Monday, 31 October 2011

Da Lat, Waterfalls, and Silk

We've had a good couple of days in Da Lat so far. The weather has been gorgeous although it cools off at night, reminds me of mid September in Kelowna. There is some beautiful scenery and many waterfalls. Da Lat has some interesting architecture, it's still French Colonial for the most part but the colours are not what you would expect. Many houses are very brightly coloured, lime green, sky blue, hot pink. Some have sparkly pillars and clashing roofs. The other thing I have noticed is there are more large houses, typically Vietnamese houses are skinny, tall and long, these much wider. I think it has to go with Western influence, a couple of houses could have fit right in anywhere in North America. 

Oct 30 – Da Lat
We were up early since we were told to be at the bus stop for 6:30am. We had Pho for breakfast and by the time we finish our hotel reception had actually opened so we could check out. We trekked down to the bus stop and waited and waited. The bus showed up at 7:30am and then we picked up 2 other people and set off for Da Lat around 8am. It would have been nice to sleep a little more instead of waiting for an hour for the stupid bus. Also there were only 4 passengers on the bus! We are now wondering if the bus was actually full yesterday or else maybe it would have only been us on it. We slept a little on the ride up but as we neared Da Lat, it's 1500m above sea level, there was some incredible scenery. The clouds were lifting from the mountains so it looked almost like it was raining up. Very Cool! We arrived around 11am, much soon than we had expected thank goodness. We checked into the hotel we were dropped off at, it was clean and I was being lazy. We had my computer issue to take care of, the power adapter stopped working last night. We found a computer repair shop very easily (I was shocked how easy it was) and while we had lunch the guy replaced to cord for under $5. SWEET! We had a nice leisurely walk around Lake Xuan Huong, the man-made lake in the middle of Da Lat. It was quite hot in the sunshine but nothing compared to the coast. There's no humidity here. Near the end of the lake are the Da Lat flower gardens. They were quite pretty. Da Lat is apparently known for it's plants and produce. We saw many green houses during the drive up. To cool off we stopped for drink at a cafe and thought the fruit syrup drinks sounded interesting. Beau got lychee and I got apple, they were very sweet, surprise its syrup. Beau watered his down so he could drink it. We cooled off a little too much in the shade. The nice breeze which cooled me while walking now made me cold. We nipped back to the hotel to get some sleeves on before finding some dinner. Dinner was pretty good, chow mein noodles with squid, but we got talking to the guy at the table next to us, he was an Aussie. We had a nice chat with him and walked around the night market a bit. There were some hot drinks being served at some stalls, it was hot soy milk. We had one that was peanut flavoured, it was tasty and weird. It had a fuzzy texture to it but I liked it.

Lake Xuan Huong
Da Lat Gardens

Oct 31 – Elephant Waterfalls and Silk Center
One of the handy things about our hotel is free breakfast. We had “Egg Bread” and coffee; it was scrambled eggs and a baguette. While we ate the motorcycle Beau had rented for us the night before was dropped off. It was only $3 for the day, I guess we've be getting ripped off for $4-5. We knew we wanted to check out some falls and a silk center near Nam Bam village. We set off into the countryside. It was a lovely drive, very lush and scenic but quite a winding road. We stopped a few times for pictures, there were coffee plants growing everywhere and some other big shrubs that looked similar to poinsettias. We saw some easy rider bike pull into a house just outside of the village so we pulled over too. There was sign out front about rice wine/whiskey making and coffee. We tacked on to their little tour about how to make the rice alcohol. The guide poured a shot into a metal pan and lit it on fire. There was a huge flame and all the liquid burned off till the pan was dry again. Pretty potent stuff. In another area the guide showed us were the people kept weasels. They had quite a few of them. The reason for the weasels is because what they call Weasel Coffee is a delicacy. The weasels eat the coffee beans and poop them out. The beans are collected from the poop and then dried and roasted. The price of weasel coffee is about 5 times that of regular coffee. At this same place a couple that had been on our boat trip in Nha Trang came in. We got talking with them and their guide and the guide said we could follow there car to the silk center and Elephant Waterfall. We followed them to the Cuong Hoan Traditional Silk Center. It was so cool! There were all the silk worm cocoons and we could watch the process of making silk. They boil the cocoons, then spin them on to large wheels, the wheels are then spun to dry the threads, the wheels are then spun on to spools and the spools are used in the looms to make fabric. On the looms are these bamboo sheets which are the pattern for the fabric, they tell the loom, mechanically, how the fabric should be woven. I was in a little bit of heaven and they sold fabric... I bought myself some to make a dress. I couldn't resist but the fabric is beautiful and how often do you get to buy silk from the manufacturer which is a traditional silk center in Vietnam! While I was trying to pick fabric the other group had left but we got directions from one of the workers to Elephant Waterfall. Turns out it was just down the road. It's an awkward climb down to the bottom of the falls but the view was spectacular and worth the muddy hands and shoes. You could get quite up close to the falls but you got quite wet too. Beau got up close and wet while I didn't. It didn't take long for him to dry. We got some great photos. There was also a little restaurant at the top by the parking lot. We had some yummy Pho soup, it would have been even better if it was made with rice noodles not instant noodles, they use those a lot here. Next we continued along the road for a bit till we found another waterfall we had read about, Lien Khuong Falls. We stopped at a cafe that over looked the falls while we enjoyed a beer. There was yet another waterfall on Beau's list that was close to Da Lat, Datanla falls, so we decided to stop in there on our way back to the city. The falls were nice but there was this weird roller coaster type thing that could take you up and down through the trees to get to the falls. There were about 6 water falls in the area but only Datanla Falls was accessible by foot. Two others could be viewed from a cable car but we weren't willing to pay. Datanla was a nice looking waterfall, there was a couple there having wedding photos taken. We went back into the city and stopped at the Hang Nga Crazy House. It's this guest house built by some lady architect that is just totally bizarre. It has weird passageways, odd shaped rooms, caves, awkward bridges. It's described by Lonely Planet as Alice-in-Wonderland like. It was very odd and definitely crazy. We got some dinner at a place that advertised the vermicelli bowls I love. Unfortunately for Beau, they only had enough left for one serving, so he had some sort of rice dish with egg and pork. We got some of the hot soy beverage again, although this time we were told it was coco flavoured but tasted like the one last night. We picked up some dried fruit and nuts for a hiking snack for tomorrow. We are going to tackle Lang Bian Mountain, it's going to be a 4hr hike round trip. I think we are going to pick up something more for lunch in the morning.

Our Scenic drive from Da Lat to Nam Bam
Boiling the silk cocoons and spinning the silk treads

The Loom, the upper left is the fabric pattern
Elephant Waterfall

Beau getting wet next to the falls

At the bottom of the falls

Elephant Waterfall

Hang Nga Crazy House

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