Riding through the Central Highlands of Vietnam

A watercolor painting of a shrine on Da Nang beach by yours truly 🙂

Before we set out on our road trip through the Central Highlands of Vietnam, I was nervous about riding for the first time in a new country. It took me a while to get comfortable on the motorbike and let my eyes off the road to enjoy the scenic views. But after riding more than 1300 km through half of the country, I am convinced there is no better way to travel in Vietnam than on a motorbike! And the freedom of exploring a place riding on my own adds to the depth of my travel experiences.

We traveled for 2 weeks in the month of August, the best time to visit the highlands and the coastal side. There were thunderstorms & heavy rains but it was the monsoons that made it more eventful! Vietnam is a long S-shaped country with a gorgeous blue coast on one side and lush green hills on the other. The roads are in great condition with helpful road signs and a marked lane for two wheelers. We took the historic Ho Chi Minh Road, a two lane highway passing through small towns and panoramic scenery with emerald lakes, lush green paddy fields and rivers surrounded by cloud-kissed mountains. Here’s a visual odyssey of our road trip through the places we traveled to in Vietnam, as shared on my Instagram. (Read about our first motorbike trip to Vietnam)

From SAIGON  We took a ferry with our bikes at Cat Lai ferry terminal and headed to Dalat, a hill station with a night’s stop at Cat Tien National park. From Dalat via Ho Lak, joined the Old Ho Chi Minh Highway to the Central Highlands of Kon Tum and Quang Nam provinces. Last leg of our trip was the historical and touristy cities of Hoi An & Hue on the coastal side of the country. Everyday we rode about 150 km and stopped wherever we found a place for the night.

CAT TIEN NATIONAL PARK Our first night halt was at Cat Tien National park after riding 150 kms out of Saigon. Stayed here at bamboo huts by the calm yet constantly flowing muddy river Dong nai.

DALAT ( Lam Dong Province) A small hill station in the central highlands of Vietnam that was developed as a getaway by the French. Surrounded by hills covered in clouds and dotted with terrace farms & greenhouses, Dalat is the agricultural hotspot of Vietnam.

HO LAK / LAK LAKE The largest natural freshwater lake in Vietnam. Stayed here at Lak resort by the lake in Dak Lak province. From Lak lake we continued to Buon Ma Thot where we joined the historic Ho Chi Minh Road.

KON TUM PROVINCE  Lush green & wild Kon Tum is the most beautiful part of the central highlands. Bordering Laos with almost no tourists, it deserves a trip of its own! We stayed at Dak Glei, a small town on the Old Ho Chi Minh highway.

HOI AN (Quang Nam Province) A touristy place but with excellent food & lots of colourful lanterns. Old town area which is a UNESCO heritage site is an eclectic mix of traditional architecture with modern shop-house windows and cafes.

HUE (Thua Thien Hue Province)  Pronounced as Who-A, it is one of my favourite touristy places with history, architecture, local culture and great food of course. There are beautiful tombs of Emperors in the midst of nature by the Perfume river that are best explored on a motorbike.

DA NANG  An impressive city with a brightly lit skyline of modern buildings, long stretches of beaches with great food & entertainment for families.

FOOD IN VIETNAM is varied, fresh & flavourful and absolutely delicious! I’d go back from Singapore just for a weekend to pig out on the yummy food!

It’s a pleasure to watch locals juggling a bunch of live chickens or balancing dogs on their bikes to catching up with another rider while riding at the same pace! At our pit stops we would meet locals most of who were surprised that we were riding on motorbikes all the way from Saigon! And once they got to know we were Indians, their smiles would widen and more questions would follow. We had some riding adventures too, once after re-filling the bike I went back riding in the opposite direction and didn’t realise till after a few km! It started pouring heavily, we lost each other, our way and V almost reached Laos! After a few calls and referring to Google Maps we synced up again but it was one of those adventures on our road trip that we laugh about now. 😉 Details of our road trip with a map in my earlier post – Motorcycle Diaries: Offbeat Vietnam

After my first motorbike trip to Ladakh as a pillion rider, I often fantasized about riding on my own through scenic mountain roads passing by gorgeous valleys and rivers. Our motorbike trip to Vietnam wasn’t as dangerous or remote as Ladakh but the thrill of riding on my own through the Vietnamese countryside and the Central Highlands shrouded in mist was exhilarating!

Riding on my own and exploring a new country has added a new dimension to my travels and I am now looking forward to our next motorbike trip, this time exploring the higher northern mountains of Vietnam. Have you been to Vietnam? If yes please suggest interesting places to explore in the Northern part of the country. If not I’d recommend you plan a trip, soon! 🙂

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bama says:

    Some of your lovely photos evoke some sweet memories of my trip to central Vietnam last year. I went to Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An, as well as to the ruins of My Son. But of course, due to my rather limited time, my friend and I decided to rent a car to go from one city to another. I can imagine the excitement of exploring those places on a motorbike!

    1. Ritu Saini says:

      Thanks Bama 🙂 I wish we could visit My Son too but didn’t have enough time. Yeah in between cities its better to take public transport or rent a car but oddly I didn’t see many buses other than at touristy places. Maybe all of them take the coastal highway instead.
      It’s difficult to ride and take photos from a DSLR so this time I am thinking of taking a bus from Hanoi to the Northern part and then hire a bike to explore.

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