Sunday, September 6, 2015

Dalat, Vietnam, Part 1: The First 12 Hours (Easy Rider Tour!)

One 16-hour bus ride later (really not too bad if you sleep 11 of the hours), I arrived in Dalat!  I only had a 24-hour period in the city because I eventually had to make it down to Ho Chi Minh City, and I chose Dalat as the midway point to stop, because I'd heard it was fun for canyoning - also given it's 16 hours from Hoi An to Dalat, and 8 hours from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City.

Dalat: farms everywhere!

What It's All About:
Da Lat is a city in the South-Central Highlands of Vietnam (I'm now officially in the "South"!) - it's pretty high in elevation so the weather is really cool; a.k.a. I don't feel like I need a shower every 5 seconds, which is a miracle.  It's known for being a great place to hang for a bit; and popular activities include canyoning (what is canyoning exactly??) and motorbike rides through the countryside.  Obviously, I wanted to do both.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Rolled into town around noon - checked into my hostel, which was recommended to me by Varun (my roomie in Hoi An), and is the best hostel in the entire world. More on this later.  My first order of business was organizing a tour through Easy Rider - Easy Rider is a popular way to tour Da Lat by motorbike; it's a private tour where you ride on the back of a motorbike and a guide takes you through the sites of the city. The company was started after the war when some Vietnamese people wanted to visit the rest of their country to places that were previously inaccessible pre-reunification. They started offering rides on their motorbikes through the countryside as a way to earn additional money, and now it's a great way to explore.
  • My guide picked me up 10 minutes after I'd arrived. We proceeded to spend the day hitting up all the sites they shuttle all tourists to:
I think this is the dragon temple? 
Baby Buddha; who was apparently created by divine conception as well! #twinsies

Riding on the back of a motorbike

Dalat is pretty because there are veggie gardens everywhereeee
I got a really old guide so he dropped me off at the bottom of a hill, instructed me to climb up it for a view of Dalat, and told me he'd meet me on the other side at the bottom
Then it started to monsoon as we were riding. I invented a fun game to play called "river or road?" (this is a road)
Then we got to a coffee farm. I am modeling a giant rain-repelling polka-dot muumuu my guide so graciously provided me
Coffee plants everywhere. The story is back when the French were occupying Vietnam, they'd grow coffee plants but forbade Vietnamese people from having any land or coffee beans themselves. However, weasels would go through and eat the beans and then pass them through - so the Vietnamese would gather the excrement, fish out the beans, and grow their own coffee. It was a loophole since they weren't buying or stealing the coffee beans outright.  And obviously, the story goes that when the French tried the Vietnamese coffee, they thought it was the tastiest (because of juices in the weasels' stomachs or something). So now they grow and still sell "weasel coffee", which is basically grown from coffee beans that have passed through a weasel.
Weasels! Tons of them at the coffee farm
Weasel coffee comes in many different flavors
Of course I tried a cup because when in Rome... but it tasted no different to me. World's worst coffee connoisseur; present. 
Next up, the silk factory! Fact: silkworms are super super creepy - they're like squishy-feeling and they move so creepily
But I still felt a little sorry for them when I found out they're boiled alive to maintain the integrity of the silk cocoons they spin (because normally they'd bite through to get out)
Next up, Elephant Waterfalls!  Because the rock in front is shaped like an elephant
Another example of when my guide dropped me off, told me to hike til I got to the falls, then turned back to snooze on his motorbike until I returned
Then a rice wine village. This is the rice fermenting. These pictures are thrilling, I know.
My guide: "this is where the Americans sprayed Agent Orange, the poisonous gas, to weed out all the Vietnamese" 
Cows in the road
My guide: "And then this is where all the Americans napalm-bombed us after they ran out of money to use Agent Orange"
And then we went to a rock quarry, where we watched workers break all the rocks by hand
And then to a place called Flower Village, because after the Dutch came when Vietnam was opened to tourism, the Vietnamese people learned how to grow all these flowers. There's an entire village that has dozens of flower farms, which they all export
Is this a daisy? Also world's worst flower expert; present.
Rose piles for export
Then a pagoda my guide nicknamed "The Crazy Catholic Pagoda", where a monk had raised money to build a temple - after he raised the money, he converted to Catholicism.....which believe it or not, kind of pissed off his donators. But it's this crazy building that's super Asian and pagoda-y - and then at the top of the gate, IS THAT BABY J??
Another part of the pagoda....and at the top, a Catholic cross

I only took this photo of a rando house because houses in Dalat are all super weird and French-looking 
Last stop (I promise I will put you out of your misery now), is a building some famous guy's daughter built after she went and studied Dali's buildings in Spain. So it's very Dali-esque. You can also stay here because it's a hotel.
  • The day was exhausting, especially after coming off a 16-hour bus.  So for the first time ever, I was responsible and went to bed early!  

I feel like I have to add a side note because while the day was fun, this post is likely horrendously boring - I was even horrendously bored having to write it.  Apologies. But tomorrow is canyoning, which is likely much more exciting because it involves tempting death and life-threatening, adrenaline-pumping situations. Stay tuned.


    1. Awesome post! I don't quite understand why the granite quarry was on the tour. Was it fun to watch the people smash rocks?

      1. I think the point was the rocks were huge and they were doing it by hand rather than machine (though why they weren't doing it by machine, I didn't ask)? Maybe he'd run out of interesting places to take me....?