Taking a seven hour bus trip by choice probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for E and I it was the perfect downtime after experiencing the hustle and bustle of HCMC. If you’ve never been on a sleeper bus you’re missing out. The double decker seat situation was so different to your usual bus, and I had to climb up into my “bed” without a ladder. Yeah, that was fun. Don’t even try and imagine it, it wasn’t pretty.
Destination – Dalat. A lengthy trip up into the mountains from Ho Chi Minh City, but one of the most relaxing ways to see the real Vietnam. As soon as we left the buzz of HCMC (read about my experience here) the scenery changed to a deep green, and the congested roads we were slowly getting used to became much less crazy. Winding our way through the countryside, it was wonderful to see the regional side of Vietnam.
What was once the base for the US military in the Vietnam War, Dalat is now a picturesque mountain side town with much French colonial influence dating back to the past. Skinny cobbled roads make up the streets and don’t even try and fit two cars on the same one! Our beautiful hotel was very much “French” influenced, featuring a glorious four poster bed and stunning wooden furniture. A real home away from home.
If you ever get over to Vietnam you have to travel by EasyRider. Translation – on the back of a motorbike. I’ll admit I was a little hesitant to get on the back of the bike, but after some encouragement from one of our “drivers” Bin, I donned the glamorous helmet and on I climbed. A little bit scary at first (I’ve only ever been on a four wheeler), it didn’t take me long to realise why people are so keen on motorbikes. The free feeling is such a high! Apologies to everyone I’ve harassed about being careful on a motorbike… I get it now! Our guides had a few different tour packages, but we wanted to see everything! So we did. A bit of an unofficial motto was spawned on this trip – “just do it”. Because what is the point of skipping out on an experience when it is right there for the taking. Face your fears friends!
First stop on our EasyRider tour was the Golden Buddhha. Although I’m not a traditionally religious person, as soon as we stepped foot on sight you could feel a quiet calm over the entire place. It was very spiritual and very beautiful. Lush gardens, people taking time out of their day to reflect and pray, kind of heavenly really. The massive golden Buddha is nestled amongst greenery and flowers, whilst other religious statues circle it. Best to go earlier in the day if you want to avoid the swarms of Saigon tourists.
We then spent a good hour winding up and down mountain sides taking in the “real” side of Dalat. The farming and outskirts of the town. Zooming down a steep slope, wind in my hair, surrounded by tall beautiful trees and natural scenery was absolute perfection. At that moment I felt so relaxed and pure happiness. It was an amazing feeling. We were taken to visit a few friends of the guides, local farmers who grew flowers and mushrooms. The flower market was stunning, with rows of roses and lillies all lined up, basking in the sunshine and fresh air. The air was so clean outside the main part of town, so different to Ho Chi Minh’s smoggy streets. Up a few more mountains and we stopped off at Melinh Coffee, an artistan house run by people of the remote ‘minority’ villages. Hand woven silk was made in front our eyes as we sat on the deck overlooking farms and coffee bean plantations whilst sipping on rich, fresh brew. Home of “Weezle Coffee” (little hybrid cat/weezle creature eats coffee beans, poops them out and coffee is made from the bean), of course I had to try. E’s not a coffee drinker so someone had to take one for the team. The coffee was strong and almost spicy, nothing like your usual brew. The beans are available for purchase so if you’re in the area you must pop in and support the local villagers. You don’t have to try the poo coffee, but why not? Just do it!
If I thought we’d see remote areas on the tour thus far, I was wrong. We had the privilege of visiting two mountainside minority areas in the outskirts of town. According to our guides, the villagers once lived in the very remote mountain jungles, but had been made to move closer to civilisation. It really was an eye opening experience to see how these people lived. Imagine squishing ten people into a two room house? I couldn’t. The villagers were so friendly and smiley and welcoming, the children having a giggle at the “white people” in their home. The views from the second village we visited were stunningly beautiful and it was such an experience to see the polar opposite of usual tourist adventures.
To wrap up the tour we visited a few of Dalat’s landmarks, including the Elephant Falls, the old train station and French Quarter. The architecture is truly beautiful in Dalat, so much so I wish my house was painted in a bright vibrant pastel! Not sure how my landlord would feel about that though.
If you’re ever in Dalat you must see the real city behind the tourist scattered cobbled streets and cheap food. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. Big props to our guides, without you we never would have experienced such real beauty and culture. Check out Vietnam Dalat EasyRiders Adventure For Life, you will not be disappointed! I faced a fear of motorbikes on this trip… Didn’t think that would happen!
When was the last time you faced a fear? What was it?