Well what a difference a 1 hour flight makes, Dalat is a nippily 15 degrees cooler. All the family were so excited to get off the plane to a cooler climate, me not so much. I moaned and groaned and even put on my long sleeve top in protest. We arrived at 7am after getting the 6am flight. There is only 1 flight a day from Danang to Dalat with the alternative being an 11 hour train trip followed by a 6 hour bus trip. Not that appealing, so getting the kids up at 3.30 for the 4am ride to the airport was our start to the day. The kids all did great which surprised us. We were expecting some resistance to getting woken up in the middle of the night and we were lucky when we got to our hotel at 8am we were able to go straight to our rooms and have a rest.
Our home for 4 nights - the Saigon Dalat
Our time in Dalat has been slightly awkward for want of a better word. It's a funny place. Described as being Vietnams bohemian center. At one stage the French made up 20 percent of the population here and built villas all over the place. It's also home to the hill tribes of Da Lat who farmed the area growing vegetables and flowers. Now there are resorts and golf courses being built everywhere. It still has the traffic, noise and rubbish but is full of pine forests and it's damn cold. It rained on and off every day we were there. One minute you love it the next you want to get out!
During our stay here we've gone into town each day. There are no shops selling tourist t shirts or nick knacks. It's a locals town. Rows of shops selling winter clothes and vegetables. Winter clothes were the garish bright acrylic knits you might have seen back in the 60's. There isn't a warm friendly feel about the place and we have been targeted for over charging more than usual. I picked up some water and bits from a small store and the lady passed a calculator to me with 395 000 vd on it. I said no no no that's too dear so she got out here pad and added it up - it came to 98 000. That's $6 not the $25 she wanted. We also have been shouted at and pushed a lot. Even at the hotel the yelling and fighting outside the rooms in the hall is crazy. One night Rach and I both went out and shushed both adults and kids at 11pm. The only ones that took any notice were the two drunk guys who after I had spoken to them wanted to come into our room. As they reached out to take my hand that I was gesturing for them to quieten down with that they stumbled across the other side of the hall. Over the next hour the two loudly sshed each other as they passed our room. We had to laugh at there efforts.
I kind of wish you could smell this photo
We have been to a lake on the edge of town where we hired these tacky swans to pedal out on and we also got to visit Hang Nga Crazy house. Built buy a local lady it's really quiet mad. It's open for day tourists and also is accommodation. The rooms are decorated in animal themes and had no logical shape. Connecting each of the rooms is a snaking pathway going all over the place. It's as if a group of primary school kids were asked to design a hotel they would like to stay in - needless to say our kids loved it.
Our big excursion was a trip I ended up booking with a guide in town. I tried the hotel but they were heaps dearer and quiet vague on what we were going to see. The trip started with our guide Tinh picking us up at 7.45am and taking us out to Tuyen Lam lake. Here we got to have a ride on an elephant. The conditions weren't great with light rain and heavy fog but it added to the atmosphere of riding an elephant on the side of a misty lake. Rach, Holly and Bella went for the first 30 minutes then Toby and I went. I had to laugh as Rach returned trying to hold on to Holly and Bella while clutching an umbrella that had been blown inside out. I was a really cool experience and I was glad to be able to find a elephant that was being looked after well. We have passed up other chances where the elephants didn't look like they were very well cared for. Here there was heaps off padding on her back, no marks on her body, she had lots of room to move and was fed while we were there. I was really impressed with the the guy taking us who didn't even have a whip or stick he just rubbed his foot on the side of the elephants neck to direct her. It was a great experince and the kids were beaming during and after the ride.
Our next stop was the Datanla waterfall. To get to it we had to take a bobsled/roller-coaster (called a rollerbob" down the hill. It was hilarious and loads of fun, two at a time we raced down the hill on our sleds. The waterfall was cool, with the rain it was bigger than I had expected. At the bottom there was a real mix of Vietnam. A guy selling a seat on a horse for a photo (no room to ride), a concrete tiger, a guy dressed as a mythical monkey man ready for photos, 2 huts selling the local hill tribes clothing, disco music blearing from a small shop added to the roller coaster we had come on. All because of the waterfall. It was as if the towns councilors had asked for an idea on what to add to the waterfall experience and they ended up choosing all of them.
As it is Vietnam's school holidays now the place was packed and everyone was pushing. So you can appreciate how bad it was, women were grabbing Bella's arms and pushing her our of the way. Rach had to do some loud tutting to protect the girls while Toby and I just had to push back. I understand that with all the people living here you have to be assertive to get anywhere but pushing the kids was over the top.
From the waterfall we went to Truc Lam Pagoda and then took the 2.3 km gondola down the hill. It was a beautiful view over the fields of vegetables, flowers and coffee that is grown here.
The view from the cable car
Toby's exciting moment here was watching me and Bella go through the turnstile and not watch where he was walking and falling down 9 concrete steps. He ended up with lots of bruises to his arms and legs and a small bump on the head but otherwise ok. Afterwards he was telling us he was like "superman". Hmm I thought he could fly!.
We finished up at lunchtime having had a really cool morning and enjoyed our guides knowledge of the area and insight into Vietnamese life.
Another source of ongoing amusement is having our laundry done. It's a little like waiting for christmas wondering what shape colour and size our clothes will return in. We have tended not to use the service offered by hotels as it is charged out at a per item price which ends up expensive for the many little people's clothes we have. Off we trotted this one day to the laundry recommended by our tour guide. The guy spoke no English so with gestures we asked "how much". Well he promptly emptied our laundry bag on the floor of his shop and proceeded to count each item. Puts a new meaning to airing your dirty laundry in public. Anyway later that night Matt returned to collect our clean laundry bringing it straight home for me to stock take. Phew everything was there and only one additional t-shirt to return so off Matt went back to the guy who was very excited that he had made the effort to return it. I suspect it is a rare occurrence and probably saved him being yelled at by another tourist missing clothes.
Keep meaning to show you how light we are travelling 9 weeks worth of clothes and shoes for each of the kids is stored in these cells. Impressed?
The rest of our time inn Dalat was just wandering about the towns centre having lunches and dinners. It was nice for the kids to have plenty of down time and rest up before we hit the next big city of Ho chi Minh or Saigon.