Da Lat Is A Delight

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November 24th 2015
Published: November 24th 2015
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Day 1: We arrived in Da Lat just as the sun was setting. Our directions from the lady who handed us the maps was “walk down this street until you see Hotel Camdo. Turn right and ask people for directions.” We had various people point us in the right way and a really nice guy walk us to our hostel. We got settled, went down for family dinner, and absolutely scarfed all the food in front of us.

The family on Friday night was small. Two girls from Montreal, a guy from South Africa, the English girls, and me. After dinner we all went out to a “crazy cafe.” It's kind of like a hobbit hole but with tunnels and stairs and it's dark and nuts. People go all the time to play hide and seek. We had a few drinks and then decided to go out for karaoke. However, by the time we left it was 12:30 am, so all the karaoke bars were closed. We stopped by the side of the road for some more beers and asked the lady where we could do karaoke. She wrote down an address and called us a cab. The cab dropped us at this place, and then had to show us how to get to the bar, which was down a hallway under a hotel. Not sketchy. We booked a room for an hour, went in, and started singing. About 15 minutes in, a group of about 15 people, mostly Irish, burst into our room with a crate of beers and joined the party. It was one of the crazier karaoke nights I've had in my life.

We got home at 3:00 after getting lost.

Day 2: The next morning we woke up at 9:30 for breakfast, which was omelets and bread and sweet chili sauce, which they have here, which I could eat forever. After our late night and no sleep for a few days, this was a more relaxed day. Laura, Nikolina, Jason (South African guy) and I started at the crazy house. I still don't really understand it. The architect is the daughter of a former president who wanted to be closer to nature??????? Or something??? There were a lot of Russians there. The house just wound around and there were terrifying skywalks and weird staircases, and it's definitely something to be experienced.

After the Crazy House we went to see the Summer Palace. Sounds cool, right? “Oh, we're in Vietnam. Let's go see the summer palace because it'll be all pagoda-like and ornate and really awesome.” No. Most disappointing palace ever. It looks like a communist hospital. It is yellow and concrete. We walked around the inside (we had paid a whole 15,000 dong ($.50) to get in, after all), and it was just as depressing. The rooms were sparsely furnished and were dirty and weird. And more ugly yellow. The whole thing was strange. Outside there was a gremlin and pig and elephants you could take pictures with. I don't know. They had us exit through the saddest market ever because no one was there, and all the lights were off, and the clothes were really ugly.

Jason went off to get greasy fast food while the English girls and I sat down for lunch...somewhere. I had fried noodles, pork, and veggies. Da Lat is known for their fresh vegetables, and boy were they good.

Then we went back to the hostel and took naps.

When we woke up, there were a million people in the hostel. We had a huge family dinner where we sat on the floor and made our own spring rolls. After dinner a bunch of girls from England, Canada, and the States went out to Crazy Cafe for a drink. We ran into the Irish people again, who invited us to karaoke! I was exhausted, so I went home, but the rest went out and said the night was just as overwhelming as the one before.

Day 3: CANYONING. All of the girls I went out with last night plus Jason decided to go canyoning today. More specifically, abseiling, which is a fancy German way to say rappelling. After breakfast we were greeted by our very enthusiastic tour guides, Tiger, Banana, and Ken, who took us to the trail. We harnessed, helmeted, and life-jacketed up, and then hiked down to practice abseiling on a slope. We walked, we jumped, we nailed it. Then it was time to go to some water. Our first activity was water sliding. After a 20 minute hike, we lay down in a small waterfall (hiking boots and all) and slid down the rock into a pool. So fun. Then we went two by two and had to lay on top of each other. Also fun, but weirder.

The second activity was abseiling. We rappelled down a 16 meter cliff into some water. I slipped a bit but was fine. After that we did the biggest waterfall, which was...more meters than the first. There were a few parts, so the guy gave us instructions and then we just went. We stood on top of the waterfall and then walked down the rock face. At some point, Tiger would yell “STOP! PHOOOOOOO TOOOOOOOO.” With that much enthusiasm every time. You had to look at the bottom, where Ken would take your picture. Then you had to duck your head while he directed you down. With a waterfall in your face. At some point he would yell “STOP!” at which time we would have to launch ourselves backwards off the rock face, let go of the rope, and fall 4 meters into the water.

The third activity was cliff jumping from 7 meters (with a life jacket). I, of course, went first. And then went again. Then it was time for lunch. Make-your-own bahn mi. I ate 1 ½ and a bunch of lychees and dragonfruit, and everything was so tasty. Then we had two options. Scramble down the steep, narrow rock trail, or jump off the cliff. I was the only one to go for the latter. My foot slipped a bit, and I belly-flopped. Thank goodness for lifejackets. We then went to the last waterfall, dubbed “The Washing Machine.” With this one, we had to rappel down a steep rock face and then hang and let ourselves down through a waterfall. If you go too slowly, the force of the water spins you around. Then once you hit the water below, you let go and lay on your back and let the river take you. But you're under for about 4 seconds, and it's terrifying. I'm alive. Lots of adrenaline.

Once we all finished the washing machine, we hiked 300 meters up the steepest trail ever. Once we got to the top, we gave them our gear, piled soaking wet into the van, and took hot showers when we got back. The whole thing was so cool.

After my shower, I met a French guy named Sylvan in my hostel who had rented a motorbike for the day for 100,000 dong ($5). We drove around the city and stumbled on this giant gold Buddha statue with a temple. Walked around there for a while, drove around the city, came back.

No one signed up for family dinner, so we all went out as a family anyway to the night market. I ate some things on sticks. Meat? Eggs? We got some sort of egg and veggies on rice cake burrito. Best way I have to describe it. Then we went to get pho. Sylvan ordered chicken pho, and they said, “Sit! Sit!” The table they were pointing to could hold 4 people at most, so I held up my fingers and said, “Six!” They put 6 chairs around the table and then started basically throwing bowls of pho at us. They thought we had ordered 6 bowls, so when I said no, only 2, the lady got really mad at me and started pointing at me and yelling and holding up 6 fingers (roughly translated to, 'you said six!'). It was a whole commotion. Eventually everyone else got other soup, and they let us stay. Woops.

After dinner we went out to a few bars and hung out and had beers. Ran into the Irish people AGAIN. They're everywhere. Went to bed excited for tomorrow's activities.

Day 4: I've basically been here forever at this point. I got up wicked early, and Jason and I were taken on scooters to the excursion company. We were outfitted with mountain bikes, gloves, and helmets. Our guides for the day were Lucky and Ba. We were the only two who had signed up for mountain biking. Apparently, while canyoning is extremely popular and there are tours every day, people only sign up for mountain biking 4 or 5 times per month. I've done a lot of road biking in my life, never any mountain biking. This tour kicked my BUTT. We biked on the road for 5 km before turning off onto a dirt road. Wicked fun. Basically got to ride wicked fast on a dirt road without worrying about my tires popping. Then we went more off-road to trails with dirt, packed clay, and roots. Also so fun. And beautiful. The forest we were in was full of pine trees and knee-high grass. It was clean, the air was clear, there were blue skies, and we were the only people around. Then we got to baby hill. We made it up without stopping, but definitely had to stop at the top for a break. Then came lady hill. Also made it up, but had to stop a few times. Here's a thing about mountain biking—when you're in a really low gear going uphill and you stop and try to start cycling again, you do wheelies a lot. It got interesting. Then we had the superlady hill. Not fun. Jason kept biking really fast past me going “Deep burn!” before stopping about 5 meters ahead. After the superlady hill we had to go downhill really steep. I had to walk my bike down a lot of it. Mountain biking is so crazy technical. Then came superman hill. I don't wanna talk about it. Eventually we made our way to another trail where we had to walk our bikes up for a bit. Then there was a huge chunk of trail washed out by a landslide, so we had to carry our bikes over it while trying not to slip on pine needles. When we got to the top of the mountain we had a beautiful view of the highest mountain in Da Lat and ate food and lay down for an hour. We got back on the bikes with bruised butts from the ride up and made our way back down. Lucky (our guide) slipped off the track, and screwed up his bike. Then Jason got a flat. Going home took longer than expected.

We ended up in the Valley of Love, which is a weirdly perfect place for Asian couples to go and take pictures with things. Here are some of the things:

Roses everywhere

Gazebos in the pond surrounded by roses

Elephant-shaped hedges

A lot of statues of deer, zebras, elephants, rhinos, jaguars, lions prancing

Giant metal butterflies

Flower fields in shapes

A fountain that looks like a faucet (see picture)

We finally got home at 3, took showers, and I instantly passed out. When I woke up at 5, I was already sore. I got a bahn mi to tide me over and then had family dinner at 7. After dinner I led the hostel back to 100 Roofs (the crazy cafe). We ran into a bunch of people that people knew from earlier in Vietnam and had a really fun night. I got back around 1 and went to bed.

On to Nha Trang tomorrow to lay on a beach for 2 days!

Additional photos below
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27th November 2015
Washing Machine

The Highlands
This looks wild

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