Dalat, Dalat, Dalat, a place we have been looking forward to visiting since we were last in Vietnam three years ago and couldn’t fit it into our timeframe. This time around we made sure we set aside the time to visit, and we had a great tour around the surrounding areas.
An overnight bus ride without any sleep meant that we basically crashed when we arrived, using up our first afternoon. When we came to we discovered that the Authentic Family Homestay is famous in Israel. Some Israelis had visited years back and started a now famous blog in Israel, for this reason Israelis flock to this one place, about 10km outside of Da Lat city. How strange our world can be.
Da Lat is up in the mountains, at the south of the central highlands, 300km North of Saigon. It’s somewhere that the French colonised and influenced because of its cool climate and beautiful scenery. Driving round the city on the bike is reminiscent of driving around Paris. All the little streets converging on a roundabout, one way systems, it’s not easy!
First stop was paradise lake.
Once we got out of town we started to see some really interesting things:
How black fungus mushrooms are grown.
How carrots and parsnips are processed.
Interestingly, 150 tonnes of carrots and parsnips are sent to Ho Chi Minh City for consumption from Da lat EVERY day. They pick out the good looking ones to send to the city. This reminds us of the debate about vegetable wastage in the UK.
We stopped off in a Kho village – an ethnic tribe of Vietnamese people, at their traditional clothing shop. It was one of the best examples of these shops that we’d seen and we ended up coming away with a few pretty cheap items made from local silk.
The woman was so nice and smiley, she was wearing a specially patterned jumper which they wear only on special occasions (and in the shop). Most of the Kho in this area are christian.
The patterns on the fabric were beautiful, depicting the sun and the buffalo in this case.
They use a system of counter weights to control the fabric to make the patterns, the bags of sand at the back can be moved up or down depending on the need and these patterns are memorised from very young by the people that make the fabrics.
The village is actually called ‘Chicken Village’, it’s a great name for a village right! it comes from an interesting story.
A woman fell madly in love with a man in this area. She went to the man’s father to ask for his hand in marriage. In these times, it was seriously frowned upon for a woman to break her social rank and do this. Although it was also seriously frowned upon for an elder man to get visibly angry with a young woman. Instead he invented a challenge for the woman, if she completed it then she’d be granted the right to marry his son.
He asked her to go out into the forest and find a chicken with 9 toe nails. She gladly left and started to try and find the chicken, not knowing that it didn’t exist. The story goes she searched her whole life trying to find the chicken, and never did.
I thought it was pretty obvious. I mean he’s trying to hide behind the trees.
You’d think this was enough to complete a countryside tour but oh no, this incredible tour was just getting started.
Next up we visited one of two beautiful waterfalls.
Pap’ed. It was stunning. Breathtaking.
It’s called Pon Gour, and there were hardly any people at the waterfall, there are plenty of others that tourists from the city get shuttled off to. The most popular being Prenn apparently. We did see a couple of monks getting some holiday snaps.
We had a really nice Pho for lunch, our guide found us a really good one. In the Da lat area, they add a peanut sauce. It’s a good addition.
After lunch we dropped in on a tiny farm growing pepper,
These are ten a penny. They’re everywhere, Da Lat is so fertile.
The second waterfall was really awesome, we’ve never seen such power. It was exhilarating and unsettling in the same instant.
It’s called Elephant Falls because at the bottom there are rocks that look like elephants coming to bathe.
The mist rising off of the falls created rainbows that floated, almost completely circular, over the hills in the background.
Scrambling over a few rocks was fun.
We found a place that led behind the powerful main falls.
At the top of the waterfall there’s a really new temple with amazing temple animals,
and huge statues of the buddha and his companions. The style of the statues reminded us of Bylakuppe in India, so it’s probably safe to say they reminded us of the Tibetan style of buddhism. Nice, and random, to see in Vientam. This happy guy was outside too.
…..”but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep”.
Robert Frost was right as well, we had miles to go before we sleep. It was already mid afternoon and the light was golden as we turned up to the silk factory. It was nice to see where the silk was produced that they made our clothes from. I didn’t realise that they kill the silk worm though, that was a little disappointing.
Really smiley! We went to a bigger version of this in Mysore, India. Another memory.
After this we took a look at some industries that the local people rely on: rice noodles, and rice wine!
This confirmed our suspicions that rice wine isn’t a wine at all, it’s a distilled spirit more like vodka. Locals call it ‘happy water’ so we can all agree on that.
Rice is popped in a barrel with water and yeast, sinking to the bottom.
After fermentation it floats up to the top, that’s how they know it’s ready to distill.
Look how popular rice wine is!
There are some really weird wines out there, we were offered some ‘honey wine’ in Thon Tha village which turned out to be rice wine with bees in the bottom. I don’t know if they recognised their own joke.
That is a ‘blackbird and snake wine’. Catchy huh. It’s supposed to be like viagra. nuff said.
As the late afternoon light faded we came to our last stop of this tour, and it was in definite need as well. The coffee plantation. We both absolutely love Vietnamese coffee and we were both tired from a long hot day so it was nice to enjoy a coffee looking over the plantation.
This little fella was here too, he’s a weasel. The local people used to go up into the mountains to find these furry critters because they apparently have a taste for the best coffee beans.
And when they come out the other side, they’re completely in tact. After washing, they’re considered a delicacy.
We didn’t have a go at that one though.
The drive back to Da Lat from here was lovely, winding through the mountain highways, watching the sun set pink over the valleys.
We just spent two nights here, as we were running out of time on our Vietnamese visa, but due to this incredible tour we felt like we saw so much and got a real snapshot of life and industry in the mountains.
Our stay at the Authentic Family Homestay, on the outskirts of town, wanting, as usual, to meet local people and be a little bit off the beaten track, away from the crowds, was really lovely. The evening meal was free and delicious!
Da lat is a very popular honeymoon destination for Vietnamese couples and it’s firmly on the traveller trail so there are a lot of people around but it’s a pretty big and bustling place. It has a nice lake in the centre and some really cool buildings, check out the next post for more of that!