A bit of this & a bit of Dalat!

Trip Start Nov 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 14, 2013

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 1

I was up with the Chinese this morning! The alarm was set for 05:30 because we wanted to see if we could get some photos of the sunrise. I (Lisa-beauty sleep required) was on the beach opposite the hotel 15 minutes later & I could not believe how busy it was. There were people of all ages stretching, running, walking, cycling, doing yoga, just about any form of exercise you can imagine possible. There were some metal cross training machines that were there for public use & people were queueing to get on them. I didn't realise the day before but the sun came up behind Vinpearl Island which made capturing the sunrise almost impossible. Oh well!

As I was already up I decided to get my running stuff on & hit the pavement a bit earlier than planned. After running along the seafront for about 20 minutes it almost felt like it was designed for people to use for exercise. Every bench was being used for crunches, press-ups, step-ups or something similar. The most amazing thing I saw was towards the end of my run. An elderly man in his late 70's/early 80's doing Thai Chi by himself with his walking stick leaning against the railings. That is some kind of motivation.

A quick session in the gym & steam room & we were off for breakfast. We had about an hour before our pick up & were't too sure when we would eat again so decided to have a feast! With some cookies, a donut & a yoghurt safely squashed into our pockets we headed back up to our room to finish packing before checking out & waiting for our 52 seater limo to Da Lat.

We were picked up by a smaller bus & transferred to a bigger coach about 15 minutes later. The coach company we used (Phuong Trang) had come highly recommended on all the forums we had looked at before coming away & it certainly lived up to it's reputation. We stopped after about an hour for food & we can honesty say we would both rather have starved than eat the trollop they were serving. There were dogs running round everywhere, food all over the floor, flys all over the food & the place just absolutely stunk.

Learning from past experiences I thought it would be best to get a toilet break out of the way before setting off again. Now, the number one rule in a lads toilet is that you don't talk to the guy next to you if you don't know him. You don't even stand at the urinal if there are others free. This guy young Vietnamese guy knew nothing of these rules & attempted to break into full conversation. Managing to avoid too much talk I dodged him & we jumped back on the coach.

The entire journey consisted of roads twisting & turning through the mountain range. We lost count of the amount of unmade roads we went on. Lisa was starting to feel a little nauseous from it in the end. What didn't help was the toilet-talk guy deciding to play his snake charming music through his phone without any headphones. After about 15 minutes I donated the spare pair I had with me just to get piece & quiet. At the end of the journey he went to give them back but I let him keep them. As we were getting off of the coach he gave me his little straw hat as a thank you. I didn't put it on in front of him because I just knew my head was going to be far too big to even entertain it!

We got to where we were staying YK Home Villa for about 15:00. The first thing we noticed was how clean the pace was. It was such a lovely little place to stay.

We put out stuff in our room, had a quick read of the welcome book on our bed then went to see the lady at the reception desk, Yen, about renting a bike for half a day. About 10 minutes later a guy turned up with a much better looking scooter than the one we had in Nha Trang. First thing we needed to do was put petrol in it.

So, with a fully fuelled bike, camera & a load of enthusiasm we set off into Da Lat looking for the Crazy House. Yen had given us a map of the area that looked pretty basic to follow. It wasn't. We eventually found the Crazy House. It was quite strange but the meaning behind it is to show that modern architecture doesn't need to be built & look so unnatural in such a beautiful place. At least that's the meaning we got from it!

We were there for about half hour before deciding we'd seen enough. We jumped on the bike & headed for the town centre. Before we could go for dinner we had to the find the Phat Tire office to book the trip for tomorrow. It was 5 minutes from the Crazy House but took us over an hour to find.

With the trip sorted & our bellies rumbling we set off in search of a restaurant that had been recommended to us by Yen, V Cafe. We spent at least an hour looking for this place. 40 minutes of that hour were spent just looking for the road. We finally gave up & set off for the restaurants recommended on tripadvisor. Another half an hour of driving & we finally found the road we were looking for & a few minutes later one of the restaurants, Chocolate. It was #2 on the list & we were starving.

After the meal we headed back to our room. If we want to stay out after 23:00 we had to let Yen know. I'm not even kidding. Time for sleep.

Day 2

Woke up to the news Arsenal had lost to Bradford. Marvellous. Pure sh*t to follow...

Lisa had been looking forward to this day pretty much since we booked the trip. We got up for about 09:00 & headed for breakfast. A quick bite to eat & our pick up was waiting for us outside. We had two guides. The main guide, Deoung, spoke really good English. He explained to us in detail what we were going to be doing & gave us a bit of history into Da Lat.

After about 15 minutes we were at the top of a huge canyon. We put our harnesses, helmets & gloves on before doing a quick practice abseil. He showed us how the knots are tied & what signals he would make if we couldn't hear him. He then asked if we had ever heard of Bear Grylls. When I told him I actually idolise the guy Deoung went on to tell us how the episode where he does a back flip off of the waterfall in Vietnam is where we were going to be jumping from later on in the day. Excited wasn't the word! He went on to tell us that when the show was filmed in Vietnam he was used as one if the local experts. Apparently, Bear Grylls is quite a private man off the camera & wasn't very keen on people having their picture taken with him. Deoung had obviously gotten on with him quite well as he then showed us a picture of them both after the filming was done. Now, there has always been a lot said about Bear Grylls & how he does his shows. Whether or not they're one continuous adventure or if they're broken up into smaller parts. From what we were told the filming for Vietnam took place in three different locations. So basically, not how he portrays it on his show. Deoung had a nothing bad to say about him at all & went on to say how he admired him for the things he could do. I'll go more in to it later when it relates to what we were doing.

After about 15 minutes we hiked down the canyon until we got to our first abseil.

Another quick safety brief & we're ready to go. It was a 15 metre drop into a small pool below. Our second guide would always be at the bottom of each decent or jump to make sure we were OK & to make sure the ropes were tied safely to go back up to Deuong. I was Lisa's guinea pig & went first. A few little steps to get used to it then a couple of jumps & I was down. Lisa went next & made it look just as easy.

Next up were the 'slides'. Basically, some rocks were so smooth from where the water had been flowing over them for so many years that it made them usable as a slide. We hadn't been in the water properly until now so when we were sat down it was freeeeeeeeezing! First slide was feet first & the second head first. The little waterproof video camera was turning out to be quite handy as we started to get some really good footage.

We walked up stream for a bit before getting out & walking on for about another 15 minutes to our next abseil. This was the biggest drop we would descend down today. Before we got strapped up for it we sat down & had a nice lunch with our guides, the banana cake was so good! There were other groups around us & they were all groups of four or six. We were quite fortunate to be by ourselves.

When the time came for us to get ready for the abseil Deoung took us over to the side of the drop to show us what we would be doing. We were about to abseil down a waterfall. He told us there were three parts to it. Firstly, very small steps as the rocks at the start were very slippery & if we fall we're going to find it extremely hard to get back up. Secondly, when we pass the ledge after the first set of rocks take some bigger steps or jump but again, be careful as the rocks are slippery. Finally, the third thing, about 4 metres from the water the rock we were to abseil down disappears so we were to push out with our feet as hard as we could & release the rope so that we fall into the water. Being the guinea pig, I went first. Started off well but after the ledge I slipped & got the full force of the waterfall in my face! I couldn't hear her but I know Lisa was laughing! I found my feet & finished before the ropes were sent back up for Lisa. She made it look a lot easier than I did!

Another 10 minute walk & we were at the waterfall Bear Grylls did his back flip from. If you've ever watched Man vs Wild he does the jump in the intro to every episode. If not, you just have to take my word for it! I went first followed by Lisa. Our second guide filmed it all for us before we set off again for our final abseil...the washing machine.

If the name made this drop a bit more intimidating than the others then it's nothing on what it actually looks like. Deoung went on to tell us how Bear Grylls had swung across the water on a vine before swinging across another drop on a vine before jumping onto some trees without a harness to get to the bottom. We're standing there with dropped jaws thinking he must be absolutely mental. We were then told that before he done the filming the jump was made into the trees with a harness first to make sure it was doable. As if it all didn't sound hard enough already we were then told that the Dam was opened up so that the water level was higher & the force of the water was meant to be incredible. Deoung told us how they waited for it to come through before they started filming. The force of the water brought all the loose brush down through the mountain with it. He said they could hear it long before they could see it. Scary stuff.

Anyway, back to the washing machine. Deoung, who had been our main guide, went down to the bottom via the footpath on the side (should have shown Bear). The other guy, whose English wasn't as good, set the ropes up & tried to explain how to go about getting down. Basically, there's a bit of rock you climb down before you get to the waterfall. The pressure of the water is that hard that it pushes you away from it. After about 3 metres you lower yourself with your feet hanging before you run out of rope & fall down into the waterfall. You drop 2-3 metres where you're pushed under the water & taken by the current & down a stream into the open water. That's the washing machine part.

I honestly had no idea what he was saying at the time. The instructions I was understanding went against the direction the rope would let me go. Not wanting to hang about (literally) I made my way down the rock. I got to the point where I had no rope left & at first I thought they were taking the p*ss. I finally let go/fell & got thrown about under water before coming up near Deoung. Such an adrenaline rush! Lisa's turn. I wasn't sure if she had managed to see the route i took so that she could see if it was a bit easier for her. If she was scared by it she hid it well. She got to the drop, let go & popped up exactly where I did. Thinking that was the end of it we were ready to go but Deoung asked us if we wanted to do it again. Without even think we both came out with complete opposite answers! Deoung said that this time I should hang upside down when I come off of the rock. Right. On the climb up all I could think about was how stupid I was for doing it again. That thought quickly passed & this time I was more prepared for it as I knew what route to take. I got to the point where he told me to hang upside down which I managed but I could lower myself at the rope was stuck. Getting back in to the correct position I lowered myself down a bit more before letting go of the rope. This time I hit my head (cheers, helmet) & seemed to spend a lot longer under water compared to the last go. Absolutely loved it though.

That was the end of the trip, unfortunately. The last thing to do was trek back up the mountain side for our pick up. We paid $86 for this trip & it was worth every single cent.

We got back to our room & had a quick look at the videos from the canyoning before walking into town. We stopped at the lake to take some pictures then found our way to the market. Now, when we were in Hoi An we avoided the meat side of the market because Lisa wasn't keen on the smell. This time we decided to walk through it (I'm laughing whilst I write this!) & my god does Lisa wish we didn't! It started off with a few trotters wanting to high-five her. At this point she was covering her mouth, looking for an exit. We went up an isle at the top which led us to the street outside. We really shouldn't have taken that isle! We went outside & at first there were live chickens. No problem. They were still alive. So was the snake next to it until we saw the woman clobber it with a mallet! I looked further down the street & all you could see were tubs & bowels on the floor with live fish, snakes & (Lisa's worst nightmare!) giant frogs! We were standing there looking at the fish when one jumped out of the bowel. Lisa thought it was a frog & jumped into my arms Popeye & Olive style. We'd seen about enough by now & started heading out. One last thing caught my eye before we left the market. A terrapin. There was a giant red eared snapper in a bowel. Clearly it wasn't a pet shop stall. I couldn't believe it. I used to keep them as a kid.

The market didn't do much for our appetite so we walked around town for a bit until we came across a Vespa garage. There was a yellow Vespa in there exactly the same as the one we used to have.

We walked about for another hour before going for dinner (tea!). This restaurant had been voted #1 on tripadvisor so it was a safe bet for a decent meal. It was quite small inside so when a group of 20 turned up looking to eat we made a move.

We headed back towards the lake & found a nice little coffee shop where Lisa called her Mum on Skype & I got my ripping of the day for how diabolical my team were the night before. Thanks Janette!

About half hour later & we were back in our room. We have to be up early in the morning for an eight hour coach journey to Saigon. What an amazing day (apart from losing to chuffing Bradford & the ripping)!
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