Da Lat, Vietnam. This spectacular mountain town is a breath of fresh air both literally and figuratively, and is definitely one of my favorite spots in Southeast Asia!
We left Ho Chi Minh City around 9:30 on a three-rowed bunk sleeper bus, and even though I was half asleep, the ride was insane. Every time I glanced out the window it felt like we were on two wheels flying going around the mountain turns. We were passing cars around blind curves, driving shoulder to shoulder with other buses, just flying over the mountain passes that I had been reading so many horror stories about.
Needless to say, we made it safely. However, where we were supposed to arrive at 6, our driver got us to Da Lat at the dismal time of 3:45am. We sat comatose in the bus terminal watching “Good Morning, Vietnam” (you know, to get in the spirit) until the sun peaked over the mountains and we decided to try to check into our hostel early.
We were dropped off at Da Lat Backpackers around 6am where the owner, Mr. Vu, came stumbling bleary-eyed out of his slumber in the backroom and allowed us to go upstairs to sleep. What a saint.
Cut to a few hours later, and there I am, Jess Berzack, buying a motorcycle. Well…more of a moped…but still! What?!
As if to foreshadow the month to come, the heavens opened on us as we took our bikes on a first spin to try and find sustenance. Dripping wet and a bit miserable, we made it into the picturesque town center where we took to the market to find some more substantial clothing for our newfound form of transportation.
Armed with new jackets and long pants, we drove back across the river and went to take a look at the Hang Nga Crazy House. We thoroughly enjoyed working our away around the twists and turns of this architectural wonder, and the views over the surrounding city and hills weren’t too shabby either!
They were in the thick of construction adding to this marvel while we were there, so I’d love to go back and see what they’ve added. I highly recommend putting this on your Da Lat to-do list!
From there, we headed back to the hostel where Mr. Vu and his family cooked us the most amazing vegan dinner, and we got to bond with some of the other travelers over pitchers of free beer. A Welsh brother and sister, a couple from Jersey (the British one), three American guys looking for a party, and one more Welshman for good measure. We drank about 10 towers of beer then piled in a cab to the famous 100 roofs bar for a night of typical backpacker debauchery.
The next morning we all peeled ourselves out of bed and got on a bus to go canyoning in the river.
After a few practices on a hillside, we donned our hilariously captioned hardhats and headed for the waterfalls.
We made our way down the river, jumping off of rocks, repelling down waterfalls, ziplining, and plunging into ravines. We enjoyed lunch and a beer before heading back to town.
Liam and I took our bikes to one of the local coffee farms where they use weasels to sniff out the best coffee beans, digest them, and then the beans are taken from their feces to make specialty coffee. I mean…it was pretty damn good coffee. We sat on the terrace overlooking the coffee plantation, playing with dogs and enjoying a mighty fine sunset.
Da Lat might have been my favorite city in Vietnam. The beautiful and copious fruit and vegetable orchards, the European feel of the streets, the lively market and night time food extravaganza, the misty mountain air and spectacular gardens around every corner. Da Lat is a dream, and I would go back in a heartbeat.