in principal, I try to separate those personal interactions from my views on a town. It’s not always easy, but in the case of Nha Trang, it was.

I love the people I met. And now, as I leave, I can tell you with equal confidence, I do not like Nha Trang.

Cruise ships, amusement parks, a wannabe Miami Beach strip, and lots of Russians. Continue reading

Mui Ne to Lien Huong

Sand Dunes Outside Mui Ne

Sand Dunes Outside Mui Ne

But wait a minute; I thought Vietnam was all jungle??

Today was the greatest day on a motorbiking in my life. It was spectacular for these reasons: landscape, solitude, variety, and the physical and mental challenges it presented.

There is a quick route from Mui Ne to Lien Huong. I didn’t take it.

Google maps says to get on the A1 and head north. Everybody knows the A1 is the least desirable way to travel Vietnam for reasons of traffic, the lunacy of truck drivers, and unpredictable construction or road conditions. Besides, the last time I took Google Maps advice, I ended up in a Vietnamese Prison. Continue reading

Mui Ne

Big Hotels of Phan Tiet and Mui Ne

Big Hotels of Phan Tiet and Mui Ne

Mui Ne and the surrounding communities of Ham Tien and Phan Thiet are….well…in a word……“contrived”.

Phan Thiet is a respectable town in it’s own right. However, it does boast a laundry list of high-end resorts, a severe and growing bent towards tourism. The buildings and community on the beachfront look like any other beach destination in the world.  Thing is….there are a lot better places to go if this is what you are looking for.

And the 60kms of beach to the south of it are all under development similarly.

In a word, “contrived”. Continue reading

Pop Quiz: Driving in Vietnam – Ten Questions

Saigon Traffic

Saigon Traffic

I’ve never sworn so much in my life as when I am driving in Vietnam. Often I am glad I have a visor over my face to muffle the language. Frequently I cuss at people in Spanish just to be sure they can’t understand me. If I ever were to learn how to swear proficiently and throw a shit-fit on the road in Vietnamese, it could be very detrimental to my health.

Predictability is something that does not exist on the roads of Vietnam.  Take this pop quiz to see if you’re ready to drive here. Continue reading

Gotcha: Extending a Vietnam Visa

Vietnam Immigration Law

Vietnam Immigration Law

Popular opinion is that renewing a Vietnam visa is easy.  They say, “if you have a three month visa, you don’t even need to leave the country, either go to immigration or have a service process your extension for you…three more months…no problems.”  You can do it three times – a full year of Vietnam travel without ever having to leave the country.  Excellent!

Well, not so much.  Be forewarned, sometimes it’s not all that straightforward.

I recently got denied entry into Thailand.  Here’s my (cautionary) Vietnam visa tale. Continue reading

24 Things To Do in Da Lat, Vietnam

Xuan Huong Lake and Da Lat, Vietnam

Xuan Huong Lake and Da Lat, Vietnam

For a relatively small town, Da Lat packs a real punch when it comes to activities and sights. With so much to do, this town should feel ‘touristy’, but it somehow manages to escape that aura.

I will to provide an overview herein of some of the best things to do in Da Lat and the surrounding area. I compose this list for a wide audience, so take what you like, leave the rest. Not everything is for everyone, but there’s sure to be something for everyone here.

As an added bonus, 19 of 24 items on this list cost less than $2.50US to experience….many of them are entirely free. Continue reading

Da Lat, Vietnam

Xuan Huong Lake - Da Lat, Vietnam

Xuan Huong Lake – Da Lat, Vietnam

Formerly called “Petit Paris”, this village at 1500 meters is very different from any other place in Vietnam. French traditions linger here and there is a lot to do and see in this town that somehow maintains a small and cozy feeling.

I left Da Lat this morning after more than a week there. And while it was very cold up in the mountains, I enjoyed the city very much. In many ways, it reminded me of a European alpine village. Da Lat also boasts a wonderful array of activities for all comers. Continue reading

Yeah, I Climbed That

Pangour Falls - Outside Da Lat, Vietnam

Pangour Falls – Outside Da Lat, Vietnam

Located about 40kms south of Da Lat, Vietnam are the Pongour Falls. And if you’ve got a motorbike, getting there is a snap. The roads are nearly perfect and there is little to no traffic through the countryside.

The falls are amazing. And, yes, I climbed them. Continue reading