Eeeeeasy! Strawberries and the 80s feel.
Our last evening in Saigon went pretty much like that:
Random dude on the street: You want to come for drink?
Me: No, thank you.
RDOTS: You need hotel room?
Me: No, we’re leaving.
RDOTS: You want another piercing before you go?
Me: No, thank you!
RDOTS: Come on, one more…
Me: NO! I don’t want anything!
RDOTS: You want marijuana?
Nothing like being resourceful! C experienced quite a similar approach but I’ll let him tell you all about it. Clearly Vietnamese street vendors have anything on offer. If you need it, you know where to come.
So off we went again, on an overnight bus journey. I must say after this trip I’m not sure if I’ll ever get on a bus again. I’d rather walk I guess… Well, maybe not but in the last couple of weeks I developed serious ‘I hate bus journeys in Asia’ approach. And the music they play on them… The rant could go on.
We arrived in Dalat early in the morning and got dropped off at our guesthouse that was meant to be our home for the next 2 nights. The owner seemed a really nice old man although pretty battered after being woken up at 7am. Unusual as most people around here start their days really, really early. As early as we used to back in London. Good old days being up at 5 am, NOT! Anyway, he showed us our room that wasn’t much bigger than the double bed inside it but we though for $8 it was a bargain not to be missed. We settled well in our chicken coop and after a nice hot shower decided to head out to get some breakfast. As we were just about to walk out of the hotel two guys on motorbikes magically turned up to offer us their ‘easy riders’ services. The easy riders in Dalat are a bunch of wicked guys on big motorbikes taking you on trips around the city, out to the countryside or on longer several days long trips from Dalat to other Vietnamese destinations – the best way to see Vietnam.
Having read a thing or two about the jolly bunch we were excited to meet our host’s ‘friends’ and decide which trip we wanted to do. Having a few options and a quote in our heads we said to the boys we’ll get back to them in the afternoon, once we make up our minds and decide where we want to go. How lucky we were not to pay them any money or booking the trip with them…
We walked around the city of Dalat that in places looks as if the time has stopped and really reminds me Poland in the 80s (mum and dad asked, how the hell do you remember the 80s… well I really am that old folks, hahaha!) and they sell strawberries everywhere as the climate is much cooler and fruit and veg friendly than anywhere else in Vietnam. We even found an old school market that literally had anything in there from fruit and veg and fish and fresh meat to live chickens having their necks snapped as you bought them (scary!). This is how it used to be!
Having found some nicer bits to it and a bit more of a central part of town how surprised we were to find out that the Easy Riders (the real ones!) actually have their main office and are all uniformed with licences, insurance and all that kind of official malarky… Slightly confused and a bit pissed off that we were quoted quite a bit more by the easy rider wannabes we decided to try and make our way out of having to speak to them again and making ourselves scarce in the chicken coop hotel… But we didn’t have anywhere to stay! No problem, says Mr Tan, one of the Easy Riders pack and showes us to the most ridiculous place we have stayed in so far, right next door to their offices. The place has only been opened 3 weeks and is brand spanking new with massive beds, en suite bathrooms and may as well be a 4 star hotel. And how much a night in this little gem? $10!!! That is just not right.
So after plotting our little escape from the other place, we stayed there one night and off we went to check in into Les Sapins and were welcomed by Mr Tan and Kim our Easy Rider guides for the day. Que, the girl working 18 hour days (another ridiculous thing!) made us omelettes and green tea for breakfast. And here we go… We had the most amazing and incredible day so far at the back of Tan and Kim’s motorbikes having seen places we would never have otherwise seen and these guys’ knowledge is second to none… Someone even called them wikipedia on wheels.
We started the day with visiting a temple and a bit of exercise as they made us walk up a massive hill so we can ‘talk about our love’ while overlooking the city of Dalat and then drove us to a stunning viewpoint so we can have a look at the incredible terraced fields where Vietnamese people grow anything from strawberries and cauliflowers to ‘totatoes’ as mr Tan calls them, hahahaha! All the work is done by hand as there’s no way for any serious farming machines to get up to the fields (Dalat is over 1500 above sea level).
Then we went off to see the flower plantations where most of the pretty things you boys buy your girlfriends grow. Yeah, one savvy Dutch man married a beautiful Vietnamese lady once and realised how good the soil is to grow beautiful flowers and is now making his millions exporting them all over Europe. If you think one piece costs an equivalent of about 10p in Vietnam and back home you have to dish out about 3 squid to please your lady… You do the maths! Unreal! Bamboo workshop, silk factory and a coffee plantation followed. My head was buzzing from all the beauty and amazingness of the locals’ work and how stunning the scenery was only for Tan and Kim to exceed themselves and take us to the Elephant waterfall. I have never seen anything like it. We walked to the bottom of it to have a ‘little shower’ and then snapped some piccies of the incredible thing. It was time for lunch…
And what a feast it was! If you ever do the trip, let these guys order food for you. The only question they ask is if there’s anything you don’t or can’t eat and then the feast turns up. Absolutely stupid amounts of food. Spring rolls with pork, a massive plate of stir fried beef and veggies, chicken, stewed fish, soup, rice and omelletes… You name it! And it was well yummy! The best food we’ve had in Vietnam so far. And you know what’s the best part? All for under 7 pounds for all 4 of us. Disgusting!
We have visited coffee plantation earlier in the day and Tan told us how Vietnam is the second largest coffee exporter in the world after Brasil so it was time to try some of the most expensive coffees in the world… The weasel coffee. We have tried the Vietnamese brew before and it really is ‘the thing’. Rich chocolatey and smooth. But this stuff takes to the next level… Well, let me explain. The whole idea of weasel coffee comes from the times when local villages were built on the edge of the jungle and since most of the fields are filled with coffe plants the forest weasels had something to feast on. The coffee beans before they’re dried and roasted are really sweet and have that jelly like coating that I am assuming all the weasels like so much. The thing is that they don’t actually digest the beans and they come out the other end… They are then picked up dried and roasted… You get the idea! In the past farmers would actually go in the forest to pick up the precious weasel’s thing but now most of the stuff comes from weasel coffee farms. The process is still exactly the same. The weasel eats it, doesn’t digest the bean, it comes out the other end and boom! Here’s the most expensive shit in the world… literally! And it also tastes amazing, believe it or not!
We then visited another pagoda with a giant laughing buddha sitting in the garden, the guys made us walk a little in the hills again to make sure we don’t get lazy after lunch and we then went back to Dalat to visit one of the most unreal buildings I’ve ever seen – the crazy house. A massive building that looks like a tree! The only comparison that comes to mind is Gaudi’s houses in Barcelona but again taken to the next level. We have some pictures of it so you’ll get the chance to see it when I upload them later.
We then got back to the centre and had a lovely dinner at our new well underpriced guest house and decided to do absolutely nothing the day after. Having done zero in the morning I decided to upload some pictures for you all to see and apart from getting several viruses on my usb stick it only took me 3 hours to get 100 pics online… That’s how fast the internet can be around here. Joy! Anyway the rest of the day was pretty chilled out and after a lovely dinner interrupted by a jolly drunken Vietnamese man trying to speak to us we retired to bed before heading off to Nha Trang the next day.
I must say Dalat made it for me! Probably one of the best things we’ve seen and done so far!