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So, we set off early from Hoi An to fly to Dalat from the spanky new Da Nang Airport. It was a fun waiting time as the electricity in said spanky new airport kept going out. Oh well – another cheap and super efficient flight from Vietnam Airlines. We then got a cheap bus from the airport into the city (just to show we’re still backpacking and despite electing for flights sometimes, are generally still good budget kids).
Dalat is up in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. A totally different location and climate than we have been used to for so long. Meaning it was cold. We knew this and I had frankly been looking forward to it. Just to feel cool for a while seemed nice after being in the heat for so long. However, upon arriving we couldn’t check in for ages and as we walked about to find somewhere to have a hot drink, the wind kicked in and that cold didn’t feel so great. Mark had his usual – new location moan but by the late afternoon we’d sussed out that our hotel was in good location and the room was great and we’d eaten an amazing ‘mystery’ meal of rice and pork at the place next door and had dug out some warmer clothes (but not much warmer – we were gonna have to go with layers!
This is a place that not many foreigners go to – it’s a holiday destination but mainly for the Vietnamese and funnily enough for Honeymooners. The big lake near us had swan pedalos and there were a few kitschy things about town which had drawn me to it.
There’s a busy market in the centre of town and one of the things I loved about the area, which sounds strange, but they had the most amazing vegetables. The Pho there was stunning because the produce was just so good. Everything with vegetables in was just so amazing. They were also big on milk which is unusual for South East Asia but I never really got into what that was about – I had milk in my tea but it was like the fullest cream milk ever – too creamy and too sweet. Too strong for limp, weak Lipton teabags.
The first place we visited on day 2 was the Crazy House which was in walking distance and I’d been dying to see. I’d stumbled across an image on Pinterest about 6 months ago of this crazy, twisted tree looking building and on further investigation discovered this was in Vietnam. This was part of the reason for putting Dalat on the itinerary. And I wasn’t disappointed. In fact – the place was more crazy/bigger than I had expected and they’re still adding to it. It is the brain child of a lady architect who’s father was apparently very high up in government so she managed to get around the usual strict building regulations and create this twisty, curvy, kitschy building extravaganza.
There’s round rooms with build in beds and funky little bathrooms. Chambers with glittery, drippy looking walls.
There was an incredibly high, narrow bridge over steps over one point which Mark tentatively climbed. I stayed at the bottom and took his photo – I’m not afraid of heights but this was v narrow and v high!
I loved the cute enchanted garden with sunken lounge, ponds and hidey holes. I started to daydream about building my own crazy house one day.
Valley of Love
This was a kind of theme park or gardens on the edges of town. It is set in a stunning valley and just has funny plastic sculptures sprinkled around the place. Big with the honeymooners obviously.
Our first impression was interesting to say the least as we had been there for about 5 minutes when we noticed a scuffle or should I say a full on fight going on. Some bloke was fly kicking someone and it was all a bit crazy – we weren’t sure what was going on. The guy doing the kicking – which looked full on martial arts was literally landing on this skinny kid and we assumed he was the aggressor but then someone told us that that guy worked there!! and in fact the young bloke (there was also another one about somewhere) was a ‘gangster’ and had been punching people indiscriminately. We wandered off a bit further away but then saw a policemen come in with another lanky ‘yoof’ (with black eye) hand cuffed to him and picks the other kid off the floor (he’d pretty much decided to play dead at this point – wisely i would say). The policeman picks the other one up and cuffs him and drags them both off. We made a mental note to not mess with anyone in Vietnam!
So, that over and done with we wandered over to look at the child’s caterpillar roller coaster and at all the silly statues scattered around. It was great just to watch all the couples taking pictures of each other in front of EVERYTHING! It was such a funny little place.
As is the way on most of our excursions, it poured down after a while so we had to dig out the ever attractive ponchos. We went down the bottom of the valley and ended up traipsing past a huge group of teenagers, on a school trip presumably. Wow, now did they ever stare!! And laugh!! And it was pretty much at me – Mark was in the back being amused by the whole situation. At one point a couple of them even asked to have their picture taken with us. By this point I was getting really paranoid.
I think this was possibly the holiday makers, but although I said it was cold, it was only because we didn’t have coats or any normal attire. But, loads of people were kitted out with thick, knitted, woolly hats. I mean it was cold, as in an April day in England (or an August day for that matter). Just chilly but not thermals time by ANY means!
People seem to eat yoghurt as a snack. A lot. Like they’ll go into a cafe and have a coffee and a yoghurt.
On on of our first nights we found a bar that was up the hill and overlooked the road below and over to the market beyond. This turned out to be a great decision as it was Sunday and in the evening they shut the road off to traffic. Then we had people racing remote control cars – really fast remote control cars – Mark, typical boy, was in raptures. We also had teens coming down the (very steep) hill on blades and skateboards at a great speed holding on to each other in a train stylee. We also had people shooting down, fast, on the tandem bicycles that you can rent in the city (ideal for honeymooners of course). Cute kids in woolly hats (see above) watching all the goings on and maybe going down on their own little trikes. Was just a really lovely, relaxed scene. Kind of reminds me of Italy when the kids are out late in the evenings and everyone’s just having a nice safe time. I don’t think it would occur to anyone there to be paranoid about hovering over their child in the way we kind of have to (or maybe we don’t – but better safe than sorry) in the West – was just nice.
A sweet exchange
One night we met a guy who was with a group of his family and was trying to keep his little toddler boy happy. The little boy was quite taken with Mark and although neither of us could converse a single word, this man was delighted at the idea of us and his little boy. He kind of gave him to Mark to hold at one point which Mark did looking slightly uncomfortable but the little boy just giggled at him. Put him near me and he just looked rather concerned/freaked out.
Anyway, this went on for a good hour or 2 while we had drinks but was just a really sweet, genuine encounter and it makes me realise why people get so much from getting off the beaten track sometimes.
My suspicions from the first 2 weeks of Vietnam were confirmed here – there are no McDonald’s in Vietnam *does a little happy dance* Burger King has snuck in at airports and Starbucks will weasel its way in soon apparently. KFC is in but haven’t seen one yet. It’s weird going to cities without these places. Very jolly nice. Think they should b restricted to airports (we do have an odd Burger King at the airport. It’s a habit we’ve developed).
There was a lot of interesting looks to buildings in the city. It very much had the feel of somewhere European – Swiss or French alps for instance.
Then there were houses painted in quirky colours – I guess fitting in with the kitsch, honeymoony feel.
I found a house which is absolutely my style – from an era I adore.
Being the centre of attention
So it started slowly and at first I really thought I was imagining things but by the end I was properly paranoid because I kept getting stared at!! Totally gawped at. Not just an interested glance – someone on a bike looking at me, so cycles into a lampost type staring. And the younger one’s would say hi as they wanted interaction with this strange girl. I mean it wasn’t everyone but it happened enough that I kept questioning what on earth it could be and once Mark clocked on, he of course found it hilarious. I wondered if it was my size – but then there’s a fair few Vietnam big girls about. I wondered if it was simply being foreign but I then began to study other western tourists I spotted and it didn’t seem to be happened to them. So maybe my penchant for bright coloured eyeshadow and my leopard print cardigan? At one point I thought I saw someone point at their head while blatantly talking about me so I am going to satisfy myself that it’s my curly hair – and think no more about it!! Because I really hate being the centre of attention and I now realised what it must be like if you go really, really off the beaten track, into remote villages etc and there’s no way you could prevent being the focus of everyone’s attention. It occurred to me that I don’t think I’d like that very much. Anyway, that was me – famous for a week!
Sharing our shower
We weren’t in a hotel with shared bathrooms, we had our own lovely room with our own lovely bathroom. But one night we came home after dinner and drinks to find someone was in our room – the hotels keyring was in the door. A young lad came out and kind of pointed at his shower gel and kind of said sorry and headed off. We were dumbfounded to be honest. We didn’t know what to do really other than just laugh. It made us feel a bit concerned and a little insecure but we couldn’t really do much about it except go to sleep. I did a check that all our stuff was still where it should be. Thank god we lock our decent stuff in our ‘packlock’ rucksack lock contraption. I was a bit worried when I found one of the windows unlocked but I think it had been like that before and it just made no sense – who would come in and steal or unlock windows for someone else and then have a shower!!??? And he clearly worked there. Oh well!!!
Next day, we did mention it to the owner when we went down in the morning and as we did, said ‘culprit’ walked along looking sheepishly and raised his hand. I just laughed at him as he did look rather guilty. They had a bit of a convo and then the guy explained that they were having problems with their hot water and the lad had wanted a shower. Oh ok then!!! I mean it is a homestay guesthouse in that the family live in the middle floor but this was our own room with our own bathroom and I just can’t believe they did it. It was ok though, we weren’t freaked out and felt safe there as they were nice people. Plus we got to tease the lad for the duration of our say, so it wasn’t really a lowlight
Overall, Dalat is a lovely place with lovely people (fighting and room invasions aside). I’m glad we went somewhere a bit different, even if it was because of my quest for some kitchiness!