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Thursday, 21 November 2013

A little piece of the alps in Vietnam

The road to Dalat was small and winding - we were all squashed into a small bus, quickly making friends with other travellers including some Aussies and a German (who we were practically sitting on top of!).

As it went up the mountains the scenery went from tropical with bananas and palm trees to more alp like with forests of pine trees and terraces of coffee plantations. This is where most of Vietnam's coffee is grown and also gives it name to Vietnamese wine (although we didn't see any vineyards).

After checking into our hostel we grabbed dinner with some other travellers and then caught up with the guys from the bus for a few drinks.

Like a proper alpine town Da Lat looked set up for snow - however our hostel owner has never seen it! To us the 18 degrees temperature felt cold - enough to dig out trousers/jeans and jumpers and put on socks & trainers. To the locals it was positively freezing and they were wearing puffer jackets incongruously with flip flops!

The next day we made the most of our time in Da Lat by joining most of the rest of the guest house on the countryside tour that Peace (the guesthouse owner) was running. We piled into the minivan and headed out of the town. The first stop was the flower plantation - due to the climate a lot of flowers are grown in greenhouses here for export and the local market. We saw gerberas, roses, lilies and some strawberry plants.




Next up was the coffee plantations where we saw both Arabica and Robusta coffee plants and the weasels that give the more expensive coffee it's flavour!

Coffee beans ripening

Surveying the coffee plantation



Coffee beans go in, weasels eat, poo is roasted into coffee!

We drink!

After all having a cup of coffee the mood in the minivan was more upbeat with lots of conversation, Vietnamese coffee is strong! We think the weasel coffee was a bit smoother - but for me plain non weasely coffee is sufficient....

Next up on our tour was the Linh An Tu pagoda and the happy Buddha statue


  There were some great decorative statues outside the pagoda



And a mixture of interesting Buddha and Hindu statues



And finally the happy Buddha himself!

Next we headed down to the waterfall - when I say down to the waterfall I really mean rock climbing into the belly of the beast!

From the top - love the moss covered islands

Climbing down

Jessie under the falls

Turbulent water & spray under the overhang!

View from the bottom islands

After scrambling back up the rocks and washing the mud off we stopped for a traditional Vietnamese lunch - for $2.5 we ate like kings! Marinated pork, roast pork, roast chicken, beef wrapped in betel leaves, lots of pickles and veggies and of course steamed rice - yum!

Next up was a stop at a silk farm - where we saw the silk worm cocoons being unravelled for the silk - the area is also known for it mulberries as the leaves of the trees are needed to feed the silk worms.


Silk worm cocoons 


Then we headed to a rice wine production - and sampled some right out of the distiller - hot and strong not dissimilar to sake but with a potent kick!


Rice being fermented in barrels



Distillation 



Snake flavoured rice wine - no I didn't try this!


We headed back into town after that to see the well named Crazy House - this seems to defy usual architectural standards with its fluid Gaudi like flowing lines and random 'Crazy stuff' like spiders webs, as well as a few nods to Vietnamese traditional architecture thrown in.















From the Crazy House we went to the mediation centre set above the largest lake by town. This had beautiful gardens and lovely pagodas with lots of wind chimes creating wonderful music in the breeze - truly serene.



Then we headed to the old train station for the last stop on our tour. The train station and railway were built by the French and used a cog system to get up and down the mountains. It's no longer in use today and just has some of the old carriages and locomotives there:





We headed back to the hostel for a well deserved rest before the evenings activities kicked off!

We went to the markets with Peace & his wife to buy dinner - lots of fresh salad and herbs and a large fish, prawns and some pork were the main ingredients. Although we saw frogs and eels we didn't get those to eat!








We didn't really too bad about buying from an open air market in Dalat as the temperature was cool and there weren't any flies around - any market in 35 degree heat I would be much more dubious about!

We marinated up the food, cooked up tofu soup and then BBQed the fish, prawns and pork on the table to add into fresh spring rolls with the salad and herbs - truly delicious!









With the meal we had some of the local Vietnamese wine - not top stuff - quite weak and the second bottle was a little dodgy - but it did the job for $4.5!




A few more drinks playing pool and then we were the only 4 people in V club in Dalat that evening - bit random....

The following day we pottered around town and checked out the cute little coffee shop we'd found in an alleyway. Everything in Dalat is quite pretty - possibly because the town is a haven for Vietnamese honeymooners.


Decorative bike in the coffee shop


Next back to the coast & Nha Trang....

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