City of eternal spring

Trip Start May 18, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

After three nights in Vietnam's largest city we left on an early morning tourist bus heading for Da Lat. We booked through Happy Tours, and although the bus was not as good as the one taking us from the border it was still OK. The journey was pretty straight forward, lots of windy roads and crazy driving as we climbed 1500 metres above sea level. It's impossible to sleep on these buses as the horns are unbelievably loud and there is little or no sound insulation inside the bus. Having seen the way Vietnamese bus drivers blindly overtake on steep mountain roads I can understand the need for such supercharged claxons. How else are you going to signal the oncoming traffic round the bend that you are in the wrong lane?

If you are taking one of these open tour tickets don't believe the hype about tourist attraction stops along the way. It's very much a case of you get what you pay for. These tickets are dirt cheap at just US$16 from Saigon all the way to Hanoi, with open stops at Da Lat, Nga Trang, Hoi An and Hue. You can expect them to get you from A to B and try and extract a few more dollars along the way via dropping you off at their affiliated restaurants and guest houses.

As it happens, the Lamson guest house we were delivered to in Da Lat was pretty good and quite reasonably priced (US$7 or 110,000 Dong per night for an en suite twin bed room with tv and hot water). Walking around the city at night there are an abundance of hotels and most of the patrons seem to be domestic tourists. I get the feeling Vietnamese holiday makers like coming here because of the relatively cool climate, but it still feels warm enough to be out and about with just a t-shirt and shorts during the day. The market is quite lively and seems to be a focal point during the early evening, with outdoor food vendors lining the streets.

Cycling around Da Lat was the perfect way to explore the city and see some of the surrounding region today. Our guesthouse arranged fairly average mountain bikes for US$1.50 for most of the day. The more we saw the more this place reminded us of Vietnam's answer to Disneyland (complete with Vietnamese guides dressed as cowboys). Anyone who has been to RotoVegas in New Zealand can probably relate to this. The tourist attractions are abundant and over the top.

Surprisingly we still haven't encountered the intense anti-western attitude from anyone in Vietnam yet. Locals and Vietnamese tourists here seem genuinely friendly and nearly everyone says Hello as we pass by. Perhaps all the agro is yet to come the further we go north.
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