Monday, February 25, 2008

delat: elephants and brokedown busses

We hopped on an old bus with a few other travelers that would take us to the Vietnamese central highlands and a town called Delat.

The travel agent assured us that this would be a pleasant seven hour journey through regional villages and contrasting landscapes.

It ended up being an 11 hour ride that, at times, nearly reached the dizzying speeds of 30km/h.

We were wondering why we stopped so many times until “tex”, our American friend told us the driver just fell asleep in his lunch. It seems that these guys do back-to-back trips non-stop.
A German couple confirmed that the driver was continually nodding off at the wheel during the trip.

But we arrived safe and sound.

Delat is beautiful. They call it little paris. There’s an Eifel tower, French inspired town squares and cafĂ©’s everywhere.

We hired a couple of motorbike guides to show us the sights. These guys are legendary in Delat. They’re known as ‘easy riders’. Their English is perfect and they’re really knowledgeable. There are lots of fake ‘easy riders’ so you have to be careful.

They took us out to a little village on the lake where we rode an elephant and wandered through the forest.

They showed us a mountain in the distance which was the base for the viet kong in the war. We headed to a pagoda and did all the touristy things.

Our last stop was an amazing waterfall. To get to the bottom of the falls, you rode down on a cart on rails. The cart has a brake that you are supposed to regulate your speed with. I jammed mine down and flew through the park, much to the dismay of the operators.

The falls were great, but there was so much garbage everywhere. Bins are rarely ever used. Throwing plastic and rubbish on the ground is the common practice. So is pushing into line and spitting everywhere.

The next day we left for na trang on another old bus. The winding mountain roads were only one lane in some places (not one lane each way, just one lane). We had to maneuver carefully when we came head on with another bus creeping along.

Visibility on the road was limited to 10 meters in some places as we were driving through clouds.

Later that night as we were chugging along at 40kms we heard a loud hissing. We had a flat. It was close to midnight and we were literally in the middle of no where. There was a small shack on the side of the road, but that was all we could see. Suddenly, the bus was swamped by 50 or so local children keen to see what all the fuss was.

There was nothing to do but wait, so we took their pictures and watched the buss driver try to remove the wheel nuts. It wasn’t until we heard a loud crack that we started to worry. He’d snapped the massive tire iron, and with no way to fix it he just walked off into the night.

But we didn’t really care by that stage. We’d discovered the family in the hut wad a few crates of beer. So we sat in their little hut with them drinking beers and shots of rice wine.

“jyo!” we shouted as we downed another shot of rice wine then washed it down with a beer. Once we finished that bottle they opened a bottle of rum and started pouring shots into our tiny cups much to our protest.

One of the kids was in his bed (a banana lounge) beside us watching these silly round eyes get drunk and forget they might be spending the night on the floor of a hut.

Eventually another tour bus came past and the driver returned from his little panicked walk. The tire was changed and we were on our way to na trang.
Click here for more pics.

You can buy these things called ‘electric flyswatters’. They’re essentially a small plastic tennis racquet crossed with an electric bug zapper.

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