Mui Ne to Dalat

Trip Start Jan 16, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Where did we leave off? After the first day of kite surfing we rested the next day. That was a good call because we were both tired. But the next day we went at it again. The winds were up pretty good and we were both a little nervous. So Armando suggested a little smaller kite than the one from the day before. 6 meter this time. Still big enough to drag you around if you let it. And it did. Again. Across the beach. We were practicing body dragging (no really that is what it is called) in the water. Have the kite haul you out to sea in one direction and then bring the kite back over to the other side and have it bring you back towards the shore. One side then the other. We both actually kept the kite in the air and did not dump it in the water. We were really proud of ourselves. Down the beach and then land the kite and carry it back up to where we started. That was the really hard part. Carrying the kite up the beach with the wind whipping against you. What I mean to say is the wind whipping against me, as Amy isn't carrying the kite anymore. I went out once and got tangled in some fishing net and had to pull the emergency release cord. Then untangle myself (that was fun) and sail the kite, doubled over (the kite not me), back to shore. Then we had to set up the lines again to go back out. Got the hang of it and we were ready for the board. But the winds were over 20 knots and they can't teach in winds that high. Good policy I think. So it was only a half day lesson. The forecast for the next couple of days called for very high winds and it seemed like we wouldn't be able to continue our lessons for a couple of days. So since we have been here for almost a week and won't be able to continue this kite surfing here for a bit, we decided to leave. I think we both would like to stay but, I don't think we are willing to sit here and not be able to complete our lessons. We will try to continue when we get to Nha Trang or Danang farther up the coast. So off we go to Dalat. We have the early bus at 7 am so we were able to see the sunrise over the South China Sea, beautiful! So the bus was ok but we had the requisite break-down. Flat tire this time. So we stop for "10 minutes" says the driver. More like an hour. Some guy comes up to me and starts talking to me in Vietnamese. Seems like this has happened before. So we have a non sensical conversation just like I did last time. All of the other people on the bus are amused with our back and forth banter. It doesn't make any sense to me except for the part where he says that Dalat is 100 km away. That was all I got, and it was in French. He is laughing profusely and I (thinking it is the right thing to do), laugh with him. We shake hands probably about 5 times and it is time to say good bye. Off, again, to Dalat. The town of Dalat is like no place we have been so far. It is in the mountains at about 6000 or 7000 feet above sea level. The drive up is spectacular going through all of the switchbacks surrounded by jungle the whole time. We pull in to Dalat at 4 pm when we should have been here at 1 pm instead. That is Asia for you. But we stop next to a hotel that seems to have a decent room for $7 a night so we take it. Then off to explore the town. It is actually cool here so we wear pants (first time since US) and shoes (second time). We don't know what to do. But these people think it is downright cold. Many have winter hats, gloves and coats on. We have seen more than one person with a down jacket on with the hood over their head, drawn closed. It is 70 degrees!! I would like to see how these people fare in the Colorado weather. So we wander around the area to find something to eat. The labyrinth of streets conspires to loose us in its grasp. This place has the distinct feel of the winding streets of San Francisco combined with the green hillsides of the Smokey Mountains. The difference is that the hillsides here are all terraced. Dalat is the premier growing region in Vietnam for vegetables and flowers. Almost every space that is not building or road is growing something. Cabbage, carrots, cucumbers and many other plants are all over the place. Everyone is growing something, somewhere. So we head off to grab a little street food to tide us over until we find a nice restaurant on the lake right in the middle to town. We wander a bit more checking out other hotels hoping for an upgrade in either view or price. Same same. Back up the winding streets for some Vietnamese coffee and unidentified treats. We decide to book a trip to see the local area the next day through our hotel. All around the town and surrounding hillsides. Flower plantations, cable car ride, waterfall, the local make out spot, the Valley of Love, the dragon pagoda, and the crazy house. Neat trip and a great way to spend the day. Especially the Dalatlana waterfall. There were over 500 steps to get down to it, (and back up), and it was still running strong, even now during the dry season. The valley of love, although having great views of the surrounding countryside and a lake below, should really have been called the valley of kitsch. It was filled with shops selling all manner of useless stuff and also has kiddie rides. The funniest part was the Vietnamese "cowboys". These guys are all dressed up in old west garb and will pose for pictures for a modest fee of 5000 dong, which is 30 cents. Thanks, no. I have seen plenty of cowboys in my day, don't need a picture of a fake Vietnamese cowboy. The crazy house was also interesting. A local lady architect has made a hotel that is like no other building I have been in or seen in my life. It is 10 theme rooms set in an Alice in Wonderland like setting. The honeymoon room, termite room, gourd room (thought of you Jay), and eagle room to name a few. These were all connected by a series of raised or covered or subterranean pathways that were a maze to find your way through. Amy and I thought about spending a couple of nights here but it was fairly expensive, by Vietnamese standards, and we aren't sure how long we will be here in Dalat. It was interesting to walk around for a little while though. After a couple of more minor sights, we were finished. Back to the Tigon hotel for a shower and off to the Internet cafe. We think that we might get a guide to drive us around tomorrow. The town has these guys who call themselves the "Easy Riders". These guys drive old Soviet or East German motorcycles, speak good English and are the local flavor tour guides. Although we have seen some of the local sights there are plenty more to see. Also it could be good fun having them drive us around. We talked to another couple, who we were on a bus ride with earlier, and they thought their drivers were awesome. So we will see. We are now at a better connection than we have had at Mui Ne so we are uploading some pictures and video. The Mui Ne section now has pictures and the Saigon section has a video uploading as I type. Don't know if it will make it though. So there are now pictures to our previous entries that weren't previously there. That is all for now folks. We will, of course, update again when we have some more news. Thanks again for all of the encouraging support we have received from many of you. It really pleases us that so many of you send your love and are keeping up with the travels.

Dan (the kite carrier)
Amy (not the kite carrier)
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