Hiya, hope you’re all enjoying the Summer weather back in Blighty, it’s gradually getting more and more humid over here, and so the sweat is literally dripping off me. Anyway, I’ve been in the Central Highlands, now I’m further south…
When I arrived in Dalat it was cool, quite literally! All around me were local Vietnamese wearing jackets and coats and truth be told, it was a bit on the cool side, but after months of hot and humid weather, it was refreshing.
This place is hyped as some kind of French colonial Alpine resort but it’s not really. It’s true there are lots of villas, if you can see them hidden between the ugly Chinese built hotels. It’s also definitely hilly and there are definite mountains surrounding the town. I guess Dalat is of interest because it is so different to the rest of Vietnam, it’s a much cooler climate and for that reason many Vietnamese go on their honeymoon here. Dalat is also the centre for the so-called Easy Riders wanting to take you on a long bike trip somewhere in the Central Highlands. At my hotel I was practically offered this trip every time I
left the “Peace Hotel” - the name of the hotel became ironic. I did look into bicycle trips down to My Nui with local travel companies, but everything was so expensive ($62 for a 1 day bike ride!).
My first night in Dalat and I bumped into Jonny from Edgware again, so we had a few drinks and a few games of pool in a dive of a bar. Later on, I watched the Champions League Final on TV, which Man U lost of course, but just before the end, the roads at 4 in the morning turned into Piccadilly Circus outside, incredible! Clearly, everyone had made their mind up that Man U had lost the final and went home from bars, it was so noisy though and I had to put my ear plugs in.
The next day I checked out the town with a highlight being the 1930s-built, art deco-inspired mountain residence of the former Vietnamese Emperor, Bai Dao. Nothing’s changed since the Emperor left in the 195os, bedrooms for his children, dining areas, bedrooms and an office, kitchen, reception for foreign dignitaries, all period pieces, really fascinating. Plus it was really nice to see some
Art Deco design in a period house and totally left untouched. Later on I got a cable car with spectacular views of the surrounding hills and ended up at a reservoir with temples. I didn’t spend any more time at Dalat as the rest of the things to do seem a bit touristy and not worth staying for.
Got the bus in the morning to My Nui and an incredibly bumpy and winding bus ride ensued. Beautiful scenery mind, but I felt a bit ill with being bounced upwards from my seat so I took my ginger and that calmed it down a bit. I then got talking to the only two Westerners on the bus,”Bonny” from China and Laura from Devon. When we got to My Nui we decided all three of us would get a room together to reduce our costs.
Bike horse trading
My Nui’s beach strip is really long, 15 kilometers in fact so, we tried to get motorbike taxis to the accommodation we wanted, but the drivers wanted 15,000 Vietnamese Dong for a short trip to Saigon Café. So we just kept walking and popping into resorts to check the rooms
out. They were all a bit too expensive so by the time we got out onto the road again the motorbike drivers had finally succumbed and given us the 10,000 price we wanted.
Chilling in My Nui
We got three of us in a basic bungalow where the toilet water was brown and the shower water, er, less brown. I chilled out as best I could, knowing full well that I’m pretty deficient in that department, so I spent time lying on the very narrow beach and finishing up my “Understanding Vietnam”
. It’s certainly more interesting and I have understood Vietnam more, mainly about the toing and frowing of the competing parties to take over the Vietnamese Independence movement - which the Communists won out on (and probably no irony needed, the American CIA (formerly the OSS) supported him coz he seemed like a nice guy. Anyway, it should put me in good stead for the propaganda and lies that I’ll be facing in Siagon.
Anyway, in the evening Bonny and I walked along the beach and strip for what felt like an hour or more, all in search of Lonely Planet listed restaurants. Eventually we stopped at
one but then we ended up waiting ages for our BBQ sea food which came out under BBQs so I left it to be on the safe side. Annoyingly it’s also one of the most expensive meals I’ve had in Vietnam so far, around the 70,000 dong mark (2.20 GBP). Anyway, Bonny turned out to be an interesting girl; she speaks excellent English (although typically of the Chinese she thinks it is rubbish), she works for KPMG in some big anonymous Chinese city near Hong Kong and is fed up with that life. So, remarkably she is travelling around for maybe 6 months taking time off. However, being Chinese and travelling on your own around SE Asia just isn’t what young Chinese people ‘do’; in fact none of her friends are doing it and have evens discouraged her from doing it at all!
Drinks in My Nui
That night myself, the Devon girl and an Israeli guy named Yori went out for drinks to a local bar called Pogo because there was meant to be some kind of happy hour. But it wasn’t really that happy and the drinks included loads of ice and a drink I’ve never encountered
before, “Free Cuba” - rum and coke (and lime?) - yeh totally boring. Played a few games of doubles pool with Yori being my partner against about 5 English lads, recent Medical students from Birmingham uni who were going through north Vietnam. I had a pretty good night out, not having been with many English people of late and so lots of banter around the place.
Sand Dunes and being a crap biker
The next day Bonnie and I were meant to rent a motorbike in order to visit some sand dunes that were about 20 km away. However, Bonnie is in her own words is a recovering insomniac so she was up at the crack of dawn whilst I was still in my slumber. She went on without me so I got my own bike, however, the cheapest motorbike was a manual and not the usual automatic I’m so used to (remember I don’t have a driving license and it doesn’t seem to matter here in Vietnam or anywhere in SE Asia for that matter) so I went out on the road stepping on gears I had no idea how to use. Every time I changed gear there
was an awful judder and a choking sound from the engine and I thought I was going to get thrown so I stayed on 4th gear for the entire day. Yeh, what a loser.
Anyway, the day was scorching hot and when I got to the dunes, I felt like I was Lawrence of Arabia but really they were a bit of a disappointment and it was too hot to try and traverse any of them with any gusto. Much more fun was the “Fairy Stream”, where you can walk barefoot and looks at the weird rock formations with sand dunes behind it.
Jude Law and Bia Hoi
Later on that day I got talking to Yori the Israeli guy, as we both lay in hammocks reading, or in the case of Yori just day dreaming. Then, some travel acquaintances of Yori, an Israeli and Chilean girl came to sit down with us and we all got talking, but the highlight was being compared to Jude Law by a very hot
Israeli girl. We then invited some English guys from one of the bungalows to join us. By which point we were listening to my Zune on
the cool little speakers along with Eddy and Mike from Blackpool. All flirting with the girls of course but it was during this that I actually realized how familiar the English boys sounded. Then I remembered that back in Dalat, I could hear these two English lads making noise and being loud from my room. In fact, I could even hear one of them getting a bit miffed with what sounded like his girlfriend. These of course were the same lads and the coincidences were renewed on this trip! Eddy had taught English in China for a year, so I was asking him about him because I was offered a teaching position there doing the same thing, and I hadn’t taken it up. The more I hear about it the more interested I am in it.
Then the four of us lads went to get something to eat as well as some Bia Hoi - the cheapest beer in the world! We got back to the bungalows and ended up watching the FA Cup Final on the TV in the English lads’ room.
Anyway, the next day I left My Nui by getting a train to Saigon, my
first in Vietnam. Everyone else got the open tour bus, but I wanted something different and so I travelled to the nearest railway station and caught a slow train to Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City after the conquest by the North.
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