Vietnam road trip: Saigon to Hanoi on a Honda Dream – Part 5

IN July-August 2010 Jo Lane travelled 1700km from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi on a $300 scooter. This is her story… 

[if you’ve just joined us, you can read Part 1 of the series here]
THERE’S an assumed knowledge required for navigating in Vietnam and I don’t have it. Getting to Dalat and the central highlands involved negotiating Phan Thiet’s traffic (the major town near Mui Ne and I discovered later there was a more direct route that avoided it completely) and various intersections, none of which were marked. After 30 minutes of driving around and asking about 10 people where to go and being pointed in all opposing directions, a man finally drew me a map with roundabouts and traffic lights marked on – it was spot on and probably saved me another 30 minutes and I finally escaped Phan Thiet and its permeating smell of fish.
Vietnam road trip

Fellow travellers on the road to Di Linh, (c) Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

The road into the highlands became narrower, windier and more remote as we climbed. The smells changed along with the scenery – farming land in every direction or forest. There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road except for the occasional herd of goats or cows. Beauty took it all in her stride charging the corners and peeling off the bends without struggling as the views grew increasing scenic over the forests and down to the fields below. I have become guilty of taking photos of her everywhere – Beauty in Saigon, Beauty at the beach, Beauty in the highlands…

Vietnam road trip

Beauty in the highlands, (c) Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Once we were on top of the range we drove through endless coffee plantations and towns with dirt as red as in outback Australia, chickens clucking around and old wooden houses. Some kids waved from their houses but most were too shy to come out and I didn’t stop long.

Just short of Di Linh, ravenous at 2pm, I stopped in one of these villages seeking food, and ordered from the inquiring lady in one of the shops the first Vietnamese food that came to my brain – pho (the Hanoi noodle dish).

Vietnam road trip

Typical towns, (c) Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

The woman was delighted and produced the largest bowl of noodles I’d ever seen with two enormous chunks of meat for the cheapest price in Vietnam. She was completely taken with me and kept up endless conversation despite my knowledge of Vietnamese including only phrases such as “that was delicious” and “I’m full”, both of which I used when she paused in conversation. It didn’t seem to bother her I understoood nothing.

Later came gifts of tea, fried bananas, fresh bananas and a request I take her daughter to “Uc” (Australia), I assumed via Hanoi first.

Vietnam road trip

Gloomy clouds gather above the fields near Di Linh, (c) Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

From Di Linh a storm brewed overhead and I raced angry black clouds and thunder, and rogue bus drivers, until the stormy finally hit me 10km short of Dalat. I would have been soaked in seconds except for the raincoats I’d procured in Saigon before departure. Still it wasn’t quite the welcome I was looking for, but after about 179km and 5-6 hours on the road, Beauty and I arrived in the highlands town, wet, bedraggled and tired – but arrived nonetheless.

You can read the next installment of Jo’s adventure here