So you have been approached by some stranger on the street claiming to be an ‘easy rider’? What is that? Should I trust them? How do you know if they are trustworthy? Below are my experiences of the ¨Easy Rider¨ Vietnam motorbike tour.
Whilst wandering back to my hostel in Nha Trang, Vietnam, my friend and I were approached by two Vietnamese men who claimed to be ‘easy riders’. I had no idea what that meant, but discovered pretty quickly that it was a back-of-the-bike motorbike tour through some part of Vietnam. At first I was pretty dubious… this is exactly the type of thing everyone warned me about, taking rides from strangers (especially in a foreign country)!
I also wasn’t too keen when I heard you don’t actually get to ‘drive’ the bike, you are just on the back, but shrug this off so fast. Who was I kidding, I would never have been able to ride a motorbike through the central highlands in 3 days! (Also, you get to take pictures that make you look like you were riding them, so you can fool everyone back home :p). What got me over the line was these old notebooks the guides had, with handwritten testimonials and pictures from travelers before me who were in the exact same position wondering whether this is a good idea or not. We were always wanting to ‘do what the locals do, and get off the beaten track’, so we did, and you should too. All of a sudden we were off on a Vietnam motorbike tour!
Some guides do allow you to drive a stretch of the trip so if that’s something you want to do, definitely ask if your guide allows it!
Anywho, back to the journey! It was such a crazy experience! The whole experience was incredibly authentic. Our guides, Dung and Mr Chang, seemed to just make it up as they went. We stopped off at prawn farms (it’s pretty interesting as there don’t seem to be any bathrooms in the prawn farmers houses among the prawn farms, I think it all just goes into the prawn food… but that won’t stop me from eating them), cashew nut factories, silk worm factories (pretty sad place actually), waterfalls and countryside markets. We even rocked up to random peoples’ houses unannounced. Even our guides didn’t know who some of these people were, but that’s how friendly Vietnamese people are. They all welcomed us into their homes and loved showing us what they do and where they live.
Dung saw some people harvesting corn so he pulled over an we all helped out, it was awesome! We went to a weasel poo coffee place and had some delicious weasel poo coffee. We snuck into Cacao plantations to snatch some raw cacao, it doesn’t taste like chocolate, nor baking cocoa 🙁 I was so confused! Dung and Mr Chang were crazy and so much fun! They knew amazing spots to pull over to get crazy views, and they did everything they could to make us have fun. They always helped us choose what to eat. Pretty sure I tried cat which I wasn’t too happy about… We saw so many cute puppies and kittens which Dung promptly told us they were for meat. I knew this happened but it’s still pretty sad to see.
We stayed in a homestay, a traditional longhouse on stilts. If you are from New Zealand, it’s pretty similar to a Marae, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, it’s crazy how many similarities there were to Maori culture in some on the stuff we saw, it was amazing. The village we stayed in in Lak Lake was exactly how you’d picture a back country Vietnamese village to look like: elephants roaming around, dirt roads, dogs and cats everywhere, kids playing soccer on the road, traditional housing, mountains in the background, the village next to the lake, it was beautiful!
Dalat was also beautiful! However, the city was much more set up for tourism. It’s known as the romantic city, it’s french-inspired, so many beautiful lights around the lake. The drive down into Dalat at night time was incredible!! If you are in Dalat, make the effort to drive down into the main city at night, you won’t regret it!
One of my favorite moments was visiting a small country school, going into their classrooms and playing with the kids. You may think it all sounds a bit cliche, but this was honestly authentic and natural, it wasn’t a tourism stunt or rehearsed. It’s exactly how you’d want it to feel. It was pretty nerve-racking actually. Many of these kids had never met a foreigner before! They all sang for us in almost every class we went into. It was so humbling!
The worse parts of the trip were when the guides took us to typical tourist places. This took away from the authenticity of it all. It was also a bit awkward when they tried to make us take pictures with nearly every Vietnamese person we met, even in when we were in their homes. One funny thing was that they kept pulling over to show us fruit trees, except none of the trees had fruit on them haha.
If you have time and can drive a motorbike or scooter, you could definitely do this journey yourself! But if time is an issue, this is the perfect way to jam in some amazing sight-seeing and cultural experiences. Even if you would rather take the countryside on your own, I doubt you would have had as a authentic cultural experience as I did! It was the most fulfilling part of my Vietnamese journey! It is an experience like no other.
If you ever meet Dung or Mr Chang in Nha Trang, say hello from me. Also, look out for my testimonial in Dung’s notebook! These guys are awesome. This is their lifestyle so you know they will go out of their way to ensure you are having an awesome time!
One of my weaknesses is that I am a friendly, curious, and trusting person, and I find it hard to pick if someone is trustworthy or not! Here are some ways to check if your guide is trustworthy:
- Check out their notebooks they carry with them. They often have handwritten testimonials from their past passengers, I wrote one myself. To be honest, if they did not show me this book, I probably would not have gone on this trip!
- Ask if they have a Facebook page. My guide did not have a page running at the time, but they do now. It does make everything seem so much more legitimate.
- Just get a general feel for the person. If there is doubt in your mind about their character, then maybe just forget about it.
- For some reason, these guys talking about their family made me trust them even more! Could have been a trap, but I am a sucker for people talking about their families.
- Before you say yes, look up their names on google. It´s likely their names will appear in TripAdvisor or Facebook if they have been doing the tours for a while
- One last thing, I’m not even sure my guides were authentic ‘easy riders’. I was told there is a large fee to pay to be considered a legit easy rider. This deters some of them from getting the membership. We found this out mid-trip… but everything still went well!
So many questions, so little time! But you better decide quick because often the easy riders will take the first person that says yes. This is their livelihood and the sooner they go on a tour, the sooner they can go on the next! So if you have the chance, consider taking an easy rider Vietnam motorbike tour!
Check out some of my pictures! I’ll put a video up soon, and please feel free to ask questions :D.