First revealed February 2023 | Phrases and pictures by Vietnam Coracle

Tom, Vietnam Coracle

Tom Divers is the founder and creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled and labored in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age, visiting over 40 nations (he first visited Vietnam in 1999). Now, each time he has the chance to make a visit, he hardly ever appears to be like past Vietnam’s borders and his trusty bike, Stavros. Learn extra about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.

At daybreak, the steep valleys due north and east of Cầu Đất – a village within the Central Highlands – fill with an ethereal mist which levitates above the Đa Nhim River, shrouding the mountaintops and pine forests in a diaphanous veil. Within the bracing highland temperatures, the panorama waxes and wanes beneath the cloud, illuminated by the crisp morning mild. This haunting and exquisite spectacle has given rise to săn mây – cloud-hunting – an more and more in style exercise for younger Vietnamese travellers. Cầu Đất is a centre for cloud-hunting, however the surrounding panorama can also be wonderful for wild tenting and nice hikes alongside slender paved lanes by means of the forests, fruit orchards, tea and occasional plantations, and all the way down to streams and rivers. Unbiased tenting, mountain climbing and cloud-hunting within the valleys of the Cầu Đất highlands is a memorable, participating and energetic journey expertise, and a very good different to camping in Dalat.

*Respectful Tenting: Should you wild camp in Vietnam, please achieve this respectfully & safely. Be ready, be smart, take heed to the individuals & pure setting round you. Please learn the Safety & Hazards part.

Camping, Hiking & Cloud Hunting in Cau Dat Highlands, Vietnam

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Pitch a Tent, Watch the Clouds, Hike the Valleys

Under is my information to wild tenting, mountain climbing and cloud-hunting within the Cầu Đất highlands. This information is meant for individuals who wish to journey independently, not on a tour. I assume that travellers can have a motorcycle (both their very own or rented). Nevertheless, when you’re a eager hiker, it’s additionally doable to do all the pieces on this information on foot. You’ll want to return totally ready if you wish to camp right here (see Equipment Check-List), but it surely’s additionally doable to return only for the day to experience/hike round. (For extra tenting guides, see Related Posts.)



Location & Campsites

Hiking, Cloud-Hunting & Activities

Food, Drink & Facilities

Equipment Check-List

Safety & Hazards

Related Guides

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Tenting, Mountain climbing & Cloud-Looking in Cầu Đất Highlands

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Location & Campsites:

Cầu Đất is 20km due southeast of Dalat on highway QL20. The village sits on the cusp of the Đa Nhim valley, a wonderful area of steep, pine-covered mountains, smallhold espresso farms, fruit orchards and tea hills. The tea plantations rise to the north and east behind Cầu Đất village, as do large wind turbines which dot the hills just like the touchdown zones of extraterrestrial spacecraft. The tea hills and generators have turn into native vacationer points of interest. From the highest of the hills – beneath the splayed rotors of the wind generators – the land falls away to disclose intensive views due north down into the Đa Nhim valley and throughout the pine forests. Within the early mornings, when temperatures can fall under 10°C, the valley fills with mist creating an eerie, ‘haunted’ ambiance and giving the impression of being above the clouds; trying down on the skyscape from an ideal peak. To profit from this photogenic incidence, platforms, tents and selfie-parks have been erected on the hillside to facilitate săn mây – cloud-hunting.

That is price a go to as a part of a day journey from Dalat on the Tea Hill Route. Nevertheless, it’s more and more business, touristy, and might get crowded on weekends and public holidays. To essentially expertise the Cầu Đất highlands – with its forests, valleys, streams, small farms, mountain climbing and cloud-hunting alternatives – experience past the tea plantations and the generators, due north of the village and into the panorama correct. A minimum of half a dozen small paved lanes and slender concrete paths lengthen like branches north of Cầu Đất village heading within the route of the Đa Nhim River. Over the hills, into the pine forests, by means of the orchards and farms, and all the way down to the river itself, these little lanes provide entry – on two wheels or on foot – to a large space (shaded pink on my map) the place there are lots of good potential websites for wild tenting. Certainly, Google Maps suggests there are a number of tenting and glamping grounds already dotted in regards to the space, however in actuality we didn’t come throughout any. As at all times, discovering the ‘good’ campsite takes effort and time, however after some looking you’ll bump into an excellent patch of land. Keep in mind that a few of the paved lanes are very slender and intensely steep: experience rigorously and make certain your bike is in good situation. (Please additionally learn the Safety & Hazards part for extra details about selecting a campsite.)

Wild camping in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Discover the ‘good’ spot within the panorama to arrange camp for a couple of nights

Early morning cloud in the valleys of the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Morning mist within the valley: the Cầu Đất area is legendary for săn mây – cloud-hunting

Riding narrow paved paths, Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Comply with the steep, slender, paved pathways deep into the forests, valleys & plantations

Đa Nhim River valley, Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
The Đa Nhim River valley is densely wooded & mountainous: supreme for wild tenting

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Mountain climbing, Cloud-Looking & Actions:

One of many joys of untamed tenting within the Cầu Đất highlands is that there are many outside actions to maintain you busy through the days. Lots of the small paved lanes flip into pathways that lead by means of the pine forests, espresso plantations and fruit orchards, passing tiny log-cabin dwellings within the woods, and ending up at streams, cascades or the Đa Nhim River itself. Mountain climbing these pathways is a really pleasing option to spend the day. Carry somewhat picnic, stroll down the valley to a stream, have a wash within the chilly water and climb again as much as your campsite. The train is invigorating, the views are very good, the sunshine is crisp, the air is contemporary, and the little particulars – wild flowers, birds, fruits, herbs, farmers and farmhouses – are fascinating. The streams are good for bathing, however not sufficiently big for swimming. Nevertheless, if you may make all of it the best way all the way down to the Đa Nhim River, it’s doable to swim there. However you could watch out: the present is robust and the move is regulated by dams upstream. (See the Rivers & Dams part.)

If mountain climbing is an excessive amount of effort, you can even experience a motorcycle down a few of the paved lanes within the space however, bear in mind, they are often very steep, certainly. One other potential tour by bike through the day is to go again towards the primary highway and experience as much as the Cầu Đất tea hills and wind generators. A number of the tea hill roads are very fairly and there are some good cafes with views. And, in fact, don’t overlook to do some impartial săn mây – cloud-hunting. Should you discover a campsite on larger floor with views down over the valley (due east or due north), you then’ll have the ability to ‘cloud-hunt’ out of your tent! Simply bear in mind to get up early: the primary hour of daylight is greatest – from daybreak (normally round 5.30am) till about 7am is when the clouds and mist linger within the valley, drifting round likes ghosts till slowly disappearing because the temperatures rise and the vapour evaporates.

Hiking in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Mountain climbing the slender pathways by means of the Cầu Đất highlands is an pleasing option to spend the day

Cloud-hunting in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Discover the proper campsite and you may ‘cloud hunt’ out of your tent!

Bathing in a stream, Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Hike to a stream for a refreshing wash within the chilly water

Hiking the pathways in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Immerse your self within the panorama by taking lengthy walks by means of the encircling countryside

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Meals, Drink & Services:

The Cầu Đất highlands are bounded to the west by highway QL20. Just some kilometers from the valleys and forests the place the potential campsites are, Cầu Đất village sprawls alongside highway QL20. A bustling, agricultural settlement, Cầu Đất has a good market the place you should purchase contemporary provides, comparable to fruit and greens. Retailers line the road promoting helpful objects, comparable to water, prompt noodles, canned meals, and firelighters. There are additionally loads of noodle soup stalls and rice eateries within the city.

Above the village to the east are the Cầu Đất tea hills and wind farms. On the centre of this space is a cluster of classy coffee shops with views over the panorama. One such cafe is PhinDeli, housed in an impressively repurposed tea manufacturing unit (though they’ve spoiled it considerably by overlaying the construction with monumental signage and company logos). This can be a good place to return for an hour or two to make use of the Wi-Fi and examine your emails, have an espresso, take within the views, and maybe to make use of the lavatory.

Food around the campfire, Cau Dat highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Dinner across the campfire: bánh Tét (sticky rice cake), pickles & baked candy potato

Breakfast camping in Cau Dat highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Tenting breakfast: muesli & contemporary espresso grown within the close by plantations of the Central Highlands

Phindeli Café Cầu Đất Farm, Vietnam
Cafe PhinDeli is housed in a powerful, repurposed tea manufacturing unit within the hills above Cầu Đất

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Gear Verify-Listing:

Under is a quick (removed from exhaustive) gear check-list for tenting, mountain climbing and cloud-hunting within the Cầu Đất highlands. I’ve written this assuming that the majority travellers will convey their very own gear, however there’s additionally the potential for renting a tent someplace in close by Dalat (ask round). To a sure extent, the success of your tenting journey hinges on how ready you’re. I haven’t coated all the pieces right here – just a few necessities and elective extras which I personally like having with me. Should you’ve camped somewhere else in Vietnam, you’ll have already got the gear all the way down to an artwork. It definitely isn’t essential to have all the trendy, fashionable tenting devices and equipment in an effort to have a extremely profitable tenting journey. In actual fact, to a sure diploma, you possibly can find yourself making your self too comfy when you convey an excessive amount of gear; after which it doesn’t actually really feel like tenting anymore. Nevertheless, having the fundamentals does make all of the distinction – being too chilly at night time, for instance, is fairly depressing. The next listing is rambling and in no specific order (the annotated image under may also be useful):

Equipment-check for motocamping in Vietnam
Tenting check-list: it’s good to be pretty organized when tenting in Vietnam

Verify-Listing: Tent or tenting hammock (I a lot favor the previous, however each in the stores in Vietnam; strive the FanFan shops in a number of cities), cellular phone, Viettel SIM card and knowledge (greatest protection within the boonies), pre-load Google Maps satellite tv for pc view of potential tenting areas earlier than departure, USB power-bank, flashlight (with further batteries or a USB-charged flashlight is an efficient choice), cash stashed in three completely different locations (in your baggage, your bike, and about your particular person), a camp range, firelighters (cồn khô in Vietnamese; obtainable in most native countryside shops), a few cigarette lighters, meals and snacks (dried and tinned meals is best, however you could be surprisingly inventive relating to tenting meals), large bottles of water (5-6 litre bottles can be found in most shops), a water filter (elective), thermos flasks (for storing boiled water), espresso and tea, native liquor (rượu), heat garments, socks (underrated tenting asset – nice for strolling round your campsite with out getting sandy or soiled toes), a mat for sitting on, sandals and a pair of respectable footwear (for mountain climbing), a very good digital camera (when you actually wish to take nice pictures of the clouds), bike check-up previous to departure (you don’t wish to breakdown in the course of nowhere; punctures are widespread – I take advantage of tubeless tyres which have served me properly for years), studying materials or a Kindle, long-burning candles (comforting at night time, safer, much less effort and fewer attention-drawing than a campfire), mosquito coil and bug spray, guitar/ukulele (elective), cutlery, a very good knife, waterproof rain-suit, sunscreen, toothbrush, towel, GIVI box or bungees for securing your baggage in your bike, inflatable sleeping mat or yoga mat (makes all of the distinction when you truly wish to get any sleep), sleeping bag, moist ‘child’ tissues (nice for cleansing utensils), hand sanitizer, passport, a lot of widespread sense.

Camping in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam
Tenting is a significantly better expertise if you come ready

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Security & Hazards:

Tenting within the Cầu Đất Highlands is loads of enjoyable, however there are a number of precautions to take and potential hazards to pay attention to. Tenting is an more and more in style exercise throughout Vietnam, however particularly within the mountains and forests of the Central Highlands surrounding Dalat. Anybody who decides to camp ought to achieve this as responsibly as doable. Under are some things to remember when tenting on this area:

Camping in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam


Fires: It ought to go with out saying that when you make a campfire, you could be extraordinarily cautious, particularly within the dry season, when all the pieces is crisp, brittle and simple to ignite. Right now of 12 months, the forests are very arid and fireplace can unfold shortly and simply. What’s extra, nearly all of bushes within the Cầu Đất forests are pine, which is extremely flammable. Be smart: when you make a campfire, preserve it small and beneath management, and don’t take something with no consideration.

Campfire in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam


Rivers & Dams: In Vietnam, nearly each river of any measurement is dammed in some unspecified time in the future alongside its course – certainly, usually at a number of factors. Which means that the water move of many rivers is regulated by dams upstream. Certainly, that is the case with the Đa Nhim River, which carves a fairly valley under the Cầu Đất tenting space outlined on this information. The water degree of the river adjustments dramatically no less than twice day-after-day when the sluices of the dam are opened and closed. Because of this, you have to be extraordinarily cautious when selecting a campsite subsequent to water or when bathing within the river. Ensure you pitch your tent above the excessive water mark, not on a ‘seaside’, as a result of the latter could also be flooded beneath a metre of water if the sluices are opened upstream. Likewise, when swimming in rivers watch out of a sudden change in move and quantity if the dams open their gates. What’s extra, when you’re tenting within the wet season (Could-November), heavy rainfall upstream will swell the rivers significantly downstream, usually leading to harmful flash floods.

A dam on the Dong Nai River, Vietnam


Trash & Surroundings: It’s a unhappy proven fact that litter is a big drawback within the Vietnamese countryside, particularly ‘informal objects’, comparable to prompt noodle packages, tender drink cans, water bottles, sweet wrappers, and little sachets of shampoo. Trash is just not solely discarded by individuals residing regionally but additionally by travelling guests: certainly, a few of the worst-affected areas in Vietnam are the most-popular vacationer locations, together with tenting spots. Set an instance by ensuring you allow your campsite spotless. Attempt to restrict the quantity of single-use plastic you devour whereas tenting by bringing alongside objects comparable to flasks, reusable meals containers, and a water filter. Any litter you do generate, tie up in a bag and get rid of correctly within the nearest city the subsequent day. When going to the bathroom outdoors, dig somewhat gap within the floor and canopy it up once more. This serves two functions: it can enrich the soil and received’t ‘disturb’ any passersby.

Trash left in the pine forests, Dalat, Vietnam


Private Security & Possessions: Vietnam is usually a really secure nation during which to journey. But it surely’s nonetheless clever to watch out along with your Most worthy possessions. At night time, lock the wheel of your bike and preserve it near your tent. I additionally depart my bike dealing with within the route of ‘escape’, if for some purpose I have to make a fast exit through the night time (dangerous climate, maybe, or some unexpected circumstance). While you fall asleep, be sure to have your whole most essential and worthwhile possessions with you inside the tent, comparable to cash, passport, cellphone and many others. I additionally preserve my knife at arm’s attain within the tent at night time. UXO (unexploded ordnance) leftover from the wars of the final century continues to be a hazard in Vietnam (though usually not is that this specific area). Use your widespread sense: don’t forge a path into untrodden forest and jungle, don’t dig deep holes within the floor, and don’t contact any metallic object you see within the earth.

Camping in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam


Animals & Wildlife: Many of the large animals and predators that used to roam this area – tigers, white rhino, elephants, black bears – are actually lengthy gone: hunted and poached to close extinction. Nonetheless, nighttime can nonetheless be a scary and sobering expertise: the darkness belongs to animals, not people. You get an actual sense of this as you lie in your tent, listening to the refrain of animals and bugs outdoors within the large, black panorama. Don’t depart meals outdoors your tent at night time: clear your utensils, stash your meals in a container, and tie up your litter in a bag. Snakes and mosquitoes are in all probability probably the most harmful animals you’re more likely to encounter, neither of which like fireplace. Snakes, apparently, don’t like heavy footfall and are unlikely to hunt out a spot of human exercise. (I’ve seen many snakes in Vietnam, however none after I’ve camped.) For mosquitoes, burn a coil all through the night and night time, and convey bug spray when you want it. Within the night time, there are occasional howlings, animal calls, and rustling within the bushes and brush. It takes some getting used to, however after a couple of tenting journeys, these nighttime sounds turn into a consolation quite than a priority. After I was tenting within the Cầu Đất area, I received up in the course of the night time to go to the bathroom and noticed a feline of some kind, maybe a leopard cat.

Camping in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam


Individuals & Authorities: I’ve camped dozens of occasions throughout Vietnam: I’ve by no means been instructed not to camp and I’ve by no means had an issue with individuals or native authorities. Nevertheless, as a common rule, strive not to attract consideration to your self: wild tenting continues to be fairly uncommon in Vietnam, so anybody who sees a traveller (particularly a international one) organising their tent in the course of nowhere will naturally be curious and even, in some circumstances, suspicious. Attempt to be as inconspicuous as doable: it’s greatest to ensure nobody sees you organising camp and that you simply aren’t seen from any highway, lane or pathway. It is because you don’t wish to entice the curiosity of any passersby. Should you do encounter anyone, the proper factor to do is to ask permission to camp: in nearly each scenario in my expertise, individuals will likely be joyful to allow you to (albeit confused as to why you’d wish to). And, clearly, take note of your environment: be sure to’re not tenting on somebody’s farmland or near a navy put up or a nationwide border.

Camping in the Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam


Using Off-Highway: As a way to discover the very best tenting spots within the Cầu Đất highlands, it can nearly definitely be essential to experience off-road for a long way. Paved back-roads flip into pot-holed lanes, dust roads into rocky goat paths and slender footpaths. Using off-road could be powerful, gradual and harmful, particularly if, like me, your bike wasn’t designed for such use. Nevertheless, with care and endurance even an previous computerized like my motorbike can do it. Trip slowly and thoroughly, as a result of punctures and falls are extremely possible when you experience recklessly off-road. Additionally, driving on dust roads is a lot simpler within the dry season: the identical roads when moist could be extraordinarily tough and treacherous. Within the Cầu Đất area, there’s a community of slender concrete lanes which are wonderful for driving deep into the countryside. Nevertheless, the gradient could be extraordinarily steep: taking place is straightforward, however getting again up – particularly along with your bike loaded with tenting gear – is rather more tough.

*Respectful Tenting: Should you wild camp in Vietnam, please achieve this respectfully & safely. Be ready, be smart, take heed to the individuals & pure setting round you. Please learn the Safety & Hazards part.

Riding a small paved lane, Cầu Đất highlands, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam

*Disclosure: All content material on Vietnam Coracle is free to learn and independently produced. I’ve written this information as a result of I wish to: I take pleasure in tenting in Cầu Đất and I need my readers to find out about it. For extra particulars, see the Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and About Page

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