Saturday, 18 April 2009

Dalat


We had one of two options for our 4th stop on our open bus ticket either Muine another beach resort a few hours from Nhatrang or Dalat a cooler city high up in the mountains of central Vietnam. As we had done the beaches in Thailand and were just leaving a beach resort here and in the middle of planning going back to Thailand to do the beaches again we thought it was a good idea to skip the beach resort and head to Dalat. Not that I can compare the place to Muine as we never went but I am pleased we decided to take a break from the heat and head to higher ground as it was real nice up in Dalat and looked surprisingly like the French alps, something I really wasn't expecting to find in Vietnam.

We arrived around late afternoon and for the first time ever had a right mission finding accommodation due to the places just generally being more than I was willing to pay for. Eventually found somewhere and then headed off around town. Dalat is possibly the worst place I have ever been to walk around; the roads make absolutely no sense just weaving all over the place. It’s as if when they made the place they just forgot about city planning and just put roads and buildings where ever they wanted totally disregarding how it would fit in with its surroundings.

The first thing we did was visit the Dalat "Crazy House". This was a building just out of the center of Dalat designed by a Vietnamese women who went to Russia to study architecture then came back to Vietnam to put all her time and money into building the Crazy House. I was really up for seeing the place as it was described as Guadi meets "Alice in Wonderland". Now I have no real interest in Alice In Wonderland" but I do like Gaudi a lot. After my visit to Barcelona a few years ago I loved his work and how striking it was compared to the rest of the architecture in Barcelona so was looking forward to seeing what the Crazy House would be like. I get there and the place really is off its head. It does look a little bit Gaudi, but only if you squint, unfortunately it is mainly Alice and Wonderland. It was tacky as hell and upon meeting the architect it became very apparent that defiantly as a child and maybe even now she probably thought she was a pixie or an elf and really did seem like quite a bit of a dreamer, which completely explained why the house was like it was. With massive spiders webs and animals dotted all over the place and a rabbit warren style layout. The place was cool but at the same time very tacky and in some places looked like the sort of carbon fiber scenery you would expect to find at a theme park, a bit of a let down really.

On our first full day in Dalat we decided to book a tour around the down and surrounding countryside. The tours are so cheap here they are really worth doing and obviously you get to see so much more of the places as well. First stop was some Buddhist temple, was boring as I have seen so many temples now you get to the point where you feel like you've seen one, you've seen them all. The only saving grace for this one was its location. More often than not they just seem to be plunked in the middle of no where or even in the middle of a city. This one however was placed right on the edge of a mountain with a beautiful view over a huge lake and several other mountains, which was nice but still was just a another temple (yaawwwn).


After this our guide drove us to our next destination which was to go on an Elephant trek along the a lake in the Dalat national park. I don't know what you think as the reader but sometimes I feel I tend to moan a lot of here about how things weren't actually that good, maybe I just have unnecessarily high expectations of things but my god, this is possibly in the top 3 worst things I have done while I have been traveling, absolute waste of time. It was more an Elephant ride than a trek, taking us a long the same path we came down to get to the Elephant (pointless), walking us all the way to the car park and back again. Not only was the route pathetically pointless but uncomfortable a hell on metal seats and the guide/driver of the Elephant didn't say one word to us. Instead would just kick the Elephant in the specific side of the head he wanted the Elephant to turn as well, which generally wasn't very nice to watch and made me feel a little bit uncomfortable as well. Thankfully the trek only lasted an hour so it was not long until we were off to our next destination.

After that we visited a lovely little waterfall which was just a photo opportunity really. It wasn't very big but at this point was yet to tick the "visit a waterfall box" so was nice to do something we hadn't already done. One of the more surprising features of the waterfall was the toboggan run you had to take to get down to the bottom. I hadn't been on one of these since I was about 15 so was great fun shooting down the metal track at about 25mph on my way to the bottom where the waterfall was. When I got to the bottom there was also a bit of archery to try as well. I had a few goes but was awful, I had always had it in my head that I was quite good at archery after my time spent in holiday camps down in Cornwall but after this demonstration of my complete lack of accuracy I realized I was not.

After lunch on the first day we had a Vietnamese coffee with our guide and driver which was well nice and then headed around the city to a few more places. We visited lovers’ hill or something like that which was just this incredibly tacky mountain view point with lots of "couply" things like hearts and swings and things.

We then headed to the Silk weaving shop/factory. Was amazing, the skill and the detail in some of the picture here was unbelievable and blew me away. They were also very expensive and understandably so as the amount of work that went into some of the pictures must have been months and months. However while I could spend my time talking about how good the pictures are and the workmanship that went into them I am instead going to talk about the best unintentional sexual innuendo that I have ever heard. Basically all the works of art at the silk weaving shop are made by women, by hand. So our guide takes us up to one of the pictures where the women who made it is standing near by and turns to me and Tommy and says "The women here do good hand jobs". I almost burst; generally being quite immature I just thought this was the funniest and most completely innocent sexual innuendo I have ever heard. However I also thought this was a great opportunity to get a few more cheap laughs out of a situation and asked him "Who gives the best hand job here" to which he said "They all do" and "Have you ever brought a good hand job here". Ohhh how it cheered up my day after the shocking Elephant trek ride. I guess the ironic thing is he could have actually meant it as there seems to be a seedy sexual edge to everywhere we have been in Vietnam which does taint things slightly when you accidentally stumble across it. Either way it's still making me smile.

Day 2 in Dalat and tour number 2. This time we did one of the "Easy Rider" tours that we did in Hue and once again really enjoyed it. Legend has it that this Easy Rider motorbike tours started in Dalat but you can never be sure of things. I thought this tour was a lot more worth while, as well as. Rather than going to just the tourist attractions we also were taken to places that had some real importance to Dalat such as local business and farms where the people of Dalat worked and also supplied the city with various products. Obviously we were taken to a temple (yawn) but also saw a bit more of the surrounding villages around Dalat and the particular business that was keeping the village going. We went to a rice wine making village, coffee plantation, textile village and a silk worm and silk making factory which was very good. Only real low light of the day was a visit to a cricket farm. A farm that breed crickets. The shit things being they only live 3 months before they die and are shipped off to be eaten. So all the crickets looked like ants as they were so small. I also have absolutely no interest in insects whatsoever, so was a waste of time. It was just quality riding around the Vietnam countryside on the back of a motorbike as we covered a huge amount of ground that day and was just a cool thought to think we were doing Vietnam on motorbikes.

Day 2 was also my first experience of standing under a waterfall. The waterfall was massive, a lot bigger than the one we had seen the previous day. Standing under a waterfall as all the water comes crashing down on you was quality, I couldn't breath as there was so much water in the air and the water proper pummeled my back and shoulders to the point it actually quite hurt. If only there were waterfalls at the end of every street in South East Asia as it is a brilliant way to cool down as I went from sweating my arse off to freezing my tits off in a millisecond.

I did have officially the worst meal I will ever have in my life in Dalat as I am pretty sure it is almost impossible to get worse than this. Basically on the tour stopped for lunch in some remote hillside restaurant which didn't even have an English menu (can you believe it). So our guide interpreted for us. There wasn't an extensive range of foods but one thing they did offer was "Whole chicken cooked in a ginger sauce", well nice both Tommy and I thought so decided to go halves. Now in the UK when you order a whole chicken you assume you are going to get a nice whole chicken like the sort you get on the Sainsbury's deli counter. But in Vietnam what you get is the whole bloody Chicken. It arrived in front off me and all I could see were bones, various chicken organs and the 2 worst items, the head and its feet. No idea where the meat was, it was just the whole of the chicken minus any meat. I could not help but laugh at Tommy as he actually had to concentrate so hard not to throw up. It was awful and our guides were so upset that we were not enjoying it and could not understand why, stupid westerners they probably thought.


Despite cricket farms, Elephant rides and chicken entrails, I had a great time in Dalat and was very sad to wave goodbye to it. It was nice having a break from the hot and humid weather in the nice cool climate of Dalat and was great seeing the amount we did on the 2 day tours. Now onwards to our final destination in Vietnam (I can't believe that nearly another country ticked off) Ho Chi Min City, the economic capital of Vietnam, can't wait.





















18/04/09

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