What a day. We endured a 4 hour danger-drive from Nha Trang to Da Lat, with a bus driver whose aim, it seemed, was to make as many passengers as possible throw up. We’ve experienced some really scary driving on our travels thus far, but today was completely off the scale. Against all odds, we arrived this afternoon in one piece.
It felt like we’d stepped off the bus into the Arctic (slight exaggeration, but it was really chilly). It’s bizarre that we were sweating prefusely on the beach yesterday in 38 degrees, and wrapping up today in just 25 degrees, and with only 140km between the two!
Da Lat is a surprising place; I had done little to no research into it before we arrived, and was expecting a little SaPa-esque town in the mountains. In fact, it’s quite a big noisy city, with roaring traffic that reminds us a lot of Hanoi! Although it’s nice to have a break from the scorching sun on the coast, we do seem to lose our acclimatisation extremely quickly, so we’ll no doubt struggle again when we go back.
For some reason whenever we go somewhere a bit cooler, we crave home comfort food; usually it’s pizza or pasta we crave, but tonight we fancied an Indian (more on cravings later). It was incredible, but I’m very very full, and writing this from a semi carb coma.
On the way to dinner, we stepped out of the hotel and were immediately hit by an intense burning smell. I said it smelt amazing, like a bonfire in summer. But low and behold, we turned the corner to be faced with a telegraph pole, fiercely ablaze in front of us. The street had descended into absolute chaos, with every man and their dog stopping to get a glimpse of the scene. I’m not even sure they have a fire brigade in Vietnam, I’ve definitely never seen one and there certainly wasn’t one present tonight! It actually made me think how terrified I would have been if I’d been faced with that as a child. We were too hungry to hang around.
Since being away from easily accessible (and good quality) western food, the cravings I’ve had have surprised me. For about a week now, all I’ve wanted is a huge cheese board with a super strong cheddar and brie and the one with holes in it and grapes and crackers. I didn’t think I liked cheese that much, but I’m really missing it. Cheese isn’t really available here, the closest we’ve come across is ready-sliced burger cheese (yuck). Other than a cheese board, I’ve craved a nice crispy jacket potato (they don’t have potato here either), mum’s spaghetti bolognese (I’ve had spag bol here a couple of times and it just doesn’t hit the spot), porridge, minstrels and dairy milk (and basically any nice chocolate). I thought now would be a good time to write about this because I’m too full to actually want any of those things, but when I get home and read all this back it will remind me to really appreciate them.
Today has been absolutely delightful. With the help of Google, I found us a self-guided walking tour of Da Lat. It started at the Crazy House, which is as weird as it sounds. A guesthouse/tourist attraction designed by the son of a former Vietnamese president, inspired by Antoni Gaudi and Da Lat’s surrounding nature. The main building is a warped banyan tree, with an extensive labyrinth of paths, rooms, nooks and crannies filling the entire site. It was really quite bizarre, and the intwining walkways made the whole thing incredibly disorientating. I supposed it was designed to drive visitors crazy.
Next the tour took us down back streets and alleys of Da Lat, between little buildings, up hills (Da Lat is very hilly), and to An Café, where we had a lovely Vietnamese Coffee (filtered coffee with condensed milk). We then continued through the town to the indoor market, which was absolutely huge and pretty overwhelming, before stopping for lunch.
We were feeling pretty tired, so we went back to the hotel for a power nap before continuing. An almighty storm penetrated the skies almost as soon as we got there, so luckily we missed that too. We headed back out, down to the lake and a huge square, where there is a building in the shape of an artichoke! I think artichokes must be some kind of symbol for this region, because their local tea is artichoke as well. I was getting pretty hungry, so I bought a grilled sweet potato from a street seller, which was divine.
There are very very few westerners here, strangely. We stand out like sore thumbs, partially because we’re at least a foot taller than the average Vietnamese person (and Elliot’s double that), and also, I guess, because I’m blonde and Elliot has a beard. Children shout hello to us constantly, and people ask to take photos with us. It really is surreal sometimes.
We only have two full days in Da Lat, so today was our last day. This morning we walked a little way out of town to La Viet Café; a coffee factory and cafe. We don’t drink a lot of coffee here, but it was really nice. Elliot had a French Press, and I had a V60 brew which arrived in a conical flask. We wandered down to the lake and park, went for lunch, and had a chilled afternoon.
We’ve just come back from dinner, and once again I’m extremely full. There’s a really good burger place here, and decent burgers are pretty rare so Elliot fancied it. It was nice, except they had no cutlery! For some reason I really struggle to eat food with my hands; burgers, pizza, chips, whatever it is, I can’t deal with the mess and grease on my hands and will always use a knife and fork. Very strange I know. Even worse here, I don’t like the idea of anything I might have picked up on my hands. Regardless, I had to grin and bear it for my burger, which was actually really good.
Our hotel here is probably the worst we’ve stayed in whilst travelling; we have not slept well. There’s a rat living inside our ceiling, which spends the night scratching, scurrying around and eating loudly (god knows what). The door to our room is also made of frosted glass, which is just bizarre because it means we can see out into the corridor (and vice versa). It’s not great. Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed our time here. This crazy little mountain city is definitely worth a visit, and it’s provided a nice cool break from the scorching coast.