The City of Eternal Spring

Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dalat, Vietnam - I caught a very early bus to Dalat. The girls would catch an afternoon bus and join me later, I was expecting a coach but we were squashed into a mini bus and set off. I sat next to a very cool Swiss couple. It was the first journey for months that I never plugged into my itouch. I was chatting to the Swiss guy for hours. A very sweet couple. The road to Dalat was bumpy, full of twists and turns and winding mountain views!!

This is not the first time that I've imagined how a town will look and be completely wrong! Dalat is in the central highlands so I was expecting a cute little village type place, similar to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, surrounded by strawberry fields and nature.

No, what we got was a busy city spread over a hilly terrain with thousands of motorbikes dominating all your senses! The weather though is spring cool instead of tropical hot and the town is dotted with elegant French colonial villas instead of squat socialist architecture. The surrounding farms are full of strawberries and flowers, not rice. 

The mini bus dropped us right outside a guesthouse. I hadn't prebooked and told the girls I would find a room. The place was clean and offered a triple. Well, this means the girls got a bed each and I had a mattress on the floor. Not a problem and only $5 each!! Perfect! I rested a little in the afternoon and then went to explore the town. The town is pretty difficult to navigate around, it is larger than I imagined and all local maps were poor plus, it's difficult on a map to show the hilly terrain. I found the crazy market, set in a bowl on the terrain and it marks the centre of the town. I also made a mental note of a cake shop I spotted! I bought a strange pancake type snack from a street vendor and trotted back to the guesthouse. The guesthouse with a little crying rat dog, great!

I managed to get a message to the girls letting them know where we were staying as we had agreed to meet near a bank near the market, though I never really found it, so luckily they checked their email before setting off.

They arrived early evening and were hungry! We set off and found a great place for street food and coldish beers! We shared a bunch of dishes again and it was very relaxing and fun company! We stopped by the cake shop on the way back for a tasty muffin!

Next day, we enjoyed the FREE breakfast and sat there for two hours chatting over our fried egg, bread and bad Vietnam coffee!

I had a full day to explore Dalat. Jenny decided on a resting day to catch up on emails and her journal so Fanny and I set off to see some sights. We took a while finding bicycles to rent at a fair price then set off pedaling on the hilly terrain! I managed to get a mountain bike with suspension and gears so for once, was able to cycle up the various mountains. We headed to a disappointing waterfall. For extra, you can have your picture taken with a Vietnam man dressed as a cowboy!

Our next stop was Hang Nga Crazy House, a funky place that's earned the Crazy House moniker from local residents. It's noticeable for its Alice in Wonderland architecture, where you can perch inside a giraffe or get lost in a giant spider web. To continue with the crazy theme, you can also spend the night here, but it's very expensive. Fanny and I were disappointed, the entrance fee had tripled and a lot of the site was under construction. It only occurred to me now that the design of the place is similar to maybe some parts of Blackgang Chine on the Island. 

After all the cycling up hills, we were a little tired and hungry so we headed back to the market for a late lunch. A Pho Bo and long chat about family later, we cycled to the train station to check out the journey for Fanny and her activities the following day! We ended our day slowly cycling around Xuan Huong Lake. 

We caught up with Jenny and went to a cool guesthouse to eat dinner and we shared a bottle of Dalat red wine. It was pretty good. It was great getting to know Fanny, she lives a great life in Paris, loves good wine, cheese and I would love to catch a glimpse of her life for a couple of days. It sounds so elegant, and she certainly knows her wine!!

I said goodbye to the ladies that night as my next bus was at 7am next morning but I still managed to get my free breakfast! It was great to meet Jenny and Fanny, two more people that I hope our paths will cross again. They organised a tour for the following day to actually get out of the city and see the true highlands, something that seems a little misleading about Dalat, or how it's described in the Lonely Planet. 

Next stop, Mui Ne.
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Pete on

Finally Ant! You get to refer to fanny in your blog! Good work fella!

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