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Dalat: a breath of fresh mountain(ish) air

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 2 April 2014 | Views [606]



When we arrived in Dalat it was around 5AM and already clear we were at a higher altitude. I borrowed my friend's coat, not having my scarf handy. We were meant to have a free shuttlebus to our hostel but it looked like they were fillling up pretty quickly so we ganged up with a couple other travellers we'd met waiting for the bus in Saigon and split a taxi. On the drive it then became clear we were not in the big city anymore. Nothing was big, nothing looked very commercial and, most importantly, nothing was open. There went our plan to have a nice coffee while waiting for our hostel to open up. So we went right there, all of us feeling guilty but relieved when the owner and her daughter appeared sleepily to give us tea and seats while we checked in. Being in a new place is always exciting so, bedraggled and exhausted as we were \, we dropped off our stuff and headed out to where the owner had said there would be breakfast.

We discovered Vietnamese cafes. Or cà phê, as they were often written (apparently the writing is mostly Portuguese influenced, not French! We looked it up). Amazing. Just what we needed. For those who don't know, Vietnamese coffee is especially famous for being a. very strong and b. pre-digested by weasels. Nope, not kidding. I actually only discovered this way, way later but...it's so good I would have drunk it anyway! The white stuff at the bottom is sweet condensed milk to balance the bitterness and it also often comes with Vietnamese tea to do the same.

The most powerful weasel shit coffee I've ever tasted...mmmm

But powerful as they were, 2 of these bad boys still didn't wake me up enough to properly wander a new place. Nap time.

After a luxurious 3/4 hour nap we were anxious to explore. Because we'd signed up for the group dinner at 530 we had limited time and opted to rent a bike and head to a nearby lake. After about 45 minutes on what Tom described as the crappiest bike he's ever ridden on, including ones in undeveloped Burma, we found a lovely  sprawling lake among the hills.

In a random deserted hut we found


We made it back just in time for dinner, which was probably the most amazing meal I've had in my travels so far. For a measly, "mama", as the owner is called, cooked up bowls and bowls of different pork, beek, chicken, tofu and vegetable dishes. With heaps of rice, of course. I ate until I thought I would explode, then a group of us settled down with some beers.

A few hours later, it was time to head out on the town! Nothing big, since it was a weekday in a small town but we had an amazing night of karaoke with "sister", as she's called, singing Backstreet Boys and bad 90's rap.


Home at a reasonable hour an ready for canyoning the next day!!!

What is canyoning, you ask? Well, I asked that very same question pretty much right up until I was doing it. Basically, it's descending a canyon in various ways such as cliff-jumping, dry and wet abseiling, floating etc etc. We did all of these things and it was terrifying and amazing. My first abseil was a complete fail, I fell and had to awkwardly get my feet back on the rocks...but I improved quite a lot after that. Soo thankful I didn't fall during the waterfall abseil! It was horrifying enough to be clung to a rope, horizontal, with my sock feet (apparently shoes are more slippery?!) against  the rock of a 25 metre waterfall.

Yep, that's me! No, really!!

My favourite part I think was the whitewater slide. How to explain this?? You lay on your back, head down, in the river at the top of a group of rocks, the guide holding on to your leg. Then he pushes you off and you (hopefully) have a slightly turbulent but really fun 5-second ride down to the bottom. You might hit a rock or two but you've got your life jacket as padding. Trust me, it's fun!!

Anyway after a day of intense physical activity that I am no longer used to and testing my moderate fear of heights, I was happy to snooze in the van on the way back, then have a well-deserved beer back at the hostel.

A bit later that night, "sister" took us out for food, since there was no group dinner. We, about 20 foreigners from various countries, piled noisily into a small local restaurant, much to the bewilderment of the locals eating there. Hopefully they found us more amusing than annoying...we weren't too raucous.

On the menu were two options: corn spring rolls and meat (pork?) in rice paper (yes, basically spring rolls but I wanted to clarify the difference). There was a lot of confusion about who wanted just one or both etc etc but in the end we all had enough delicious food to be happy.

The rest of the evening was spent hangin at the hostel and while the rest of the group went hiking the next day (after canoyning?? How?!), we were off on the bus to Nah Trang.


Tags: canyoning, mountains, nature, trekking



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