Dalat is nestled in the mountains of Vietnam and Nha Trang is a coastal town. Stephanie Jack decided that biking down the mountain would be an interesting way to get from one town to the other.
The 70 km bike ride from Dalat to Nha Trang is through spectacular terrain. It was one of my favourite areas of Southeast Asia because it was completely untouched and there were so few people around. For the first 40 km you cycle up and down the rolling hills of the highlands with their tall pine trees. Then you climb up a few kilometres until your reach the pass. It’s downhill from there, all the way, without a break, for 28 km. The road is very winding and you ride pretty fast.
There were no cars on the road although a couple of tour buses went by. I passed a small group of cyclists coming UP the mountain. I also passed several villages as I went down the mountain and the people who lived in them seemed to be rather poor. So Nha Trang, with its huge hotels and well-off tourists, was a bit of a shock when I reached it.
Riding from the mountains to the coast is more than a change of elevation and landscape but also a change culturally. Dalat was once a hill station for the French so is very French-influenced whereas Nha Trang seems to be rather Cancun-influenced.
There are a couple of excursion companies in Dalat offering this bike trip. I was with a small group—only four of us and a guide. We cycled at our own speed and a support van followed with refreshments and lunch. Two of the bikers decided not to ride down the mountain and instead joined the driver in the van.
I took this ride on St. Patrick’s Day and there were lots of parties happening in Nha Trang when we arrived. A friend and I decided to celebrate the occasion by taking a $10 boat cruise in the harbour. Entertainment on the cruise was a ‘boy band’ (aka Boy Band #5) that consisted of our guide (who was the lead singer), the cook and the dishwasher. Their singing was terrible but they knew a famous song from the country of every tourist on the boat and soon had everyone singing along with them.
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Ours was not the only boy band in the harbour for we could hear music coming from other boats and people yelling “Yea, for Boy band #4” and “Yea, for Boy band #1”.
It was quite a day, leaving quiet Dalat and ending up in this absurd party atmosphere. But the mood was contagious and I treated myself by booking a couple of nights at a rather nice hotel on the beach and falling asleep with the sounds in my head of the absurd music of Boy Band #5.
This interview and been condensed and edited.
Photo credits Stephanie Jack
© Riding the buses 2011