Mornings in Mui Ne are drinking coffee while teams of conical-hatted fisherwomen slowly drag long nets into the beach for a few baskets of tiny fish. It’s the ocean life – fishermen, watersports and luxury resorts. But there is another side to Binh Thuan Province. Nguyen Hoi Street in Phan Thiet turns into a beautifully sealed 90km long country road called National Road 28, where you can escape the surfies and sophisticates of Mui Ne’s tourist strip.
Pass dragon fruit and mango farms, fluorescent green rice fields and cattleboys with their brown herds on the plains before entering the town of Ma Lam. The climate is dry. Soon after, eucalypts and hills stubbled with white branched trees appear left and right. The hills close in pressing the road into a stony creek valley where birds like storks and colorful kingfishers fly. The way is almost empty except for the odd motorbike parked and concealed with branches and cowherders droving small herds to feed on the bamboo along the roadside. The shadows of the mountains signal that you will soon be climbing.
Once the climb starts the views become breathtaking. Mountains almost get lost in the distant skies. Fires burn on the ridges – controlled burn offs – and cooking fires for the local forest workers.
Gia Bac Village is on a high ridge. A little soulless, the village seems to have been carved out of the surrounding wilderness in the recent past – but the vistas from the windows of the wood planked houses are worth a million dollars. There’s also a petrol station there that closes at 4pm where you will have to fill up your Honda to make it to Di Linh. The people at the petrol station are very friendly and will give you a place to sleep for the night if you ask.
The next 50km or so winds sharply up and down through very dense jungle where loggers work so watch out for the logging trucks overloaded with timber sticking out fore and aft. Mountain lookouts reveal that the land is slowly being settled by coffee farmers that terrace the hills. Fifteen kilometers before Di Linh you can notice the signs of civilization. The hotels on the right before you get into the center of town have back rooms with balconies that look across the valley. The sunrise views are incredible. By Michael Smith in Di Linh