Delectable (but damp) Dalat

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August 3rd 2013
Published: August 15th 2013
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From the coast at Nha Trang to the central highlands town of Dalat runs a new road - apparently! Quite what the old road was like we dread to think. With a demonic driver who knew the sinuous curves like the back of his hand we made it in three and a half hours. Those curves made it feel more like a roller coaster and by the time we got there, every child on board had been sick, and no doubt a few of the adults too. It would appear that we are made of sterner stuff!!

When we got to Dalat there was a fine drizzle in the air. After checking in to the Blue Moon hotel we set out for a quick walk around the lake. It is 7km to go all the way and by the time we finished even our umbrellas were ineffective against what had become a deluge. About 2km into our circuit we called in to the flower gardens which were absolutely stunning, even in the rain. They must be magnificent in the sunshine. Thoughts of the colourful splendour probably kept us going once we had taken on the appearance of two drowned rats. That evening the rains had taken their toll on the streets as we had to avoid pools of muddy water, or just mud, whilst wandering around looking for somewhere to eat. It would have been nice to stop and browse the night market but the elements ensured we got just a passing glance.

The next morning it was still grey but at least it was dry. We took a taxi to Dalat train station where we arrived just in the nick of time to ride out to Lien Phuoc Pagoda. They even held the departure for us as the office had to go through the full rigmarole of printing tickets. Don't you love bureaucracy! It was only about 30 minutes each way but it was a pleasant journey past the fields of fruit and vegetables, many of which are grown underneath enormous plastic greenhouses. They also cultivate flowers this way. At the other end of the line we had about 45 minutes to find and explore the pagoda. It was nowhere near enough but the trains are every few hours so we rushed around. It is an extraordinary complex with many statues decorated in tiles and broken bottles. As well as the usual array of stone or gold Buddhas there were two gigantic statues. One seemed to be made from dried flowers. More time would have been nice but before we knew it we were back in Dalat and trying to get wedding parties to move off the steam trains, sadly not in use, so we could take some photos.

Our next stop was an eccentric place aptly named Crazy House. A Vietnamese artist, whose father replaced Ho Chi Minh as president when he died, came back from Russia with a vision. Presumably this vision was LSD inspired! Gaudi's Park G├╝ell in Barcelona looks like any old design project after this. The female artist wanted to encourage people to get back to nature. This probably explains the Tiger Room and the Termite Room, amongst the many weird and wonderful rooms which are available for you to stay in. We imagine an overnight stay would provoke some odd, possibly disturbing, dreams. To top it off there are narrow walkways everywhere which take you down dark passages then up and over the roof unless vertigo gets the better of you first. Building work continues so we wonder what us coming next!

Close by we ducked out of the rain for some lunch before walking out of town and finding Bao Dai's summer palace. The last emperor of Vietnam had a nice house, a cool car but lousy taste in furniture! Outside there were objects of questionable taste too like the elephant with the huge hearts for romantic photos.

The weather didn't pick up at all so we didn't get to explore the lush mountains and valleys. Nor did we get to ride the cable car, or even a swan shaped pedalo for that matter. We did get the chance to explore the market in the hours before our bus and that was well worth it. A feast of colour (and smell) stretches over a handful of streets with almost every kind of vegetable imaginable on sale.

Then began our frightening journey back down to the coast, this time to Mui Ne. This made the journey up seem like a 6 lane motorway. The road, nay, track, has suffered badly with the weather and at times we were thankful we were driving through the clouds and visibility was almost zero. Still, we eventually got there but that's for the next blog.

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