The Motorbiking Chronicles – Nha Trang to Buon Ma Thuot

Day two of riding, and it felt like we were really getting into it now.

We drove around Nha Trang on fumes trying to understand the directions of the ten or so Vietnamese vendors that we asked for directions to a petrol station. It was one of many mornings in which I was angry and frustrated while Liam was completely and annoyingly relaxed. Bloody Kiwi. Finally on our way, we left Nha Trang behind us worked our way north, drinking in the sweeping views of the coastline and its tiny fishing villages.

We took a small farm road inland and were immediately overcome by the exquisite scenery surrounding us. Expansive fields of crops stretched themselves up against the highland mountains that developed bluer and bluer hues as they stretched into the distance. Dramatic skies hovered above us as the bright sunshine of the coast clashed unyieldingly against the ominous black clouds in front of us, reminding us that rainy season was upon us. Small agricultural villages popped up sporadically, inhabiting small groves of palm trees that peppered the flat landscape. Trucks filled with fresh produce and women with pointed straw hats riding bicycles with the odd baguette peeking from the sides of their bags had me debating whether it felt more like southern Vietnam or the south of France. Hundreds of little yellow butterflies dodged out of our way as we wound our way through the valley.

We began to hit really rough terrain, dodging potholes the size of my bike itself and cautiously navigating the gravel road as my wheels threatened to spin out from under me.

As we finally made our way back onto the main road, a group of local men enjoying their lunch on the roadside applauded and cheered us on as we passed (a clear sign we might not have taken the easiest route, but it was certainly worth it for the views!)

After stopping for a well deserved cold drink (the first of so so many Vietnamese lemon ice teas), I took off in front of Liam only to realize a few minutes down the road that he was definitely not behind me. I waited and waited (probably too long in hindsight…sorry Liam) before finally deciding to turn back. I found him sitting on the side of the road in front of what seemed to be the home of a mechanic. A rogue nail had decided to call Liam’s tire home and caused us our first roadside mechanic stop.

Turns out the timing was miraculous. As I parked my bike under the covered garage the heavens opened and a torrential downpour trapped us in this family’s home for upwards of two hours. I’m sure they weren’t thrilled about their unexpected guests, but it was a pretty relaxing atmosphere. A sweet songbird was chirping away in the cage above our heads and their quiet little baby rocked back and forth in a hammock under the roaring of the storm against the tin roof.

All of this said, we still watched the lights of the warm dry cars pass by with waves of jealousy.

The rain finally calmed down enough for us to hit the road again, adorned in newly purchased giant ponchos. As it finally died altogether, we found ourselves amidst some enchantingly misty mountains. The road sliced through the side of the peaks giving us epic views of not only the emerald green river valley below, but also the mountain tops towering above us where the low hanging post-rain clouds made me feel like King Kong could come bursting out of the jungle at any moment.

The ebb and flow of the mountainous road led us into rural valleys with scenes of straw hat wearing farmers adorned with baskets on their backs tending to their crops, and villagers hustling groups of pigs or chickens down the paths. My personal favorite was the several roadblocks made up almost entirely of little baby calves.

We came upon a larger town with a market, and we pulled over to imbibe in some street food. Liam got a taste of the real Vietnam with sights of an entire cow butchered on a table and a few chickens coming to the end of their lives right in front of him. Luckily, my weak vegetarian self was guarding our bags at the time, but we got a real kick out of sitting in the middle of town and being gawked and laughed at by locals walking by. Clearly not a lot of Westerners stop by this particular little settlement.

Funny how days of biking have such severe ups and downs. Right after that we came into heavy construction and traffic, breathing fumes and dust and dodging huge, careless trucks and busses. Then, just as night came so did the rain. By the time we reached Buon Ma Thuot I had both rain and tears streaming down my face. Misery.

Ten hours after leaving sunny Nha Trang, we pulled up into the city center of Buon Ma Thuot. Absolutely exhausted, wet, and filthy, we checked into the first hotel we could find.

Leave it to the people of Vietnam to turn your day around just when you think its all gone to hell. We walked around the block trying to find some kind of vegetarian friendly eating establishment to no avail. Finally, I decided just to sit with Liam while he ate at a restaurant across from our hotel (I’m so lame) then guzzle down some granola bars when we got back to the room.

The storeowner would have none of it. She made me a special veggie meal, even offering to run across town to the market to buy more vegetables for me! It was the perfect end to our not-quite-perfect second day of riding.