Flowers, Friends and Mystery Foods – Goodbye Da Lat!

On our final day in Da Lat we made plans to ride an old train from the town station out to yet another temple. It was extremely touristy, but all of us love trains, and hey, we were on vacation! So we ate breakfast with the family and other guests at our homestay and took a taxi to the train station.

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Now, if you find yourself in Da Lat and want to ride the train (which is very cute, if a bit overpriced and really short), don’t try for the 11:50 train. It is a lie. We looked online beforehand and chose this time based on our collective desire to sleep in, and because at the bottom of the website it said that the train would run so long as there was a certain number of people signed up. I can’t remember what that number was, but it was close to 4, which was the size of our party. We arrived and were told that, in fact, the train would not be running at that time, because actually we needed 25 people. This seemed… suspect, but no amount of arguing would change their minds. We decided that they probably wanted a lunch break, and resolved to go to the flower park while we waited for the next train.

Not the train we rode on, but a cute flower train in the Flower Park
Not the train we rode on, but a cute flower train in the Flower Park

On our way to the flower park, we walked into a small coffeeshop called “audiophile coffee.” They had massive antique speakers and played jazz. It felt like walking into a Murakami novel… After some refreshing coffee and ambiance we made our way over to the flower park.

Flower Park
Flower Park

I had assumed this would be a big botanical garden, but the name actually says it all – it was a sort of flower amusement park. The whole setup was fun, if a bit bizarre, and we had a good time exploring and taking pictures. I’ve included a number of flower photos below, because they really were beautiful.

Playing around in the Flower Park
Playing around in the Flower Park

After we finished up at the park we returned to the train station and boarded the afternoon train. The train itself was nice, and we had a nice view of the farms as we made our way out of town.

View of the flower park
View of the flower park

Once we reached our destination, we knew there were two temples we could visit. The one advertised by the train was the porcelain temple, made up of mosaics. The other, which I had read about earlier, was a temple for a unique religion that sounded like a blend of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. We really wanted to find this one, but when we asked for directions everyone just assumed we were looking for the porcelain temple, so that’s where we ended up.

porcelain monastery
porcelain monastery

In the end this was totally fine, as the temple was beautiful, and I love mosaics. We spent 20 minutes or so wandering around, then returned to the train and went back to town.

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Porcelain details
Porcelain details

That evening we decided to skip dinner at the homestay and see what we could find in town. We walked through the markets looking for dried fruit, teas and souvenirs. I learned that my bargaining skills aren’t what they used to be, but I still walked away with some dried kiwi.

walking back to the train
walking back to the train

After the market we walked around town, going in and out of shops and generally just looking around. At this point we met a series of animals. First, an adorable puppy, which kept me busy while Annin was doing responsible things like printing our travel documents. When a little girl from our homestay came by and took the puppy’s attention we moved on to a shop selling fruit jams and baby clothes (not sure about the combo), and we started talking to the shop’s owner. I’m not sure how this came up, but she mentioned that she had a pet turtle, and would we like to see it? So we said sure, and she walked over and took him out from under a rack of clothes, where he had apparently been sleeping. He had a sticker that said “STOP” over his tail, and another traffic sticker on the side of his shell, and the woman kept tapping him to wake him up. The whole thing was a bit odd, but funny. After talking with her for a while she gave us dinner recommendations and directions, all with the turtle sitting on the map. We said our goodbyes to the turtle (whose name was something like “shelby”) and decided to check out the place she recommended, since it was only a block away.

Getting directions from a turtle and his owner.
Getting directions from a turtle and his owner.

Naturally, on our way to the restaurant we got sidetracked by shops, and so we decided to check out a leatherworks shop with bags, wallets and belts. Inside someone was holding a guitar, and Lisa convinced him to sing us a song. I forget what song he played, but we all sang along and had fun. We walked out with a few new goodies, and then decided not to go to the restaurant recommended by the turtle.

Serenaded at the leather shop
Serenaded at the leather shop

After a long and confusing search for Pase, who had left us to do some work in a coffeeshop, we ended up at a barbecue place with some…. unique offerings. The menu listed “clones” as an appetizer, and “goat tits” for barbecue. Naturally we ordered both, along with a few more recognizable dishes. The “clones” turned out to be freeze-dried frogs (not my favorite, but I gave it a shot), and the goat tasted more like pork rinds, so who knows what it actually was. All in all, we had a tasty meal, and afterward we went next door for waffles and hot chocolate. A great way to end the trip.

Trying "clones"
Trying “clones”

The next day we flew back to Ho Chi Minh City, where Annin and I said our goodbyes to Lisa and Pase. But hopefully not for long – I’m still hoping to see them again before the year is out! We’ll see what ends up happening…

Goodbye to Lisa and Pase - We hope to see you again soon.
Goodbye to Lisa and Pase – We hope to see you again soon.

After a bit of discussion, Annin and I had decided to take a plane to our next destination, Phnom Penh, rather than taking a 7-hour bus. We were very happy for the change in plans, and after a 20 minute flight we had made it to Cambodia – which I’ll tell you all about, next time.

And now, a few more photos!

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Dragon at the flower park
Dragon at the flower park

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My favorite face at the porcelain temple
My favorite face at the porcelain temple
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