The Valley of dreams....
22.01.2011 27 °C
Dalat is one of those places. We'd read about it in our guides and on the internet and it just sounded too good to miss! Simply, Dalat is where the youth of Saigon (and the French before them) go to frolick among the hills, which offer a much cooler and pleasant climate than muggy HCMC.
Easily enough we'd been recommended a hotel in Dalat from our previous hotel in Nha Trang, and since both had been only $6 we found it difficult to turn down the offer. As a result, we were met from our bus by two "easy riders," pimped out moto driving Dalatters (who are actually glorified tuk tuk drivers, but still, fitting onto their motos with our rucksacks was an experience). They took us to our hotel and said we should shower and then meet them downstairs to "talk". Dubious. We went up to our room, which had a balcony! declined a shower (as it wasn't warm), but did go to put them out of their misery after a while. Unfortunately this is where the sales pitch began. The easy riders do tours to, well actually, anywhere (some people have gone for months and gone as far as Hanoi! And poor Peter was trying his best to sell us a tour. Unfortunately we could neither afford, nor had time to take one. It was a shame, because they did sound absolutely amazing, but we just couldn't. Once he'd got the message Peter turned a little nasty and arsey. Glad we didn't go with him then! But he had lost a sale, so we won't be too hard on him! After a chill out we headed for a rather long walk around Dalat and found a really delicious vegetarian restaurant for dinner. It wasn't mentioned in any of our guide books but it was a welcome find! Also by this point the temperature had dropped and it was decidedly cold, maybe 12 degrees! We weren't used to this! It had been a pretty long day so we decided to head back and get an early one.
For our first day we walked to the "Crazy House" an absolutely insane architectural marvel, which includes spiders webs made of string, giant giraffes, staircases to nowhere and even themed bedrooms you can rent out.
So random to find anywhere, let alone in a Vietnamese mountain retreat! Afterwards we went on a fairly long walk to find the Dalat cable car. After a few moments of doubt we found it and headed off over the mountains. The views were amazing, but it totally didn't feel like Vietnam. All fir trees, wild horses and rows of cabbages growing below us!
At the other side we arrived next to a large reservoir but we weren't headed there first. No. First job was the waterfall about 3km away, which comes complete with it's own drive yourself, downhill toboggan style rollercoaster AND Vietnamese cowboys!
First time down the hill we got stuck behind a boring couple who kept their brakes on the whole way down. Second time we barely used ours once! So much fun and at the bottom the waterfall was beautiful, despite the addition of a life size plastic tiger with glowing eyes....
After climbing back up the hill we headed to the reservoir which was really beautiful, and enormous! We had a drink then jumped back onto the cable car to take us back to the town. As we walked back we saw some Dalat sights such as the Cathedral, Eiffel tower style broadcast tower and the dried up lake (which still had the swan boats in it!).
Next we headed to the old Dalat train station (now unused except for tourists) which has a 1920's Japanese steam train, German wagons and a Russian diesel train. Needless to say, John was very excited!
After John had his fill of being the, not so fat, controller, we walked back to our hotel. Not ignoring the famous Dalat LAKE! Which is empty of water, supposedly for dredging, though we saw now evidence of anything being done to it; still at least they left the swan boats!
An uneventful evening followed, mostly to prepare us for another morning of motorbiking. We hired from our hotel and set off to find the elephant falls, which were beautiful and very impressive!
A temple with a giant Buddha whose stomach was a whole room!
And finally a silk farm which was cool. It was especially impressive to note the binary paper stamp system they used to make the pattern.
We then headed back towards town, and got a little lost looking for another of Dalat's famous attractions, "The Valley of Love". The guidebook wasn't overly clear about what the valley would be like so we didn't entirely know what we were looking for! After a bit of a fight over which way to go we did find "The Hill of Dreams" hmm not quite the valley of love but close....
Pictures cannot fully describe the hill of dreams (I mean how do you really capture the side of a hill covered by random plastic statues and even a mock great wall of china?!) but these three are a taster!
We then head off to find the real valley which was....
Just as random! Apparently these two theme parks are the kind of places middle class vietnamese like to come and holiday. Pretty hilarious really. We loved it!
Next day it was off to Saigon so we went back to our hotel to prepare ourselves for another bus journey!