Iv’e always loved the sunshine but the weather is Vietnam is very hot at the moment so it was nice to escape the heat for a while to the cooler climates of the mountains in Dalat. Unfortunately there is no train up to the mountains but a very scenic bus trip and 4 hours later I arrived. Dalat is referred to as the honeymoon capital as it’s a quaint town with lots of flowers everywhere.
Dalat I felt was off the tourist trail and met some amazing people and really got to know the locals. I went on an amazing cable car ride to a local monastery and lake and spent the afternoon wandering around and just enjoy being in nature. It was a great place to get out of the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities and do some walking meditation in the peaceful countryside.
The train in Vietnam only runs north to south along the coast and Dalat doesn’t have a train journey for long distances but it does have a 30 min trin trip to the nearby village of Ma Trai. This was a nice adventure and got to experience life in a rural village while visiting the Linh Phuong Pagoda.
This was really a glimpse of village life and nice to come back and relax at the Dalat Train villa & café where they’d turned a train carriage into a café. My favourite meal here was the ‘Dalat Pizza’ which used rice paper as a base and then topped with onion, garlic, chillies & cheese….yummy !! The best thing was I sat with the family at their market stall one evening having a chat in broken English but they kept handing me cups of tea and smiling. These are the best memories and love getting to know the local people.
I also visited the ‘Crazy House’ in Dalat which was built by a local architect and it’s been described as Gaudi on acid!! It was a maze of different rooms and different colours and structures so a fun afternoon exploring this maze of architecture (www.crazyhouse.vn).
My last night was spent watching the euro championship football game with the locals and even though they loved Gareth Bale they were still shouting for England!! It was a fantastic few days in the mountains and now it was time to return to the coast to continue my train journey up the coast to Hoi An. Hoi An is located in the central plain of Vietnam and such as beautiful city and when I arrived it was the lantern festival which happens monthly for the full moon so it was nice surprise. You buy a lantern for 10,000 VD ($1) even though I was charged 100,000 VD ($10)!! Once you buy the lantern you then lower it down on the river and make a wish and it was such a magical atmosphere around the town with all the lanterns lit up.
Hoi An has a lot of culture and some of the best food I’ve had in Vietnam so far !! One of my favourite restaurants was called ‘Seedlings’ (www.seedlingshoian.tumblr.com) and it was a mentorship programme run by Laguna Lang Co under the Banyan Tree group. It’s aim is to provide training and job opportunities for disadvantaged local youths and I love supporting these kind of projects. I had a fantastic lunch there of banana flower & beef salad and managed to talk to the students about the project.
It was a nice place to wander around and explore the night markets and listen to live music in the local bars. This was definitely a place I found hard and made harder by the fact I was upgraded from my hostel to a villa along the river. Time was passing so needed to continue my journey so join me next time on my adventures in Hanoi and the north.
Bye for now,