Our trip has come to an end. Out of Da Lat we planned on riding for 3 days, breaking up the 300 KM to Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh city) into 100’s- and of course sticking to the main road- no more country “shortcuts.”
The first day out of Da Lat was gorgeous. It began with a long, well deserved descent through a pine forest. French explorers liked Da Lat because an “alpine” climate and it was definitely cooler.
Once the forest broke into fields it was sunny and hot-the most sun we had seen thus far and we finally understood why guides said December was a good time to ride. While the North is still rainy, the south is hot and the sun was intense, but it’s winter and still tolerable.
The ride was awesome- the Da Lat area is known for growing vegetables, coffee and bananas. The north had been mostly pretty, green rice fields and this was a really different agricultural area. The green hills were tilled into different stripes of plants. Almost every house we passed had a bed of drying coffee beans in their yard- green unroasted beans and red coffee cherries. Some people were out with what looked to be wooden rakes, smoothing out the coffee carpets.
We rode about 100 KM, making it to our goal city- Bau Lac- it’s not on the main tourist routes but must be a a bigger, regional city, because there were plenty of Hotels.
The next day we planned on biking to a huge lake in Vietnam, which is on the route to Sai Gon. It had ‘tourist area’ marked on the map and the “travel specialist” in Da Lat told us there would be swimming and hotels.
The morning was beautiful, full of long descents out of the ‘Central Highlands’ and hills that felt easy after the climb to Da Lat. It was supposed to be a short “easy” day. The sun was beating down and despite lathering on sun cream frequently I could feel my arms burning. The sun was taking it out of us by the afternoon and we were ready for that lake swim.
Finally the giant lake was shimmering on the horizon and we rode up and down hills until reaching a bridge. The lake had a lot of houseboats but didn’t look like there was swimming. We asked locals and several didn’t know where any hotels would be- others pointed us in opposite directions and after about an hour we decided to just keep riding the next 36 KM to the next town.
It felt like we rode- and rode and rode- we were out of the scenic country fields and while the cities we passed through were interesting- we were withering in the heat.
We did pass by a large rubber tree plantation but we too tired to fully appreciate it. We finally got to the town that was 36KM past the lake. We hadn’t been seeing any hotels and it was just getting dark and the roads~ busy.
We wanted to ride into Sai Gon but we knew we could not make it, we had been riding 9 hours already, and since there were no hotels we decided on a bus for the last 67 KM. after the bus dropped us off on the outskirts, supposedly 5 KM from the city, we rode for a good while before catching a taxi- we were too exhausted to make it to the center of the city and get lost finding our hotel. We slept very well that night and had a great time in Sai Gon.