Dalat is known as the city of eternal spring. Its temperate climate is far different from the otherwise tropical parts of Vietnam. With its year round cool weather it is a major producer of vegetables and flowers. Its architecture is predominantly French colonial, which I’m a huge fan of, and was a major draw for me to visit. I didn’t have huge plans for my time in Dalat, but I wanted to get some work done on the blog. I was getting really behind and that always stresses me out. Besides that, I wanted to walk the streets, see the people, ride the cable car, as well as visit a few unique places I had read about. Most people come to Dalat to do the canyoning, which includes abseiling and diving off large rocks. I had already done all those activities on my zip lining adventure in Laos, so I wasn’t willing to fork out the money for a similar experience.
The guesthouse I stayed in has been my favorite, thus far, in terms of staff and environment. It’s owned and run by the sweetest couple and their 6 year old son. They live on sight and run the home by themselves. The place is immaculately clean and they pay attention to every detail. They remembered everyone’s names, in the morning they served breakfast for everyone and always remembered how you like your eggs. They make their own tea and strawberry rice wine and generously give it out for free. Every few nights they serve a family dinner, also free of charge. You can tell they do this out of the love in their hearts and a passion to please their guests. My first night there, they served DIY spring rolls, which were fantastic. All the ingredients were there. You put whatever you want in the rice paper and roll it up, then dip it in your own bowl of sauce. These experiences are so wonderful because you sit and get to know other people. In a polite way, you are forced to interact. At dinner we were given shot, after shot, after shot of the delicious home made rice wine. After dinner I was feeling the affects of extreme introvertism kicking in as well as the exhaustion from my easy ride tour. I decided to call it an early night and thanks to all that delicious rice wine, I had no trouble falling right to sleep.
The next day I woke early and was the first person to come downstairs. Thiên, the owner, was already awake and served me hot tea with a smile and made me some breakfast. He gave me tons of suggestions on things to do and see. He said they weren’t doing family dinner that night, so he marked my google maps with good food, and made sure I knew how to get around for cheap. After breakfast I packed up my things and wandered into town. It was raining, but Thiên had given me a poncho to burrow so I wouldn’t get wet. My first stop was a coffee shop to get some blogging done. It was overwhelmingly busy, making work impossible. From there I ventured to a delicious vegetarian restaurant that I had read about. I had the most amazing mushroom soup and fried broccoli with a secret sauce. I only say secret because I have no idea how to explain it. I would pay money to know what was in that sauce. I’m actually drooling thinking about it right now. At this point, I was stuffed to the gills, and completely gave up on blogging.
My next two stops for the day were truly unique, in every explanation. I don’t know if I can properly explain them here, but I will try. First off, I went to a little bar called Maze Bar. The name explains a lot. I walked in, ordered a beer and was given a brief run down which went like this, “Go down the stairs and when you get to the end you see good view”. I had no idea what to expect or what I was getting myself into, but down I went. The maze leads you through several levels, up and down, left then right and it’s quite dark. You’re going through hall ways and strange doors, there are thousands of nooks and crannies with small tables for sitting or hiding. Everything is painted and decorated and reminded me of a psychedelic playground. It would be easy to get lost or lose someone, because you have no sense of direction. There’s always another up, down, left or right turn and you don’t know where it will lead. I would assume you could go through ten times, but still not see everything, and It’s probably impossible to follow the same route twice.
I did finally emerge on the top level and there was a view of the city, which was the only way I knew I had reached the end. Going back down is equally confusing, but I kept reminding myself to continue going down. Such a fun and different experience to your average bar. I had the best time, especially since I was there mid day, and literally had the place to myself. I assume it’s quite claustrophobic when it’s busy, and I would never suggest this to someone with anxiety. I assume many people actually get lost, and others come out in tears.
I wanted to go back down a second time, and would have in a heart beat. However, I decided against it because their beers were the price of gold. That’s probably how they get by without charging entrance fees. I tried to get some info about the history behind this place, but no one spoke much English, or maybe they just didn’t know. My assumption is that it took years to create and build and the builder was most likely influenced by psychedelic drugs. Unfortunately, due to the darkness of the maze the pictures aren’t very good. It would be impossible to capture an experience like this in a picture. I had WAY too many pictures, so I made a picture book, if you want to see more.
Next I stopped at the Crazy House. Again, the name explains a lot. This was pretty similar to the Maze bar in terms of uniqueness. The crazy house is a hotel which is open to the public from 7am to 7pm. It’s as if Tim Burton had a baby with Dr. Seuss. It also had a maze like feature that winds through and on top of the buildings. It was insanely decorated and I wandered through for hours and still don’t feel like I actually saw everything. Some of the guest rooms have the doors open so you can peek inside, but you can’t actually go in. The rooms look like they belong in a scene of a Disney movie. They have an entire building decorated in an underwater theme that was truly spectacular. Everything from the stairs, walls, floors and ceiling were painted and embellished. There are several more buildings and mazes being constructed, so this place will only get more weird as it grows. Again, way too many photos, so here’s more Crazy for you.
That night for dinner I got Pho at a tiny little spot that Thiên had put on my maps. I would have never found it or known what it was if he hadn’t. It was popular amongst the locals and there was no menu and no one spoke English. I just sat down while everyone stared at me because I was out of place. It took a few minutes to communicate that I just wanted some Pho, didn’t matter what they put in it. Eventually, I got a delicious bowl of hot noodle soup. It cost less than 2 dollars, which meant I had enough money left to go for a beer. I had found a rooftop bar that overlooked the city center. They advertised having live music but apparently not on that night, because I had the entire place to myself. The cute young guy serving me sat and chatted for awhile. He is going to university and wanted to practice his English. I enjoyed his company and he even brought me some hot tea that he made himself at home. So sweet. After my beer I headed back to the hostel and called it a night.
The next day I had full intentions of doing the cable car and a nearby waterfall. The walk to the cable car was about an hour but it kept raining. Every time it started raining I would duck into a cafe and wait for it to stop. However, it just never did, and by noon I gave up on the idea and decided to blog instead. I’m becoming a major café connoisseur. They offer me everything I need from WiFi to food to beverages. Most cities, especially here in Vietnam, have a plethora of fantastic cafes. I try to hit at least two in each city. I’ve come across a diverse range of adorable ones. They always have great themes, from ocean to jungle to bear lovers, and I’m in love with all of them. Give me a good cup of Joe and I’m happy as a clam for hours. That day I treated myself to a blended matcha and some coconut ice cream, because why not?
That night at the guesthouse, Thiên and his wife were cookin up a family dinner again, which I was quite excited about. The guesthouse was past full capacity, with people sharing beds. So dinner was crazy and chaotic. Thiên made chicken curry, Vietnamese style, but I couldn’t tell how that was different from any of the other curries. It was delicious and of course there was the endless shots of rice wine. After dinner they brought out a beautiful cake and surprised a guy, because it was his birthday. Now that’s going above and beyond the call of duty. I wonder how they make enough money to survive with all the free things they dish out. I made sure to be overly thankful because I certainty saw their efforts, and appreciated them.
My final day in Dalat I was determined to get to the cable car, waterfall and train station. I set out early for the hour walk through the back alley ways and up many hills to get to the cable car. The views were amazing, and thanks to bubble tea I didn’t die on the hills. I love using google maps because it takes me down alleys and streets that I would never think to go down otherwise, and I have the most amazing interactions with locals. People will wave at me, talk to me in Vietnamese as if I knew what they were saying. Locals have stopped me to give me water, which always terrifies me. However, I always except, because they are so kind, and it makes my heart swell that they would care so much about a complete stranger. Especially a giant white one covered in tattoos.
I consciously took a wrong turn on my way to the cable car. I decided that google maps was full of crap and I knew a better way. I ended up on some back street behind some ramshackle homes on a muddy terrain. I was under the cable car but couldn’t get to it. I waved as the cable cars full of onlookers floated over me. There’s no doubt that people knew I was completely lost. I would have pointed and laughed for sure if it was me way up there. So I put my tail between my legs, apologized to google, and hiked back to where google maps told me to be. Sure enough, I arrived at the cable car. Thanks Google! I did stop to play with some pigs though…
The cable car ride was amazing and beautiful. I had the car all to myself and got to be a shameless tourist, taking ample amounts of photos and videos. I got fantastic views of Dalat and the surrounding areas, mountains, jungle and rice fields. The cable car drops you off at a monastery with perfectly manicured grounds, flowers and professionally cut trees. Right outside the cable car station were street vendors offering local foods. I got myself a Dalat pizza, which is rice paper, egg, veggies and meat. As I ate my pizza I trekked down to the Datanla waterfall.
It was a quick 30 minute walk down to the falls, which was swarming with tourists. I think there were 20 large tour buses in the parking lot. My social anxiety came creeping out like a ghost in a locked closet. There were so many people that I couldn’t get to the ticket booth. I’m not a pushy person and I’m never in a hurry traveling, because I’ve got all the time in the world. Asian people traveling in Asia can be very rude and pushy. I frequently get tossed around in the mix because I will never be that way, especially not here. I finally made my way to the ticket booth and got my ticket but then getting through the entrance was even worse. It was a small entrance and only one person could enter at a time. I kept getting cut in front of by a group of tourists and I felt like crying. How are people so small pushing me around? A true moment a weakness folks.
I finally entered the waterfall, which was quite large and had several tiers that you can hike down to. This waterfall has been turned into a theme park. They do the canyoning tour here that I refused to pay for. It has many layers of waterfall that you could get lost in for hours. It has high cliff jumping and easy falls for abseiling. There are ziplines, a high rope course and even a rollercoaster. I skipped the rollercoaster at the beginning, which was a comlete mistake. The rollercoaster goes round trip, down and then back up, for $6.5 USD. I thought no way, I’ll hike it. I didn’t realize how big and vast this waterfall and the surrounding park actually is. It’s ginormous. As I was walking down to the falls I kept looking at the rollercoaster flying by, trying not to be disappointed, but having serious FOMO. It was a long hike to the bottom and it was hot, and there were so many people. At the bottom I paid to take the rollercoaster back up which cost me $4.5USD one way and wasn’t much fun because it just went up. My cheap ass regretted that decision. The falls where gorgeous though.
After I left the waterfall park I hailed a cab because I was hangry and truthfully exhausted. I took the cab to the old train station in Dalat city center. I had read many mixed reviews about this experience and was torn on if I wanted to ride the train or not. The reviews I had read, said that the ride out isn’t picturesque, but disappointing. When you arrive you only get 30 minutes to explore before the train heads back. I knew there was a pretty Pagoda out there, but was it worth it? Then I got to the station, realized tickets were another $6, and did I mention I was hangry? So I skipped that experience. But I took a few pictures of the old trains. They are almost all ruined by other tourists, but I don’t blame them.
Leaving the train station I was exhausted. I stopped for Pho at the same shop that Thiên had suggested days prior. After my Pho, I hardly made it back to the guesthouse, because I was dragging. I took a shower and passed out faster then expected. I slept like a baby because I had the whole room to myself. The next morning I ate my breakfast as I chatted with Thiên. I was sad to be leaving his home. I had enjoyed his morning conversation, fantastic family dinners and the ample amount of strawberry rice wine. He truly should be bottling that for sale, because I would have bought some. When my bus transfer arrived, I said my final good byes and he gave me a bracelet as a farewell gift. He said the beads were for protection. Small tears, so thoughtful.
Then woosh off to Nha Trang I went. On a bus full of irresponsible, hung over, twenty somethings, who clearly partied hard for their last night in Dalat, and were throwing up in bags. Thank god for head phones.
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