After my 4 hour bus journey from Nha Trang i arrived in Da Lat. The bus dropped me at the bus stop which was out of town and i caught a scooter taxi into town to look for accommodation as clearly i was not going to be sleeping in the same bed with a Vietnamese man from couch surfing. I found a cute double room in the centre of town for 5 pounds / R74 which i think is the price of most rooms in Da Lat so i decided to take it.
Dalat is 1500 meters above sea level in the central highlands and is so French. It was a welcome change from the beach or just a busy city in general. It is a biggish town but is surrounded by the most beautiful countryside.
Unlike the rest of Vietnam where the majority of the crops are rice, Dalat’s rich soil grows most of Vietnam’s local fruit including strawberries, blackberries, grapes (they even have a local wine) and many tropical fruits. The market is surrounded by merchants selling fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and beautiful locally grown flowers.
I wasn’t sure how long i would be staying in Da Lat, i didn’t have anything specific i wanted to see. Its in the mountains and i figured i would hire a bike the following day and explore. But when i was on my way to look at the market i heard “south africa…south africa” and it was my scooter taxi driver who had dropped me in town from the bus station. Anyway he asked me my plans for Da Lat and i was honest saying i was just gonna wonder around. He works for a company called Easy Rider which is basically a company that will take you to your next destination by motor bike and you get sightseeing in that with basically your own personal tour guide. I ummmed about it for a while as it was a bit pricey, he showed me some reviews people had written about him and the trip in his little journal and i thought why not!!!!!
So instead of sightseeing on my own the following day and then taking a 6 hour bus to Mui Ne i decided on a 2 day trip with Rene my amazing Vietnamese tour guide. All i can say was it was THE BEST decision i have made!!!!! It’s a wonderful way to travel Vietnam through the open country roads and have a unique experience with a personal tour guide.
Rene fetched me at 8:30am, strapped my massive bag to the back of his bike, helmet on, camera ready and away we went!
First up was The Crazy House in Da Lat and it really is a guesthouse. It was designed and built by the architect, Dang Viet Nga. She went went a little crazy with her imagination to create this “house” that is really a work of art. Most people compare it to Alice in Wonderland or something from a Dr. Seuss book. It resembles a giant tree and the features display many things from nature, animals and plants. There are ten guestrooms, all of which are themed on a different animal. The house design was totally crazy but really cool and interesting to look around. It costs $50 a night!!!! Definitely out of my price range. During the day they open up for people to come and have a look around so you don’t have much privacy if you are staying there..
We then went to the old train station in Dalat, it is the oldest in Vietnam. It has a few of the old locomotive’s used during the war that you can view. They stopped using this station in 1969 when part of the rail line was blown up in the war.
Over the course of the next 2 days I was privileged to look around many family run businesses and farms, such as a flower farm, coffee plantations (Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee after Brazil and the coffee is amazing…i think im becoming an addict!) , bamboo cutting (the lady used a very sharp knife and her teeth!), bamboo baskets being woven and bound, a silk factory where cocoons were boiled to release the silk, rice noodle making. We stopped at two very impressive waterfalls (The water pours down from a height of 15 m, like a white curtain hiding a cave inside where i got to cross a small bridge and sneak behind the falls with the cool water blowing on me…indescribable), a rice wine production site, a family business that grew silk worms; feeding them mulberry leaves – she had trays and trays of worms! We saw a chopsticks factory (there are endless uses for bamboo! ) and saw how the incense sticks are made that they use for praying. Further along the central highlands we saw how mushrooms are farmed (in sawdust!), a rubber tree plantation and much more. Just shows how resourceful the Vietnamese are. With bamboo and within agriculture, everything is used and recycled. They could teach Zimbabwe a thing or two….or actually loads!!!! haha It was actually really exhausting watching how hard they work in 40 degrees heat outside most of the time!!!!!
We also stopped and chatted to many families and minority people and they were so nice to me especially since i was with a Vietnamese guy. We drove through the mountains, passing many people and children who never see tourists, i waved and shouted “xin chao” (hello) to everyone and they all waved back shouting “HELLOOO”. It gives me goosebumps just remembering it!!!!
So now for my embarrassing story…i shamefully bought another pair of travellers pants (Thai fisherman pants they are called)….I’m sorry i know its cringe worthy but they are so comfortable and light material which is needed in this hot weather. And maybe this is too much info but i don’t wear knickers with them as i only brought 3 pairs with me travelling so if there is an opportunity to save them for another day and I’m wearing appropriate clothing then i don’t wear them. So we are travelling and after a few times of getting on and off the bike i feel them rip a little and then a little more and more…you get the idea. Every time i got on and off the bike i would have to put my bag in front of the hole when i got on or i would be showing way more than the Vietnamese guy had bargained on haha. Well by the time we got to the place we were staying that first night they had ripped along really badly. So Rene stops at a market for me to have a look at and he stayed by the bike to watch our belongings. So I’m walking through the market and a lot of the older ladies keep coming up to me, saying hello in Vietnamese and touching my arms and just holding my hands (because obviously they don’t get tourist here). I then walk past these 2 really old women and they are calling me so i think they are fascinated by me like the others, so i go over to them and one of them in sign language basically tells me my pants are ripped showing my bootie haha…. I knew the hole was bad but the pants are so baggy i didn’t think walking people would notice………..soooooooo embarrassing. I quickly walked back to Rene and told him i was ready to go to the hotel we would be staying at!!!!!
The first day we travelled for 8 hours and the second day 7 hours………all I’m saying is i loved being on the bike, driving through the mountains but you definitely get numb bum after a while 😉
And then finally we were in Mui Ne where i would be staying with my second couch surfing host Ruby!!!!!
some more beautiful pics from my time in the Highlands 😉