“Ten days. I’m leaving in a couple of days.” replied the Swiss national.
Why had he been in Dalat so long? Well it’s too hot at sea level so he had decided that he would make his home one thousand five hundred meters up instead. This is sort of rational thinking except that I couldn’t help but feel he might have exhausted the available sites by now. Dalat is a more acceptable climate than the steaming Vietnamese plains but there isn’t a huge amount to do. The old French hill station doesn’t offer an awful lot. The best parts are reserved in the surrounding countryside and there is no shortage in men on bikes wanting to take you to see them.
These men differ from the normal moto drivers. After the Vietnam war, a number of Southern veterans teamed together and set up a motocycle club called ‘the easy riders’. Wearing blue jackets they see themselves not as a mere vehicle around the area but as experienced guides taking you to places you would not possibly find without the help of them. I met Lan in a café and agreed on a day tour with him. He spoke impeccable English having received a degree in tourism and had been touring around the local countryside and indeed further afield for the past ten years.
The bike was considerably bigger than I had been on before, which provided the initial problem of just how I was supposed to climb onto the back. Successful, helmet on (a rarity in Asia) we drove out of the town and into the mountains. As Lan took care of the driving I had plenty of time to enjoy the surrounding scenery as the cold wind blew onto my face. It was all rather beautiful as farmers tended their crops and local villages and minority groups went about their everyday lives.
Over the course of the day Lan crammed plenty in. We visited a silk factory, a flower farm, a coffee plantation (Vietnamese coffee is the best I have ever had…Fact!), a tea plantation, a number of pagodas, statues, view points and finally a waterfall before breaking for lunch. After a set meal that easily defeated my appetite, and a glass of rice wine, flavoured with dead snakes and geckos, we were back on the road again taking in a rice wine factory and the so called crazy house, which whilst crazy fell slightly short of my expectations. All in all it was a great way to get out and see the surrounding area. It is becoming increasingly popular to go further afield and join your guide for many days across the highlands. Personally whilst tempting, I do think that the price is whilst great for what you get for a day tour, steep to say the least for longer!
Through bad/wonderful planning I couldn’t get a bus directly to Hoi An without going on an epic trip via Vietnams premier beach resort, Nah Trang. With that in mind I planned an unexpected day stop back in the sauna, at the beach.