Not A Lot in Dalat

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June 26th 2010
Published: June 30th 2010
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1st stop from Nha Trang to Dalat1st stop from Nha Trang to Dalat1st stop from Nha Trang to Dalat

2 hrs into the trip this was our 1st stop for a drink and bathroom break
Saturday, June 26th
We ate our egg and tomato baguette sandwiches that we had bought from the lady who parked her cart across the street from our hotel. It was actually better than all the other breakfast foods which are served in the nearby restaurants, and for a third of the price. The woman’s husband held a cigarette in his lips and continued to puff on it without using his hands while he coked our eggs. I had witnessed him doing this yesterday and had a few reservation about the cleanliness of the operation, yet he never once had ash fall into the frying pan. I thought it actually to be better to witness this in lieu of god knows what was going on in the kitchens in the neighboring sit down joints. I had also purchased some iced coffee that was served to us in a plastic bag which was rubber banded closed with a straw for us to drink. We sat on the steps of some travel agent slash liquor store and waited for our morning bus ride to Da Lat.

Bus to Da Lat for 80,000VND=$4.21 per person through Sinh Tourist (formerly known as Sinh Café) we have used them for all of us bus rides and have been satisfied with the quality of buses, not keen on the stops they make but that comes with anything in Asia.

The bus was only half full when we pulled away right on time of the scheduled 7:30 departure time. This meant that for the most part everyone could sit in their own pair of seats. We were not scheduled to arrive in Da Lat until 2:30 pm and had a full day of bus ridding ahead of us. I read my book nearly the entire way with the exceptions of the pit stops. The fist stop was only five minutes into the ride when we got gas. The next stop came about 10:30 by the side of some temple. We were told not to enter the temple since we did not have time. You could hear the moans and groans of some of the other riders when they were told we were stopping for 20 minuets. In total we sat for 30 minutes next to a bunch of vendor’s stalls that all sold pretty much the same stuff.

It never ceases to amaze me at some of the items for sale in the stalls that sit in parking lots or cubs next to attractions; matching stone tigers 8 feet in height, plants, paintings, giant novelty lighters, and countless other odds and ends that would be next to impossible to cart away on your own. The funny thing is that 99% of all the people that stop by these attractions arrive on a bus making it even more difficult for them to sell their goods, but all of the drivers stop there in hopes of making their no so secret commissions on the sales.

The next stop was a mere 30 minutes later. It was in some side of the road joint set up to cater specifically for the bus companies. I compare these more to cattle troughs since all of the passengers are herded through the doors and forced to eat what ever was on the menu, or to simply go without. In typical fashion of these establishments it had seating for 200 or so people in one giant cafeteria. The food is never good and always overpriced.

I selected the grilled pork in banana leaf but was told “no”. Okay, can I have the chicken with lemon grass? Again, “no”. Sensing my frustration Elyse asked well what can we have? On the back of the menu we selected some chicken and vegetable dishes with fried noodles. There were three sets of prices next to each and we had no way of knowing what they would charge us. I also ordered a water. Elyse could barely stomach the fried noodles since they were crunchy like the uncooked instant noodle variety. When we received the bill we weren’t really surprised that we got the western tourist prices. Apparently the three prices for each dish listed on the side of the menu in ascending order were for Vietnamese, then other Asians, then all other tourists.

After everyone got back on the bus we were on our way and hoped that there would be no more stops. To our astonishment there were no further stops on the way up the mountain. I was hoping to arrive in another town similar to Sapa and had high expectations. When the bus stopped it was a standard Vietnamese city atmosphere. I was still in good spirits since that it was significantly cooler and more comfortable than the coast had been. Elyse questioned if she heard it correctly this was where the locals come for their honeymoons. I just figured that all the beautiful sights were close to Da Lat and clearly not in Da Lat.

We were told by a couple in Nha Trang about a nice hotel that had good breakfast and a hot tub on the roof. The streets in Da Lat are pretty difficult to navigate since they wind back and forth, up and down the mountain side. We headed out and had difficulties locating the correct street. In the end we hopped into a cab and were drive to the hotel.

We pulled up to a narrow six story tall building that looked at the sign which read Dreams Hotel. The room was sufficient but Elyse had mentioned that there was two Dreams Hotels on the same street. Of course there was. In Hanoi there were approximately five “Little Hanoi Hotels“, and two “Little Hanoi Hostels”. My stomach was feeling a little upset but I opted to locate the other Dreams Hotel. I walked the three blocks and saw it in the distance across the street. It looked no different than the one we had already seen, but I was not sure if it had a hot tub and sauna on the roof top like the first one had. By this time my stomach was really not agreeing with me so I high tailed it back to the first Dreams Hotel.

We checked into the room and just in time since there was little doubt that I had gotten sick form the fantastic lunch spread on the way into Da Lat. After a few hours we had an early dinner across the street. The food was really good but I had to stay close to the hotel. We didn’t do much more than read our books in the room the rest of the night. (note, Elyse and I have both had stomach issues on this trip, the downside to traveling)

Sunday, June 27th
The next day we rented a moto bike from the front desk and ventured out into the country side. We had picked up a map from the front desk and opted to go it alone. We were both pretty tired of the tour companies that we have experienced in Vietnam. Our first stop was to a little water fall named Cam Ly. This was great. It was quite possibly the cheesiest thing that we have ever encountered in our lives. This had surpassed “The Big Banana” extravaganza of Coffs Harbor, Australia. That was at least educational and had a few cool rides.

Cam Ly waterfall consisted of the city’s storm water runoff, and in all probabilities a bit of raw sewage, crashing down on what appeared to be a man surface. The water was chocolate brown and smelled awful. There was a random collection of signs and a few pathways leading down towards the lower portion of the falls. We encountered several Zonkeys accompanied by all to eager photographers awaiting to take your picture with the poor animal.

For those of you whom are unfamiliar with a Zonkey; it is a white Donkey that has had black lines spray painted onto it so that it looks like a Zebra. Interesting factoid about the Zonkey is that it made its debut in Tijuana Mexico in the early 90’s.

We made our way down towards the lower portion of the falls. We stopped and looked at a really nice orchid flower shop half way down. This did class up the joint a little bit but the over abundance of penguin trash receptacles lining the pathway were almost more noticeable than the flowers themselves.

As we reached the bottom we saw several Vietnamese atop of regular old horses being photographed, albeit the photographer sat with his back towards the waterfall and took photos of the riders facing the gate and fencing of the park. At the bottom sat a large stadium seating section facing a pool which had been built for a dancing water show. There was also a stage in front of the pool for some ridiculous performance. I would have gladly handed over the 10,000 Dong admission to watch this show but there were only night time performances.

Living in China we have had our fill with these types of performances geared for unsuspecting tourist. I rather enjoyed myself at the waterfall but Elyse was confused and a little upset by the encounter.

We headed down the mountain in search of the Elephant waterfall which we had circled on our map. We had seen a picture in the hotel and it looked like it was worth checking out, besides we didn’t really have any plans. It wasn’t long before we were lost. There were no sings that pointed us to anything that remotely looked like a waterfall or the town in which the waterfall was located. The map we had was only of the city it self. The waterfall was 30km down the mountain. The lonely planet book we had in our bag illustrated a slightly better map yet had no reference of the Elephant waterfall. We figured that we took a wrong turn and quickly got back on our way.

There were some serious storm clouds in the distance and we cold tell that it was raining not too far from where we were. The winds had pushed the clouds past us and we felt that there would be little chance of us getting rain. The ride was good going down the mountain as we passed though portions of woods followed by clearings of coffee fields. We took it nice and slow and allowed ourselves to have plenty of time to see the falls and return well before it got dark.

It seemed like we had been driving for a long time and were ready to concede defeat when we saw a larger group of foreigners on moto bikes appear in the distance. We followed them for a while, some 15 km later when they pulled off the road to some little market. I had made up my mind and decided that we were clearly on the proper path and proceeded with out them. By the looks of the odometer we were more or less at the spot of where the falls should be as I pulled to the side of the next cross street. I announced that this was the road and that the waterfall was just down a little further. This seemed to get Elyse worked up and question my thinking.

Just then we saw the group of moto bikers pass us and stop at a nearby gas station. We headed over and asked them if they knew where the falls were located. They pointed towards the road we had just come from and told me that it was just down that road. A ha, I was right. I knew that of course and drove down the road.

Faced with our fourth or fifth fork in the road we decided to stay to the right. We drove for a while and didn’t get the feeling that we were ever going to find this waterfall. It had already been nearly two hours and it was actually pretty cold out. There was no sun and the little bike takes a toll on your ass when your riding longer than an hour. With this in mind we headed back to town.

We ate a late lunch or early dinner then made our way to Crazy House. It was just that, a crazy house. It made for a pretty entertaining hour or so before we headed back to the hotel. The rest of the evening we sat in the sauna then the hot tub for nearly two hours. We drank a few beers and talked with others about their day. It was then that we learned that there was a really good tour company in town that took you to waterfalls where you could repel, or abseiling as they call it here, down cliffs and waterfalls. I was pretty bummed to hear this but I knew that we couldn’t stay another day as our time in Vietnam is coming to an end.

Tomorrow we get a bus to Mui Ne, a low key beach town. We are hoping it lives up to the hype as Nha Trang was fun but too commercialized.

***Dreams Hotel had the BEST spread of breakfast in Vietnam so far. It was a table full of fruit, bacon, ham, avocados, baguettes, your choice of eggs, coffee and juice HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to stay there.

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30th June 2010

Nothing in ...
You kids are much more brave than I would be ...peddling, peddling and never get to where you want!!!!!! Pete when you write these seems like you are sitting in our room and telling it!!!!
1st July 2010

Thanks for sharing your trip on the Net. I found your blog through a google search and it is extremely helpful in preparing our trip to Vietnam for August. Have a great time for the rest of your trip! Regards from Barcelona!

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