Banana Easy Rider Day Tour – Dalat – Vietnam – December 2014

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At this point of our trip in Vietnam, you may have gathered that nothing has really impressed us.  A bunch of average tours and shitty weather has left us in a bit of a rut.  Our first couple days in Dalat were no different after getting hit with their coldest weather of the year, the only highlight we had was the breakfast included with our hotel room.  Staying at “My Dream Hotel” the lady who owns it makes an incredible mulberry jam. 

Sometimes on the poker table, when you’re in a slump, you need to change your own luck.  Be a bit more selective and sharpen your decision making.  If you’ve seen me play poker, I am the king of the rollercoaster.  It’s time to get back on top. 

We’re being kicked out of My Dream due to too many online reservations.  We’ve been procrastinating booking a couple nights at the Dalat Authentic Home Stay because it’s 2.5km from the center of town.  This is the best reason we can think of to go. 

We are greeted by the owner, Huan, and his parents.  A very warm welcome, they show us our room and mama makes us a basic lunch of noodles and fresh farm picked vegetables. 

We sit down with Huan who is eager to sell us on one of his tours.  He shows us his website for his company Banana Easy Rider.  The Tours are not cheap by our standards.  He offers two 1-day tours for $35 and $45 per person.  After that he offers longer tours for $65 per person per day.  However, his Trip Advisor page had 41 reviews and every single one was 5 stars.  All legit reviews with content.  Spoiler Alert: He got another 5 star review from me. 

Kristi and I agreed we both wanted to do the longer day tour for $45 each.  The tour includes a 135km motorcycle ride, lots of stops, all of our entry fees, lunch and an awesome guide: Huan. 

Along with all of this, over half the house seems to be eager to do the same tour with us tomorrow.  A Finnish couple, A French guy, A Dutch Guy, and two girls who aren’t staying at the house.  Good sized group, though I think any more than 8 might be too many. 

We have an early morning as tour leaves at 8:30am.  Mama makes everyone breakfast at 7:30am:  tomato omelets, fresh rolls and strawberry jam made from fresh strawberries picked from their farm. 

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The drivers are all waiting for us right on time.  My driver doesn’t speak English.  As I sit behind him and we wait for everyone else, he puts his hand on my leg, which is quite hairy.  This shocks him as he looks back at me as wide-eyed as I’ve seen the Vietnamese get and says “Whoa!” He then awkwardly pets my knee… it’s way too early for me to process this as anything other than hilarious. 

Our fist stop is a 400m drive away.  I kind of wished I had walked there to help me wake up.  We stop at a Pagoda where Huan gives us a brief history and understanding of Buddhism.  He’s a Buddhist and you could tell he was excited to teach us a little bit about his faith.  What I like about Buddhism, is that it’s about teaching and not preaching to us. 

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Back on the bikes, we drive across town to see the old French Villas.  When Vietnam was colonised by the French, Dalat is where they chose to build their vacation villas.  They believed it is the most beautiful place in Vietnam and wanted to make Dalat to Vietnam what Paris is to France. 

Another 7km down the mountain and this is starting to look quite familiar.  The rolling mountains all around, beautiful green landscape, lakes, and wilderness, this is feeling a lot more like home in BC.  Ironically enough, Huan says the translation for this place is called “Feels like home”

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About 2km from our next stop, my bike starts to wobble.  I’m familiar with this feeling… we have a flat.  I hop off the bike and start walking along the dirt road behind all the other bikes as my driver heads off to get his tire fixed.  The looks I got from the locals in the village were pretty funny.  They were trying so hard to process why this white guy was walking through their village with a helmet in hand. 

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At the “Chicken Village”, Huan teaches us about the crops and how they have to trade to certain people because the Vietnamese won’t buy vegetables from “minorities” because they assume the vegetables are dirty… This to me is funny because if you’ve ever walked through a Vietnamese market you would know cleanliness is certainly not a top priority.

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Stopping to watch some kids play; Kristi the professional photographer caught this.

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A brief stop at a mushroom farm was actually more interesting than I expected.

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Finally we arrive at Seven Steps Waterfall.  This is why we paid an extra $10.  The $35 tour doesn’t include this waterfall.  The extra $10 is worth ever penny.  You can climb up this waterfall or go for a swim and stand under it. 

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Lunch of “local food”  is just noodles and vegetables.  Quite boring but extremely accurate.  It’s exactly what Vietnamese people would eat for lunch. 

We drive to Elephant falls which is a very powerful waterfall that you can go behind and take a “shower”. 

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A nice walk up the hill to another Pagoda to see a huge Happy Buddha.  While here, we run into a girl on another tour that we met in Thailand. She was part of the group that we went to the Cave Lodge with in Soppong!  Random and Exciting!

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Next up was a coffee plantation where they farm “Weasel Coffee” or Kopi Luwak as I learnt it in Bali.  Same shit, different name.  Get it? Same shit! Because the coffee is made from poo! 

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This plantation also makes rice wine.  Huan dips a shot glass in some and hands it to me.  Looking at it I’m think “that’s a big shot”.  However, I’m a champ and I can do it.  Huan realizes what’s happening too late… he looks on in horror as he says, “just a little.”  Too late.  I drank it all not realizing we were supposed to take a sip and pass it on.  Huan tells me that it’s 60% (120 proof).  I’ll do my best to not breathe into an open flame for a couple days. 

A silk factory which looks like a lot of hard work

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At one point we stop at what looks like someone’s house… turns out it’s a rice noodle factory and they are making Bun and Pho noodles. 

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We stop at a flower farm.  Flowers are very popular and cheap in Dalat.  They’re everywhere and people love ’em.  Huan says the flower farm is nicknamed “the money tree”  as this is a smaller farm and it will profit $1000 per month which is a lot of money here. 

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On the way back, Huan stops us to show off some beautiful scenery.  He’s very proud of his land and it shows when he talks.

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As we head back up the mountain, the temperature drops.  We stop for one more scenery picture so we can see where we’ve driven.  I use this opportunity to  put my long sleeve back on.

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The tour ends back at the Home Stay at about 5:30pm.  What an amazing experience.  135km round trip.  The best part is that they take you on a loop.  You come back a different way that you left.  Huan explains things in detail teaching us about how things are done, how much income they generate and history on why they do things this way… If there was an award for Best Tour Guide, he would get my vote. 

This tour took my expectations and blew them out of the water.  Everything is well timed so you don’t feel like you spend too much or too little time anywhere.  Between our guides, the information, the scenery and the company (a good tour group is key) this is by far the best tour we’ve been on… possibly ever.  If you visit Dalat, don’t forget the name: Huan.  Banana Easy Rider.

This is everything we’ve wanted from Asia.  This is where we will spend Christmas.   

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