Dalat, Day 2

On the second day of our trip to Dalat we had decided to ride a cable car into the mountains, see some waterfalls, and then take a tour of local farms in the afternoon. But before all of that, we started our day with breakfast at the homestay.

Breakfast at the hostel was a do-it-yourself type deal, with omelet supplies readily available, and plenty of bread and Dalat strawberry jam. We came down a bit late so most of the guests had already left. This meant we got to spend the morning with one of the house residents, an older woman who spoke no English and had no intention of letting that stop her from having full conversations with the guests. She would speak to us in Vietnamese with plenty of gestures and expressions, and we would do the same in English. She was by far our favorite person at the homestay, with a huge personality and a lot to say.

Coffee beans laid out to dry
Coffee beans laid out to dry

After breakfast we took a taxi to the base of the cable car, where we took in a lovely view of the city, and came across sheets of coffee beans, drying in the sun. After snapping a few pictures and wondering who the beans belonged to, we made our way to the cable car and rode up with an Israeli guy who told us all about his travels. The views were lovely, and I was really enjoying being in the mountains after months of life in the delta.

The city of Da Lat
The city of Da Lat

At the top of the cable car we found our way to the monastery, which was nice enough. Mostly we wandered through the gardens, watched other tourists (mostly Russians), and enjoyed a nice, sunny day.

Taking time to smell the roses at the monastery
Taking time to smell the roses at the monastery

After walking through the monastery we decided to walk to the waterfall, which we were told was about 2 kilometers (roughly 1.2 miles) away, and definitely within walking distance.

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Now, I should say that in Vietnam, if you ask for walking directions almost anywhere, even just a few blocks away, people think it’s weird. People pretty much take their bikes or motos everywhere. So, when the woman at the monastery assured us the walk was short, we believed her. Turns out we shouldn’t have, since the walk was way longer than we had anticipated. But after about an hour of walking, with a few pit stops for dried fruit and fresh persimmons, we found the waterfall.

Walking by a lake on our way to the waterfall
Walking by a lake on our way to the waterfall

The first thing we noticed is that we had to pay to see the waterfall, which was a bit strange, but we accepted it and went in. Once inside the gate, at the top of a hill, we saw a sign for a “roller coaster” that could take us down the hill to the waterfall. Lisa and Annin were really excited about it, so I set aside my fear of roller coasters and decided to give it a try – it was more of a toboggan slide than a roller coaster, and I was put in charge of the break. The ride was a bit scary, but a lot of fun. Annin and I were screaming the whole way, but I used the break every time we passed a “break!” sign, which was probably a good idea – some of the turns really made me think we might fly off the rails (though that probably would never happen…. right?).

Toboggan on the way back up - no screaming this time.
Toboggan on the way back up – no screaming this time.

But anyway, we all made it safely to the bottom, where we admired a very nice waterfall. Before we went up to the waterfall, we saw that there was yet another cable car, and since we had bought tickets for every other type of transport that day, we figured it was probably best to ride this as well. The ride was super short, and it took us to a smaller waterfall. There was nowhere to go, but there was a glass elevator built into the rock, and for another fee we could ride the elevator down. We all decided this sounded a bit absurd, and we rode back to the main waterfall.

Pretty!
Pretty!

As we were looking at the big waterfall, we noticed a man dressed as a monkey wandering around. We weren’t sure exactly why he was there, but Annin went to go take a picture with him. He promptly turned around when she walked up to him for a picture, which we assumed meant he wanted us to pay for the photo (though he never said anything, or did anything to suggest we pay). We went ahead and took pictures with his back turned, and right after the photo below was taken, he angrily shoved Annin away. While we were standing next to the drop off for the waterfall on slippery rocks. She was totally fine, but we were a bit shocked.

Evil monkey man and a very happy Annin
Evil monkey man and a very happy Annin

Since everyone was alright we laughed it off and took the “roller coaster” back up the hill, since it had a suspension deal that pulled us back up. We headed back to town and had lunch by the lake.

IMG_2611 In the afternoon we went back to the homestay and the owner lead us on a walk through the neighboring farms. The terrain was a bit treacherous, and another guest who was walking with us slipped and fell down a hill leading to the strawberry plants. He was alright, but after that we were all very cautious.

Strawberry fields forever
Strawberry fields forever
Lisa and Annin showing off their musical grass skills
Lisa and Annin showing off their musical grass skills

We walked through fields of flowers, stawberries, broccoli, and countless other plants that I have since forgotten. We walked around for over an hour and the scenery was lovely. At the end of the tour we watched the sun set over the farms and went back to the homestay to cook dinner.

Dinner at the homestay
Dinner at the homestay
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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