After the hideous sleeping bus journey to Mui Ne we opted for a small seating bus to take us up the mountain to Da Lat, an old French hill station. We were collected after leisurely morning by the pool and on our way to the mountains via collecting several locals. The bus was over capacity- isn’t that a surprise but shockingly the driver refused to drive until 2 locals got off. Finally we were on our way round the mountains like a helter skelter.
5hours later we reached cold, grey Da Lat. It felt like we had been transported back to Europe. The bus ‘stop’ was outside a guesthouse with no other accommodation in sight what a surprise that they had rooms! However the dynamic duo knew they would arrive after dark so Karen had called ahead and secured a room. In true backpacker style we attempted to walk to the guest house but having been dropped outside of the lonely planet map area we failed. Taxi hailed and 20 000 VND later we were at Dreams. This certainly was a dream, the guest house was beautiful and had a rooftop steam room, sauna and jacuzzi. Not to mention the best breakfast, it was one big table everyone sat round which was covered in fruit, yoghurt, meats, cheese, peanut butter, jam, marmite, breads, Kellogg’s cornflakes plus eggs cooked to order.
Stuffed after a yum breakfast we were off on a tour of the Da Lat area. It was only us and 2 French students, one of which was studying in Saigon. Our 1st stop was the rose orchard. The climate in Da Lat is ideal for growing flowers,fruit and grapes for wine unlike most other places in Vietnam.
Highlights of the tour included a cricket farm, where we were invited to taste the delicious fried cricket. Karen out right said NO way, John on the other had said he would try…holding the cocktail stick with the cricket to his mouth ready to eat it he buckled and never tried it either.
A visit to a local village was enjoyed except meeting the scary monkey who was chained to the tree. We had never seen a monkey with such big red angry eyes. We captured some great photos of the locals.
A silk farm visit was interesting to see how the beautiful silk scarfs originate from. Although we had a close call to be asked to leave as John tried to weigh himself on the scales.
We were invited to try expense Weasel coffee at the local plantation for $10. The backpackers on us said no thank you. How ever we did try the free rice wine- no wonder it was free, tasted like mouthwash.
No trip in Asia is complete without a trip to a Buddha and a Pagoda, this was no different.
Some sort of trek is usually required, this trip didn’t disappoint. The trek to the Elephant water fall was wet, slippery and challenging. So much so Karen let John climb up high on his own for the best photo of the waterfall. He ended up having to lift the 2 French students up as they got stuck.
Next it was time for lunch, we were treated to a local restaurant where the Vietnamese sat smoking. We played it safe and ordered vegetarian dishes, our French friends were more adventurous. But soon regretted it when they were unable to cut their ‘steak’!
A little walk to the old railway station was after lunch. It was designed in 1932 by French architects Moncet and Reveron, and opened in 1938. Largely unused since abandonment of the railway during the later years of the Vietnam War, it was returned to a limited level of service in the 1990s with the reopening of a 7 km section of track leading to the nearby village of Trai Mat, operated as a tourist attraction now.
The crazy house was next, it is often described as Gaudi-meets-Sesame Street theme park. The hotel Is wild mass of wood and wire fashioned into the shape of a giant tree house and smoothed over in concrete. It sounds simple, but there’s a vision to this chaos apparently. It was great fun to explore and take photos until the rain started. It was pouring, thankfully we had packed our rain jackets, it was their 1st outing for 3 months.
Since the rain eased we decided to explore Da Lat market. This was a real Vietnamese market, not your typical tourist tack. Lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat on display, some of the meat too fresh!
After a long day it was time to sample some Da Lat Red Wine and local cuisine at the V Cafe while listening to live music.