I arrived here after my so called six hour bus journey (ended up being 9). I was so tired and didn’t know any hostel names so I asked the motorbike driver, “bring me to a cheap hotel.” This tactic worked out perfectly as I ended up staying at a motel called, Tom, named after the owner, Tom. For me this was my very own home stay, and this experience quickly made De Lat my favourite city in Vietnam.
After booking in for one night I decided I wanted to do something touristy and fun so of course had a look at tripadvisor and with Toms help booked in what I thought was canoeing. On brochures it said, Canyoning and since I paid $25US I thought it might have been white-water rafting. Oh, was I wrong! The next morning I’m heading out at 8 after a great breakfast of Bún bò huê. A noodle soup, mainly made in Central Vietnam consisting of beef, chilli, mint and herbs and vermicelli noodles! One of my favourite meals so far! Simple, tiny bit of spice and delicious! After picking up a few more people we are told to put on sunscreen and grab a life jacket. My English and welsh friends I met on the bus are talking about the waterfalls, meanwhile I’m thinking ‘I wonder how big they are? Could the boat ever pop?’ In total there were a group of seven, which I later found a perfect amount for this activity. We’re guided down the track and I’ve got an idea what I signed up for isn’t what I thought it was. Further reinstated when were told were going to practice abseiling. I’ve done this before as I learnt how to rock climb with my host family from Austria, but still didn’t feel very confident. Canyoning I concluded at this point wasn’t a spelling mistake, it was actually a sport. The practice of making your way down a river by abseiling and getting a bunch of bruises from various small waterfalls that we are to slide down.
This day was amazing! I loved it! The first waterfall came up and being the last to go down and not seeing where the others landed I was a bit nervous. The most nerve racking thing was probably going over the edge for the first time, where you have to depend on the rope to hold you. This one was a straight ledge where we could jump down, but it was 18metres and when I landed in the water I found it the best. Instant relief from the humid weather. A couple more waterfalls came as well as some slides which were enjoyable and that’s mainly where the bruises came from. When we reached one we scaled down and found a Vietnamese party going on underneath. It was hilarious, there were about 40 Vietnamese men singing karaoke while dancing. Not just a disorganised mess but all of them knew the exact moves to each song they did. Afterwards a water gun fight insured and I was definitely happy to join in. This party was the first time I had seen the Vietnamese have fun and not just worked. When talking to the Vietnamese I usually ask how often they work Åland the common answer is every day. I have later found out that they usually have one or two days off a month. I know a MONTH!! It makes me grateful of all the free time I have that I didn’t even realise was a luxury. Surprisingly when sliding down the rocks it didn’t hurt much, others would agree with me! I’m not just saying that! My favourite abseil was probably the most scary as it definitely got my adrenaline up. We had to scale down the waterfall, water pelting us on the face and as the rock face disappears you to push out and let go of the rope and fall backwards into the water. The moment of letting go of the rope was terrifying and all the while I was singing Frozen’s, “Let It Go!” In my head. The next jump was also really fun we jumped off a twenty metre cliff!! The tour guides totally psyched me out and I was a tiny bit worried that I wouldn’t make the jump (the cliff was shaped out wards) but I knew if I didn’t even try I would be disappointed so I finally pulled out the guts and jumped! It was brilliant! I couldn’t recommend this tour anymore than I already have! I went canyoning with a company called Highland Sport Travel. The feeling of accomplishment as well as the beautiful scenery definitely added to my awesome experiences in Da Lat. Returning back to the hotel was hilarious, I wasn’t allowed to walk in as I was soaking wet and muddy. I had to scrub my feet clean and give her my washing straight away. Apparently it was hilarious as Toms wife, speaking no English, was explaining with actions all the scrubbing I was doing was wrong. I ended up sitting there for half an hour trying to remove the dirt from my feet and joggers meanwhile she was sitting there looking at me cracking up laughing. All I could do was laugh with her but in confusion.
The night markets in Da Lat were definitely a treat! I loved the food, scenery and clothes. Da Lat has a massive lake in the middle and French, colonial style buildings paving the streets. The various stalls range from selling clothes, food and shoes, not to forget the famous And Vietnams most popular wine, ‘Dalat wine.’ I think I enjoyed Da Lat so much because of the people. I went for coffee one morning and met a beautiful girl Huyen, we started talking and soon became friends over my shocking knowledge of the Vietnamese alphabet. Learning Vietnamese was very tough as it felt the shapes and sounds of the language were so foreign that my mouth couldn’t fit them. I was told that I sound Chinese when I try to speak Vietnamese. I don’t know whether it was a compliment. I still couldn’t believe that some of them understood me in the first place. After exchanging names, adding each other on Facebook and taking a picture I left. Originally I planned to stay in Da Lat for only one night, it had already been extended to two and due to the bad weather and my love for the city I booked I for another night. Luckily everything runs on a barter system and I bartered to stay another night with Tom but for a cheaper price.
I booked a one-day Easyriders adventure which took me for a tour of the silk village surrounding Da Lat. All up we would have travelled about 75km seeing the various things Da Lat and Vietnam is famous for, such as their coffee, silk, waterfalls and flower farms. Really great day and for another $25US definitely worth the various places a you see. I went with the tour guide Lee who was extremely informative.
One of my favourite places to visit was a beautiful pagoda called Dragon Pogoda, at the beginning of the day. Lee told me about the extent of the Chinese and how Buddhism came into practice in Vietnam. Buddhism is it’s most popular religion with 65% of Vietnamese believing in this tradition. The symbols of the phoenix, turtle, tiger and dragon represent the beauty, knowledge, strength and courage of Buddhism and this is represented through the art and statues in temples and pagodas. Dragon Pogoda got its name through the massive 95-metre dragon curled through the gardens.
The coffee plantation was really interesting and I finally tried the famous weasel coffee. Lee recounted the story of how this coffee became famous; due to two neighbors who both owned coffee plantations they were always getting the same flavours. Weasels were very popular on the farms and always came to eat the coffee, they always chased it away. It was forever a game of cat and mouse until once one neighbor collected the pooh of the weasel and found out that the digestive system of the weasel takes away the outer shell of the coffee. He gave his neighbor a taste of his new coffee and soon he was a well known beautiful coffee vendor. The secret was unleashed when the other neighbor found out what was happening and now Vietnam is known for there beautiful coffee. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it much, basically at all. The Vietnamese love everything sweet, especially their coffee (they even have white coffee mixed with condensed milk!) and for me it was just too much!
Afterwards we visited Elephant Falls, negated this as the locals believe one of the rock formations I shaped like an elephant (I couldn’t see it) The path down to the viewing point was half the attraction, it was a winding oath and everything was wet. The gaps between the steps as well as the rickety bridge I crossed made it all the more fun. Quite random but funny there was also a trampoline at the waterfall. A helpful tip around Vietnam is that always have toilet paper in your bag or some wet-ones, it’s defiantly worth the money, or you can just grab it from the hotel or hostel you stay in.
The last stop for the day was at the Crazy House in Da Lat city. The Crazy House was designed by Dang Viet Nga, also known as the presidents daughter, started this project in Da Lat, 1990, as she wants everyone to be more environmentally aware. This house was really cool and it felt as if you were in Wonderland with Alice where every path could lead anywhere. A really cool concept and I recommend to go and check it out.
My absolute favourite thing about Da Lat waste relaxed and easygoing nature of everyone. The people from the coffee shops, the motel, where I grabbed some Bun Bo hue, the restaurant, even the motorbike drivers were all so friendly and welcoming and they wanted to share themselves with you.
Thanks for the wonderful time Da Lat! I’ll see you next time!