Photos: Riding the Central Highlands of Vietnam


I left Dalat in the early morning. My destination was Lak Lake, near the small town of Lien Son about 150 km away. The road started off well, but quickly turned rough and potholed. It would take me eight hours to cover the distance, but I didn’t care: the scenery was stunning.


Every flat bit of land is cultivated in one way or another, and people were hard at work in the fields.


Rice fields are so brightly green that they almost give off a glow. In places, I would find myself surrounded by scenes like this on both sides. Stopping so often to take photos certainly didn’t help my pace.


As the road climbed higher, smaller plots of coffee plants begin to dominate the landscape — this region is known for producing the best coffee in Vietnam. I tried licking a plant, but didn’t get a buzz.


After I cleared a high pass, the road conditions turned ugly. For the next 70 kilometers or so, I’d be fighting potholes, rough pavement, and wash-outs. As I finally neared the end of the bad road, I met a German couple riding a motorcycle the other direction and had to give them the bad news of what lay ahead of them. They were less than thrilled.


Eventually, the road did improve to the point where I could occasionally sneak a glimpse at my surroundings and I was treated to views like this.


As I was approaching Lak Lake, I stopped to take a photo and this guy bummed a cigarette off me.


I happened upon this accident just minutes after it had happened. No one appeared seriously hurt and there was nothing I could do to help, so I continued on rather than stop and gawk.


Rolling into Lak Lake, I got a fancy bungalow at a resort for $25 — the cheap rooms were all taken. I had dinner, then sat on the hotel room patio, sipping vodka from Hanoi. I was thrilled to have an AC room, but the power went out during the night so I didn’t get the full experience. This is the view from the patio the following morning.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelsey June 28, 2010 at 9:33 pm

These photos remind me a lot of Korea, in many ways. I loved driving my motorcycle there, and motorcycling through Vietnam is now definitely on my list!
.-= Kelsey´s last blog ..Wish I were there- =-.


ayngelina June 28, 2010 at 10:05 pm

I loved the coffee in Vietnam, especially with condensed milk. As soon as I returned home I hunted down all the places in Toronto I could buy it.
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..Does my brain only have room for two languages =-.


wes June 29, 2010 at 6:33 am

Amen! I want one of the little drip-brewers they use. Those things are so cool.


Siam.Rick July 2, 2010 at 1:43 am

Visited here from your ADVRider report. Nice blog, JV (Wes). I’ll be back to follow along.

Those drip coffee filters are available in ANY Chinese food shop in your home area. Or just buy a couple and take home. They make close to espresso grade coffee without the $900 machine. Note: careful to buy only stainless steel ones although I do think aluminum is mostly gone now anyway.
.-= Siam.Rick´s last blog ..Getting motorcycle fever again =-.


Siam.Rick July 2, 2010 at 1:44 am

Whoops, my nickname on ADVR is Indochine.
.-= Siam.Rick´s last blog ..Getting motorcycle fever again =-.

Melode June 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm

I’m loving your adventures in Southeast Asia and look forward to your posts, the many photos might be slowing you down but they are so much appreciated.


wes June 29, 2010 at 6:35 am

Thanks, Melode. I’m having fun taking them, for sure :)


Nomadic Chick June 29, 2010 at 3:07 am

Matey – just loving your photo journeys. :)
.-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog ..Roundup of Calgary- What’s Next =-.


Gary D June 29, 2010 at 3:32 am

Speaking of coffee I and the gang at Starbucks miss you in the mornings …I thought you quit smoking dude! Great stories and pictures, thanks for sharing.


wes June 29, 2010 at 6:34 am

I’ll be damned… Hey, Gary! Great to hear from you and to know that you n the gang are doing well. Yeah, I’ve gotten pretty good at quitting smoking. It’s staying quit that’s giving me troubles. It doesn’t help that they’re less than a dollar a pack here…


Simone Gorrindo June 29, 2010 at 4:25 am

Oh, the beauty of AC after so many hot nights. Really too bad the electricity went out. In Falling Off of the Map, Pico Ayer wrote that despite decades of war, Vietnam was one of the gentlest and most peaceful places he had ever been, that it had an untouched quality to it that he feared could get lost in the ensuing years. It’s been 16 years since he wrote that. Does it still retain that quality? (He of course talks about Saigon as another beast entirely.)

Anyhow, I’ve always been curious to go. Thanks for the great posts.
.-= Simone Gorrindo´s last blog ..The Inevitable Journey =-.


wes July 1, 2010 at 5:03 pm

The people are delightful, for the most part. Especially when you get outside of the bigger towns. I’ve been invited to tea and to share rice wine moonshine. I stopped in the mountains to have my bike chain adjusted and the mechanic insisted that I pose for a photo with him and exchange phone numbers.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about how the Vietnamese are rude, but I’ve only seen that with wait staff at restaurants — something I’ve encountered everywhere in the world…


Siam.Rick July 2, 2010 at 2:06 am

I’ve experienced the “rudeness” too, but it’s more complicated than that. In a few words, it’s nothing like the west. Restaurant staff are there to serve you, you are there to eat. The two sides are not expected to mix. It’s cut and dried. But you as the customer can still be polite and friendly, but don’t expect the same, only because their culture (this applies in other SEA cultures) doesn’t expect servers to smile, joke and jabber with the customer, just take the order and bring the food. On the other hand, as a westerner, I dislike it when a western server sits in an empty chair and tells you their name. After while, when say a Vietnamese server gets used to westerners in Saigon, they act more like their western counterparts and exhibit a more friendly manner. OK, that’s enough jabbering. Good luck, Wes.
.-= Siam.Rick´s last blog ..Getting motorcycle fever again =-.


wes July 2, 2010 at 10:39 am

yeah, I really don’t understand why people get so bent out of shape about it. It’s a cultural difference, which is kinda why you’re traveling in the first place, in my opinion. I have met a few people who obviously just didn’t like me, but I’ve experienced that at home as well…

Mike at Irie Bean July 1, 2010 at 8:52 am

Now you’re showing the Vietnam I saw so long ago while carrying a PRC-25 radio and humping the bush with a little help from my “friends” Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. Even in a war, the countryside and rice paddies and mountains were spectacular up close and personal.


wes July 2, 2010 at 10:48 am

I don’t guess they had iPhones back then, did they Mike? ;)


Eli July 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Sounds like a great trip! It’s probably better that your pace was slowed a bit, so you could take your time and soak in the surroundings. Those rice fields are very nice looking, they must look awesome with a breeze whipping through them.
.-= Eli´s last blog ..Five Great Hikes Near Anchorage- Alaska =-.