Thursday, August 25, 2011

Da Lat

Da Lat is off the coast and makes a good stopping point between Hoi An and Sai Gon.  If (hopefully when) I go back I'd like to do a motorcycle tour between Da Lat and Sai Gon as well as between Da Lat and Nha Trang. The town itself if quite small and quaint.  The buildings are packed together but still manage to be pretty. 
Da Lat is a pretty little town in the highlands. 
We arrived in the rain, and that was the uniting theme of our two days there.  The food was good, the walks were nice.  We didn't meet many people aside from two couple catching the same bus out as we were. Most The one full day we spent in town was spent on a tour.  The "things to see" were in the surrounding area and this was the easiest way to see them . The group was three French girls who kept to themselves, a German couple and a Belgian couple who were nice, four Vietnamese who I think were a mother and father with their grown daughter and her husband and finally Danielle and I.

Driving around for a day tour provided lots of photo ops.
The first stop was a flower farm with beautiful gerbera daisies, giant lilies and roses.  I complimented the younger Vietnamese woman on our tour about her earrings and she insisted I take them saying "very cheap, handmade!"  The royal blue flowers have become some of my favorite earrings.

Next was a coffee plantation, fruit farm, and cricket farm.  At the cricket farm we were shown the bins the little buggers were raised in and then offered a fried sample.  They were really good! Fried with oil, and scallions, they'd make great bar food.  The Vietnamese family got a kick out of the fact that I liked them and kept spearing new ones on toothpicks, dipping them in chili sauce (which wasn't as nice) and handing them to me while taking photos. Entertaining them was payback I suppose.  I really didn't mind.
Yum! I did find I like the light brown ones a little better.
Immediately after the crickets was a rice whiskey distillery.  Those two should have been side by side.  The first same was nice and as about 20 or 30% alcohol.  Then for the few of us who lingered and asked questions there was a second sample offered.  That one would have taken the paint off the walls.

Next was a waterfall.  There's a cute elephant statue at the top. Then the powerful falls.  All the water we saw was a mucky, brackish brown.  I lead the charge down near the bottom where the spray made everything look mystical and shiny.
Waterfall.  The scramble to the bottom was worth it.  The mermaid was after the waterfall on the way to the temple next door.
The second to last stop was Crazy House.  It was designed designed by a Vietnamese woman trained in design in Russia and seemingly styled after Gaudi's work in Barcelona.  I couldn't help but recall the "melting" buildings on Las Ramblas.  It's still under construction and I walked through an area with all kinds of exposed rebar and such which would never be permitted in the US. It was like a jungle gym for kids as most of the paths were small and winding.  There were lots of stairs and ladders, each leading to something new and different.  The rooms each had an animal theme.  You can stay there as it is a hotel, but the rooms are tiny and relatively expensive ($100+) and I'd imagine the rules about returning to your room are rather strict as there are people walking about and peering in it all day.
Crazy House
The last stop before being dropped at the market was an embroidery gallery.  It was a very competitive school that trains the embroiderers.  The XO organization has orphanages/school in many cities around Vietnam and even a few other countries.  The work was incredible and it was easy to forget you were looking at thread and not paint. Another bus took us on into Sia Gon, and that one was THE WORST bus of the trip.

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