Waking at 5:30am to catch a tourist bus is the antithesis of cycletouring and our reasons for travelling by bike were amply demonstrated on this day.
The bus refused to take us in the morning stating that that bus was too small, despite having booked WITH BIKES the previous day. The afternoon bus crammed in our bikes causing various niggles over the following rides, and crammed in luggage and people such that to exit my 2' square slot I was required to swing from the overhead storage and stand on the backs of seats. The drive was miserable, poor ventilation, systematic shinning of my knees and the compartment containing the bikes popping open on the journey. Coupled with depressing views of defoliated hills (not Agent Orange this time!) and a bumpy ride. The ordeal was eased by a nice chat with the Canadians and that it saved us a 2000m climb.
We stayed somewhere cheap and at least honest (unlike our first attempt who changed the price as we arrived at the room door), and made our first visit to the delicious bakery. There were some very loud Vietnamese ladies in our hotel who hollered between room,
across the corridor as part of their normal conversation at 5.30am....groan! The next day we moved hotels to a lovely French-speaking hotel who were stars for looking after Tyler who feel ill with a fever. We stayed here a couple of nights and visited a few sights in Dalat; the old train station, the cable car ride and a cycle around the lakes. Dalat was pretty, relaxing and cool in comparison to the lowlands. It prides itself on it's produce; wines, honey, coffee, strawberries, flowers, artichokes, mulberry, silk and much more.
A lot of Vietnamese holiday here and are wrapped up in woolly jumpers and hats which we saw in abundance for sale in the markets. Dalat to Nha Trang
Kathryn was a bit daunted by the challenge of our first day cycling in the highlands. It began a very hot day through the pine forest, passing large polythene greenhouses, small lakes and a large cemetery. After 40km the terrain changed to deciduous forest and thankfully much cooler as we made our first big climb heading into the clouds. Places to eat or drink become very scarce but the view was much more beautiful with trees in
various stages of leaf drop and new growth.
The highlight was the 40kms of spectacular downhill on great tarmac (with the occasional deadly pothole and a few suicide buses). We enjoyed fantastic views in various directions as we wound across adjacent mountains. As the road flattened out we reached a very poor village stretched out along the roadside, the population looked tribal as their face shape is different to the normal Vietnamese we see. At the end of the village there are numerous large tourist eateries. We stopped at a small local looking place where the noodles were great and cheap. We cycled along a very beautiful and lush valley bottom. We guessed that Khanh Vinh (a town near the bottom of the descent) would have somewhere to stay. We carried on along a local route and eventually found a dodgy cheap guesthouse after dark around 6:30pm.
The next morning we cycled into Nha Trang. We found a great hotel for $10 with views of the mountains. Each hotel we went to claimed that the prices listed on their wall were no longer in force and quoted us something at least 50% more expensive (despite the dates on
the posters indicating they were for exactly the dates we were there). We found our hotel at the very end of a dead end road but it was all the better for it. We wandered the city a little, taking in a cathedral and photo gallery (via another great bakery!) then took a dip in the sea, off the beautiful beach with little hassle and no crowds. That evening we visited a nice but expensive brewery on the beach. It served beers in various styles; a Czech Pilsener, a German Wheatbeer, an Innes & Gunn copy, an English Ruby ale. George's sweet tooth was most pleased with the German Wheatbeer with Passion fruit cordial added in. We went to one of the many restaurants in Nha Trang it was really good. Overall we thought Nha Trang was an excellent tourist spot.
We're heading off North tomorrow and will be beach hopping up the coast for a couple of days. We hear it's cold in Hue already so we're going to enjoy the heat while it lasts.
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