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Published: July 12th 2010
The drive to Dalat was nauseatingly pleasant. We spent the better part of the afternoon winding our way up and around up and around up and around the highlands working our way into the city. Motion sickness aside the views were amazing, and the amount of lush forested areas made us reminiscent of home. We had a plan for Dalat; book a one day tour with a group called the easy riders, spend another day biking around ourselves, and then head to Nha Trang on our open ended bus ticket.
We pulled into the Sinh Cafe hotel (the company we booked our bus tickets with) and agreed that we would check out the ‘Peace cafe and hotel’ and walked out onto the street, only to be greeted by two of the easy riders! They took us to our chosen hotel where we checked in and discussed with the two drivers our plans for the next few days. After about two seconds of talking they managed to twist our rubber arms into doing a three day tour with them to Nha Trang, instead of taking the bus as we had planned. We agreed to do a
half day tour around Dalat city to take in some of the local sights before leaving the next day. The only foreseeable problem was that Scott had started having some poop problems and was suffering from traveler’s diarrhea. We were hoping it would be gone before we started our three day tour into the highlands.
Mr. Thao and Mr. Binh were our drivers for the half day tour. They were amazing men, both very helpful and kind. They took us to some amazing views of the city and told us about some of the city’s history and the effect that the war and outside influence has had (the French, Americans, and current ‘communist’ government). We also saw some local sights inside the city such as the Chinese temple, the old train station, which was once one of the more beautiful train stations in south east Asia, the crazy house (a novelty hotel run by a woman who looks strangely like Michael Jackson), and a monastery, which we accessed via a nice walk down a dirt trail past an amazing lake.
The next day saw us up early in the morning
preparing to depart on the first leg of our trip, into the central highlands. We had the wonderful Mr. Thao again as my driver, and Scott was introduced to Mr. Pham as Mr. Binh had a 6 day touring appointment with another woman to Hoi An. Scott still wasn’t 100% better but we had the full support of both drivers that they would help in any way possible. We left the city around 9am, stopping briefly at a local farm where cabbage, strawberries, and Chinese spinach were being grown. Dalat had one last surprise for us in the form of a hill with the most breathtaking view of the city. We think the hill was at one point used during the American war as a watch station, Scott noticed huge dugouts at the very top of the hill where he thinks they placed artillery. There were also many pleasant views from behind the bushes that Scott was able to enjoy.
We had many other stops along the way, both of our drivers making sure we had plenty of time to stretch our legs, visit the bushes and take in the local sights. We stopped at
a coffee plantation where Mr. Pham told us how coffee is harvested and roasted. Mr. Thao took us through a silk factory where we saw the process of collecting the silk from the cocoon of the silk worm all the way to the weaving of silk cloth on the old looms. We had a bit of a hike down to the popular elephant waterfall, where the white elephant used to come to drink and bath before people started inhabiting the area.
For lunch we stopped at a little shop that could have been any other house, where the women out front where making traditional Vietnamese pancakes, or Bánh Xèo. It’s a small savoury pancake about the size of your hand, folded in half like a taco and served with fish sauce with chillies for dipping. The pancakes usually have different meats (pork, chicken, shrimps, dog... just kidding about the dog) and some herbs mixed in. They were very very tasty!!
After lunch we had the longest leg of our journey for the day, with only a few stops for sightseeing, Scott to... relieve himself and to visit a local hill tribe
village. The people living there were originally from Indonesia but had migrated up to the central highlands of Vietnam (I didn’t catch the reason for the migration). And we were able to meet some of the shy younger inhabitants of the village who were amused with the pictures of themselves on Scott’s camera. We arrived at the Lak Lake resort around nightfall, had a simple supper and passed out early.
The next day we had an early start, and left around 8:30am. We drove for only about half an hour before stopping at another local hill tribe village. I’m not sure if these people were ethnically Vietnamese or from somewhere else. They had a small side industry of selling hand—made souvenirs and offering elephant rides around and threw the lake to tourists. We toured around one of the traditional long houses that the locals lived in. Apparently they used to have smaller houses, more what you would see in the countryside in Cambodia, but as the size of a family grew, they would just make the house longer and longer, until they had the modern day ‘long house’ which we saw. They were traditionally made
of bamboo, but we saw a few made of more ‘modern’ materials, such as concrete for the walls and floor, and tin for the roof.
After leaving the hill tribe village we drove threw some country side that reminded us both very strongly of home, specifically the drive from Abbotsford into Chilliwack. There were flat countryside farms on either side of the road that went to the barriers of the mountains. On a chance stop at one of the many rice fields that lined the road we found some locals harvesting rice in one of the paddies, and Mr.Thao told me that they were very friendly, and wouldn’t mind if I went into the rice paddy and took some pictures. This quickly turned into them tricking me into doing their work for them, and before you know it I had a conical hat on with a rice harvesting knife, trying my hand at collecting the tiny grains. Scott also had another experience in a local rice field toilet!
After a few more rest stops along a really long dam used for collecting water for use during the dry season we
started to see some signs of a larger town as we stopped at a house where the owner raised pythons, had a collection of ducks (I’m trying hard to convince myself as pets) and grew mushrooms in his back shed (dinner mushrooms not happy mushrooms). A quick stop for a lunch of Pho Bo (beef soup, another Vietnamese favourite) we drove down the busy and dusty streets of Dak Lak before pulling up to our guesthouse for the night. After dropping off our baggage we hoped back on the bikes and headed for some amazing waterfalls. Down a very long peaceful and lush green trail we pulled up to an amazing sight of rushing water and turquoise blue pools of water. We went for a bit of a swim in one of the many pools before turning in to escape the rain. That night we had dinner with Mr. Pham who told us about his view of the American and Civil war in Vietnam; it was interesting to see the difference between our drivers. My driver, Mr. Thao, was born during the 1950’s and was around for all the different influences of war and was directly affected in many ways
by what happened, whereas Scott’s driver was born in the mid-1970’s and was very young when the civil war finally ended. Both had very different perspectives of the war and the after effects.
Our last day was the longest leg of the trip, covering over 200km from the central highlands to Nha Trang. We started off the day with a Vietnamese breakfast of Pho Bo at a local restaurant before heading for the outskirts of town. We stopped briefly at a rubber tree plantation (how many of you knew that rubber starts as a liquid excreted by a tree by scrapping the bark off?), and watched the liquid rubber being collected by local workers before carrying onto a CHOCOLATE TREE plantation, better known as the Coco tree, there were two different types of seeds that we saw, red and green ones. I think Mr. Pham said they were for different types of chocolate, but I was a bit distracted with the thought of a chocolate tree while Scott was busy trying to make his own Chocolate tree and we both missed a lot of what he said.
On the way
A view of Lak lake, Central Highlands
out of town we took a short break at a house where the woman made rice paper wraps (both the sticky and the crunchy wraps) and had a quick snack of some of the fresh made wraps, one last stop in town at a house where they made furniture out of massive old tree stumps and we were headed for the hills once again. We drove through an area that was once occupied by the American military during the war. The area had been decimated of all plant life by a chemical similar to Agent Orange (or so I’m told) so that the Viet-Cong couldn’t make sneak attacks on the American base. Since then the government has planted trees and you can see quite a few new growth forests popping up around the area, but the destruction to the area is still quite visible.
After lunch and a show from some drunken Vietnamese truck drivers we went on a tour of a brick factory. It was a very simple process; they collected mud from the surrounding fields, (I think they may now get it imported as they’ve used up all the natural surrounding resources) and
dump it into this machine that pushes out one long brick that is then cut by hand and placed onto pallets where the wet brick dry and are glazed before being put into a kiln for three days. The fresh bricks come out toasty warm, fiery red, and set to dry in the sun before being packaged for sale.
While driving through the country on our last day, it seemed as if everything we passed had some use, whether it be the rubber trees we passed earlier in the day, to the paper trees, to the passion fruit plantation, to the mud in the ground they used to make bricks. I got the impression that the Vietnamese were not a wasteful people, and found a use for every last thing that was collectible.
After a very long last stretch we reached to coast and drove through a colourful fishing village before entering the city of Nha Trang. What a shock that was. From being in the countryside where everything moved two paces slower to popping out on the other side in a bustling tourist town where everything is two paces
Kristy, Central Highlands
The hills behind Kristy are bare, visable after effects from the American war, when they used Agent Orange to clear hills and forests to reveal the Ho Chi Minh trails.
above. It felt like pure madness and I don’t think either of us got used to the insanity of the area.
The trip was thoroughly enjoyable, I’m sure we would have both gotten a lot more out of it if Scott hadn’t been off discovering nature and dealing with is issues. I think by the end of the three days over 100 hundred Vietnamese country people knew of his problem and had offered him everything from leaves to un-known un-marked pills to no name Pepto-Bismol. We finally settled on some good old Azithromycin.
We wound up spending three full days in the city, one day longer then we wanted to as the bus was full the night we wanted to leave. The city was busy from 5am to 11pm, and packed with tourists from all over the world (Vietnamese, Russian, Canadian, English, N ha Trans has seen them all!), our first actual night in the city there was a massive power outage, which happens every second day, and was explained to us in three different ways; 1) There isn’t enough water to power the dams to give power to the
city so they cut it every second day. 2) The government officials are cutting the power every second day so they can sell some to neighbouring countries. 3) The new massive beachfront hotels were using so much power that they had to cut it every second day so there was still some to use for everyone else. We took our three days in the city as a relaxation time, watched Slovakia get beat down by the Netherlands in the world cup, wandered around town a bit, went to bed early and woke up late.
Leaving Nha Trang we feel well rested and ready to take on the rest of this amazing country and are starting to plan our trip into China with nervousness and excitement!! Next stop (after an 11 hour bus ride) Hoi An!!
Total Distance covered from Dalat to Nha Trang -> approx. 435km (150km Day One, 65km Day Two, 210km Day Three)
Tot: 1.595s; Tpl: 0.029s; cc: 16; qc: 32; dbt: 0.0162s; 1; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.5mb