Day 2 of our motorbike tour with the Easy Riders Vietnam took us from Lak Lake to Dray Sap Waterfall (Cu Jut village) in the central highlands. After a quick breakfast of eggs and fresh baguette at our Lak Lake Hotel, we started our day with a walk through Jun Village, watching the daily lives of the M’nong hill tribes who live here and learning about their traditional architecture.
Watching a water buffalo hanging out in Lak Lake
On our marning walk along Lak Lake and the village
Lake house – basic version! I’d just be so nervous about falling into the water walking across that little bridge.
A pig on its morning walk through the village. All across rural Vietnam, we’ve found animals seem to just roam around freely.
Dak Lak province is one of the areas in Vietnam where elephants can still be seen. Sadly, they are all in captivity, and mostly work for tourists. There are elephant rides offered at Lak Lake, we chose not to take part as these seats are very bad for the elephants’ backs. If you’re looking for an elephant encounter, I recommend checking out Elephant Nature Park in Thailand.
One of the traditional long houses in Jun village. Every tribe has a slightly different type of architecture.
Exploring the local market
After our walk through the village, we took a short ride on our motorbikes to the local market for a brief tour with our guides. This actually turned out hilarious, as the market women were up for a bit of entertainment and fought over who got to take selfies with us. It was interesting to see the market, as it was much more of a local market than what you would see in the cities. The focus was on fresh produce, but there were also some curious items like fake money – the Vietnamese burn money for their ancestors, but are “cheating” by using fake money.
Touring the market near Lak Lake. The market women were keen to chat and show us their produce.
Baskets full of fresh exotic fruit. These ladies were highly amused about the clueless Westerners wanting to know everything about Vietnamese food.
Loads and loads of rice!
The open air market hall
Fake money for burning
Selfie time! I didn’t ask for the selfie by the way, she did!
Discovering Elephant Rock
After our selfie session, we took off on the bikes towards Dray Sap Waterfall (you’ll find it on Google Maps as “Thác dray sap”). Like the day before, our Easy Riders made sure that there were plenty of stops on the way to see the countryside, learn about life in Vietnam and stretch our legs.
Our first big stop was at Elephant Rock. We had no idea what it was, and it wasn’t visible from the dirt road underneath the trees that we took to get there. Bom, one of our guides, just told us to “follow the trail up the hill, and go all the way to the top for the views”. Here’s what we found…
There’s a hill… but no trail? We decided straight up was as good an option as any.
Killer views, captured by my boyfriend, who is clearly in better shape than I am… that pink and blue dot at the bottom is me struggling up the hill.
More beautiful views. This place isn’t very famous, it’s mostly used by local teenagers as a place to hang out. I’m guessing it’ll become more popular over time, as it’s really a great spot to see the surrounding area!
Resting and sunbathing on the warm rock. Kind of looks a bit like outer space, don’t you think?
From Elephant Rock, we continued on to see a few more other spots in the highlands. Some highlights included a brick factory and an incense stick factory. Both were just mesmerising to watch. I loved those kinds of stops. Our guides would stop on the side of the road, and we never really had any idea what we were about to see. There are so many little factories, farms and fields with exotic fruits or vegetables. The owners were always welcoming, showing us around, letting us try little samples, and asking our guides plenty of questions about us. These little stops were one of the most interesting parts of the tour, and a big reason why it was so valuable to have local Vietnamese and English speaking guides. They had great knowledge about the area and were always happy to act as translators to enable conversations between us and the locals.
More stops on the way from Lak Lake to Dray Sap
A brick factory in the Vietnamese Highlands
An assembly line where bricks are cut and stacked. I could have watched this forever, it was mesmerizing.
The incense stick factory, which was basically just someone’s garage
Incense sticks being bundled up and wrapped for sale at the local market.
All the sticks were dipped in red paint – red signifies happyness, love and luck in Vietnamese culture.
I’m totally aware that I’m pulling a strange face on this one, but I wanted to show you how we traveled. Nice big bike, luggage wrapped in a waterproof bag and strapped to the back of the bike. This also functioned as my back rest. Our day bags and the guides’ bags were strapped onto the front. It looks a bit crowded on the picture, but it was actually really comfortable.
Guess what this is!
Same fruit, opened! It’s cocoa. I was really excited about seeing a live cocoa tree, as I’ve worked in a chocolate museum and taught chocolate workshops with dried versions of these fruits. What I didn’t know is that you can actually eat parts of them raw. The white flesh you can see here is very tasty. Don’t try to bite down on the little cocoa pods though, they’re incredibly bitter. No, not even if you like bitter chocolate.
There are endless fields of rice all over the highlands.
Up close! This rice is ready for harvesting.
Dray Sap Waterfall
The definitive highlight of the day though, and probably highlight of our entire one week motorcycle tour, was our time at Dray Sap Waterfall. We left our luggage in our little hut in the camp there changed into swim wear and with a waterproof camera in hand, headed out on the bikes to some hidden fairy pools above Dray Sap. Dray Sap is a stunning place and I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. It was amazing to swim in the pools – there was nobody else there – and take in the jungle-like surroundings. One of our guides, Bom, was an adventure guide in his past job and was very keen to show us something else: The waterfall above the fairy pools. With his help, we managed to climb into the waterfall and hang out behind it. Pretty amazing! Don’t try this without professional help though.
After our exhilarating swim and climb, we headed back towards the camp and went for a sunset walk to the actual Dray Sap Waterfall. There’s no swimming allowed there, but it’s a great place for a walk and maybe a picnic.
The fairy pools near Dray Sap Waterfall, shot from above. This is where we left our bikes, we had to climb down from there.
Climbing down to the fairy pool, feeling quite relieved that we didn’t go in flip flops.
The fairy pools shot from the inside as we were swimming and trying to stay away from the nearby waterfall.
Pretty sure this sign says Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls.
Since our guide completely ignored the sign, we decided it was just decoration and followed him right over the slippery rocks into the cave behind the waterfall.
Two happy travelers, relieved to have made it back out alive.
This is the actual Dray Sap Waterfall. It’s gorgeous, of course, but couldn’t beat the thrill of the climbing action at the fairy pools.
Learning to cook a traditional Bamboo barbecue
All four of us were incredibly hungry after our adventure packed day. But even though there was a restaurant on site, our guides were keen to show us how to make a traditional barbecue. We’d gone to the local market on our way out to Dray Sap, and bought fresh fruit and vegetables, some rice, bread and a chicken. This is local Vietnam, so we had to choose a live chicken. I’ll spare you the details.
While the two of us were chasing waterfalls with one of our guides, the other guide went searching for large bamboo sticks to cook our dinner in. Once we were all back at the camp, we got working: making a fire, trimming and cleaning the hollow bamboo sticks, and stuffing them with our pre-soaked rice and chopped vegetables. We then arranged the bamboo sticks over the fire to slowly steam the food inside.
Whilst our chicken ended up a bit on the tough side, dinner was great! What a unique way to cook. If a zombie apocalypse is coming, we’re prepared.
Our guide Bom (“My name is Bom. But don’t call me that at the airport!”) working the fire
Our veggies and rice in two bamboo sticks.
Our lead guide Hung roasting the chicken on a stick
Our dinner, served rural style straight out of the bamboo on banana leaves with some soy sauce and spices. Notice the rice got a bit burned in one spot! We were all a bit busy cheering to a great day with our ice cold beers, so we didn’t realise the bamboo was on fire. Oops!
Want to see more of this? Check out Day 1 of our Vietnam Motorcycle Adventure or subscribe to the blog to get notified when I post day 3!