After we ate our free breakfast and got ourselves together we met Manh (one of the Vietnamese tour guys) outside the hotel. I should point out here not to be misled by me saying Hotel. In Vietnam they don’t have hostels, they just call them Hotels and Guest Houses, but at $5 (100,000 Dong or £3.60) a night you can call it whatever you want, it’s still cheap. We were each given a helmet, as far as I am aware unlike Thailand and Laos you have to wear one here by the law, mine covered my ears which made talking to the guy on the bike incredibly difficult. Language barrier aside, cruising down the busy streets where it is obligatory to beep your horn every 30 seconds or the world will end it is incredibly difficult to hear what is being said, still fun though to try and get some rapport going.
Below is a short breakdown of all the different destinations /sites we visited:
- Stop One – Petrol
- Stop Two – Hill side walk
We were taken on around a 15 minute journey through the more built up regions of Da Lat and started getting out to the more areas and into the clearer roads. Here we were dropped off at the bottom of a fairly small hill, but this isn’t to say that we weren’t knackered after walking up it, I didn’t even know I could sweat from my earlobes!!!! At the top there is a nice little view of Da Lat and it’s surrounding, it really is beautiful to see and makes for a pretty decent panoramic photo, which I assume has made its way into the photo gallery somewhere.
- Stop Three – A Flower Plantation
There are lots of flower plantations in this region, along with coffee and mushrooms, and the purpose of these plantations was to sell the flowers for their aesthetics and meanings. To be fair it took quite a bit of time to get this information as due to the language barrier, me asking what the flowers were for probably came across quite confusing as most of what I say and how I say it comes out as gibberish when travelling due to generally shutting my brain off, and my ability to say hello, thank you and count to 3 in Vietnamese was not going to help here! I wish I had more knowledge of flowers to be a able to tell you what type these were (perhaps you can work that out from the photos) but for the purpose of this farm it is the quantity and colour of the flower that you are giving or receiving that is important. Now you will have to forgive me here (which I’m sure I have asked for in numerous posts in the past) but I am currently writing this on 05/01/13, so I have completely forgotten what we were told with regards to matching the meanings to the colours and numbers, but if my memory serves me right the gist is certain colours mean liking someone, loving someone, and wanting to do the dirty with someone and the number of flowers shows how much……..yeah….that sounds plausible right???? Anyway I am going to leave the flower plantation there as other than that I have no idea what happened next other than a load of miss communicated and broken language dirty jokes…..some things just don’t need a common language!
- Stop Four – The impromptu weird plant flick
I’m not even sure I can describe it any clearer than the title. There is some sort of plant (once again completely ill informed gibberish from me) that has a spike/spine in the middle and if you flick it in the right way it shoots out and goes pretty far. To summarise – Thomo nailed it and mine fell dismally by my mutated weird feet!
- Stop Five – Some sort of village with a monkey
Ok ok it really is starting to become dangerously apparent how little I remember but all you need to know here is there was a monkey with a cigarette and it has a great habit of throwing stuff at you which delights the locals no end. You’re probably best checking out the photos for this.
- Stop Six – Coffee Plantation
This was actually quite a quick stop off but that’s all you need really. We were shown the coffee beans growing and what they look like first hand before they are picked, pealed and dried in the sun. This is where we were told about weasel coffee, which is essentially a coffee bean passed through the digestive system of a weasel….which we later tried.
- Stop Seven – Alcohol Distillery
Definitely check the pictures out for this one. I think the alcohol we were given to try was more or less 70-80% proof. Thomo braved it first and after he remained upright and still breathing I had a shot too, in fact I think Thomo may have had a second….it is free alcohol after all. Also on the distillery was a small weasel farm where they use them to skin the coffee beans, this of course had to be tried. Obviously it tastes more or less the same as regular coffee but with the novelty of being shat out of a weasel….when did shit become novel?!?!?
- Stop Eight – Silk Factory
Pulling off from the main road and into a small factory we were shown the working of a silk factory. Normally i wouldn’t think this as being interesting but there was something about how worn down and basic the machinery being used to weave the silk that made it seem quite impressive. Small balls of silk are put in a trough of water with one end running through a small hole and up to a spinning wheel. The hole will move side to side as to get an even spread onto the spinning wheel. Silk worms can readily be found filling buckets scattered throughout the room and more often that not all over the sodden floors, check out the photos to see what exactly they look like.
- Stop Nine – Temple, Waterfall and Lunch
This was a pretty awesome stop. We were first left at a temple with lots of carvings and Buddha statues which was pretty cool and then left to make our way down to the top of the waterfall to meet our guys. We were taken down the side to the base and even managed to go very slightly underneath the waterfall, getting absolutely soaked in the process. There is a video of this so I will endeavour to get this on. On our way to lunch we went into a little embroidery shack where an elderly lady makes scarves. I’m sure you can figure out what came next……it was 30 degrees+ and the scarves were all varieties of styles……cue Thomo to purchase one.
Lunch was a variety of Vietnamese dishes ranging through beef, chicken and pork dishes laden with herbs and spices along with plenty of noodles and rice.
- Stop Ten – Mushroom Farm
The size of this place was pretty deceptive and the amount of mushrooms that were packed in was incredible, I’m not sure the pictures do it justice. This should really be Ian talking about this with his vast knowledge on mushroom farms having worked on one when he was younger, but to be fair there isn’t too much to tell. The mushrooms are grown on large cylindrical bags containing sawdust…..job done. They are then dried out in the sun before going off to market. Now don’t you feel you’re learning so much?
- Stop Eleven – Chicken Village
I honestly cannot remember much of this other than the giant concrete chicken, so I will cheat here:
I am not sure what is said on this website is true and I am further more convinced by their use of the word ‘probably’. They sound about a knowledgeable as me!!
This one at least admits it doesn’t know the purpose of the Chicken:
- Stop Twelve – Haunted House, Xuan Huong Lake and Crazy/Hang Nga House.
We made a quick stop at an old house which is believed to be haunted. It is pretty dilapidated now, but it does kind of have an eerie feel to it. It was said that it used to be inhabited by a guy from the French military (someone of importance) who would have women/prostitutes brought to the house where they would be raped and murdered. Whether or not you believe in ghosts it’s still a pretty creepy and horrific place to be given its past.
Xuan Huong lake is a beautiful place and makes for some great photos if you know what you are doing, and is a hot spot for people to chill, couples to walk and you can even get out on the water in a pedalo if you so wish. Now the Crazy house was a highlight for me. It really is what it says. All the buildings are built in weird psychotropic styles and are interconnected with obscure bridges. The rooms are not to unlike what you would imagine a 60’s ‘free love’ room to look like and I may be mistaken but it might actually be a guest house at certain times. Either way you should check it out.
- Stop Thirteen – The Evening
So this wasn’t a real stop, but having hung out with our guides all day we were invited out with them later that night to a pool hall. This involved copious amounts of cheap beer, numerous clanging of bottles to sayings such as ‘Happy New Beer’ which you are forced to say at the beginning of every new bottle, and something which sounds a lot like ‘ Moto Bi Yo’ which is essentially ‘cheers’. We played pool for the bar tab and won…..great, free beer, then we all went to a local club which was awesome, so many drunken Vietnamese people dancing like mentalists and having a great time. We unfortunately picked up the bill for the drinks here which was about 3 times as expensive as the drinks in the pool hall……but what the heck, it was a great night……and a small note, it doesn’t matter how classy the club you are in in Vietnam (they stand at your table and top up you glass for you, obviously just to try and get you to drink more) 90% of the women that come over to you are prostitutes…check out the photo of Thomo with one of the pimps, it’s brilliant.
Ok then, so it has taken me 3 attempts and two and a half months to write this post. It is clearly poorly informed and lacking any grit…..but it is the best I can do given the amount of stops in one day and how long ago it was. All I hope is that you can at least see it is worth getting on the back of a motor bike for a day as you would be hard pressed to find all the cool stuff surrounding Da Lat otherwise, plus you might get some evenings entertainment from your guides if you are lucky.
Love Scotty x