From Nha Trang we decided to visit Dalat, which is up in the Vietnamese Highlands. It’s a bit of a change compared to all the other places I’ve been in Vietnam as it is further inland and 1500 m above the sea level. The central highlands is a plateau that borders with Laos, Cambodia and other southern provinces in Vietnam. It also changes as it has a year-round cool weather due to its altitude.
So we decided to pay it a visit for a couple of days with the intention of hiring some easy riders and have some fun (more below).
Dalat is known for its French colonial architecture where the train station is probably the most obvious example.
But possibly the thing that most people know about Dalat is the Crazy House (Hằng Nga guesthouse). From wikipedia:
…popularly known as the “Crazy House”. Described as a “fairy tale house”, its overall design resembles a giant banyan tree, incorporating sculptured design elements representing natural forms such as animals, mushrooms, spider webs and caves. Its architecture, consisting of complex, organic, non-rectilinear shapes, has been described as expressionist. Its creator, Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga (also known as Hằng Nga), who holds a PhD in architecture from Moscow State University, has acknowledged the inspiration of Catalan Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí in the building’s design.
So, have a look at some of the pictures
Yeah, Crazy crazy….
Marielle and I arrived to this city and spent a day and a half just enjoying it. And to be honest, the weather was just great, sunny and not hot. So we enjoyed walking its streets and eating its food. Really good. We even caught some action along the way.
More about Dalat (Full flickr set)
But what we really wanted to do is grab one of the Easy Riders for a ride around Vietnam. The Easy Riders is a term that now applies to many groups of people who do basically the same. They give you a ride on the back of a motorcycle around Vietnam. The original Easy Riders due to its popularity has made appear lots of spin-off which basically offer the same thing. The idea is that you choose what kind of itinerary you want and how many days you want to do it, and then they pack everything on the back of the motorbike (and the front), you jump in and then they take you around while stopping frequently on different places which are usually not easily reachable from main touristy cities (you might like the many spots they stop or you might not, but they are interesting nevertheless).
We wanted a 4-day tour starting on Dalat, going around the border with Cambodia and then going south to Mui Ne, but due to the Tết Holiday (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) which was starting in two days, we just had to reduce it to two days. During these holidays basically everything shuts down (and they even say that finding bus tickets is difficult, but I didn’t have any problems. The easy riders stopped though). Well, I took a 2-day tour, Marielle took a 1-day tour as she had to go to Saigon to catch a flight. So be it, two days.
I have to say that the experience was awesome. A bit tiring, but a lot of fun. So, if you are thinking of going to Vietnam, don’t even think about it, just get on one of these tours. You’ll love it. Make sure you also have your camera with you (and, just unlike me, make damn sure your filters are properly attached to the camera, as I saw, like in snow motion, how my $80 polarizer filter dropped off my camera while we were going at around 80 km/h, seeing it crashing on the asphalt. I think I shed a tear).
Among the highlights:
I think I have to introduce you to the weasel coffee. So, they feed weasels with coffee beans that go through their systems. Then they collect them from their droppings (good euphemism) and then they toast it as normal coffee. It seems it’s one of the most valued coffees in Vietnam. More information in Wikipedia. As I’m no fan of Vietnamese coffee (sorry guys, I kind of hate it), this didn’t actually made me appreciate it more.
Me trying weasel Coffee :-P (Photo courtesy of Marielle)
And finally I arrived to Mui Ne. I have to say that I really liked this. It was fun and I got to see parts of Vietnam I never thought I was going to see. I really liked the ride through the forest going from the highlands down to sea level. It was actually a shame to see that so much forest has been destroyed due to Agent Orange, as you see big chunky patches missing. The parts where there’s still forest/jungle, it’s actually very very cool.
So now you know, boys and girls, if you go to Vietnam, get one of these, get on a predefined tour or a tailored one, and enjoy yourselves! :)