Published: June 24th 2006June 24th 2006
Ah Dalat! The cool climate, lack of hawkers and relaxed atmosphere in this hill town suit me nicely after the intense humidity and annoying shouts of Saigon. I spent my last day there sending out postcards and taking a walk.
And thus I went north to Dalat. The main insustries in Dalat and flowers, art, cheesy tourism (fake Eiffel tower anyone?) and coffee. Most tourists here are middle class Saigonese and western backpackers are comparatively thin on the ground. Last night I went into a cheap local restaurant and, after getting a little absorbed in my food, looked up and found that I'd gathered a large audience of small children. Whether they were staring at my skin tone, bizzare table manners was amystery, though it was probably a mix of both. I grinned and waved and the parents gave me an apologetic look. Elsewhere kids (and even some adults) just shout 'Hello' at me when I go past and giggle when I wave at them back. It's a little bizzare being this noticeable.
I know I said I'd skip tours from now on, but Dalat is home to the Easy Riders, a group of extremely reputable motorcycle guides who hang around outside hotels and accost you with their sales pitch. The guy I met yesterday, Titi, was quite likeable so I agreed to go on a tour around the countryside surrounding Dalat with him the next morning.
I was next morning by a guy who wasn't Titi. "Titi's Brother" he explained and proceeded to take me on a really good tour on the back of his motorcycle. First off the obligatory temple. It was big and colourful and pretty serene. Then we went around the countryside and saw what Vietnamese hill people did for a living. Mostly it's growing coffee. Other jobs include growing silk, flowers and mushrooms (the less interesting variety) or making tools for said industries. It was actually very interesting and informative and there was never any pressure to actually buy any items. He dropped me off at a waterfall (this area is famous for them) and left me to explore. I scrambled down some stairs and over some rocks and it was really fun, like a massive adventure playground. After lunch in a small unmarked brick building that produced surprisingly tasty food we went back to Dalat and the 'Crazy House', a really bizzare hotel designed with no corners and a forest theme. It was really cool to explore.
I really impressed and (after initially rejecting the guide and then changing my mind after reading various internet people saying how cool this particular trip is) I agreed to let him take me into the highlands for a couple of days in exchange for a wad of cash, so I'll be out of the loop for a little while. See you in Nha Trang!