We arrived in Dalat in the early afternoon after another Sinh Tourist bus took us out of
Russia Nha Trang.
Thankfully this bus was a normal day time bus with seats so we avoided the hours of trying to find a position comfortable enough to sleep in. Unfortunately the seats were built for people with somewhat smaller frames than mine so, instead, I spent hours sitting as if I was in an old school side saddle on a horse with my knees pointing out in to the aisle. Not as bad as the girl behind me who got nailed by a falling bag as we hit a rather large bump though I guess.
Unbeknownst to us, our hotel had kindly sent a guy to meet us as we got off the bus to take us to our hotel. We followed him obediently to what we expected to be a taxi (we had all our luggage on us which equates to pretty much all our worldly possessions). He didn’t think a taxi was necessary though and he handed us a couple of helmets and started strapping all our gear to his and his buddy’s motorbikes. I’m still amazed how they fit everything plus us on those bikes and then weaved in and out of traffic. Colour me impressed.
On to our (somewhat empty) hotel we went. We didn’t see any other guests the whole time we were there but there were 4 plates put out for breakfast every morning and we heard some interesting sounds through the thin ceiling one night so our guess was that there was another (somewhat amorous) couple staying there. Staying in a deserted hotel has its perks though as we did get great service.
Dalat is in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and 1,500 metres above sea level so it’s a lot cooler than everywhere else we’ve been except maybe Sapa. It was a nice change to not be dripping sweat all day.
Partly because of the cooler weather, Dalat is quite a popular destination for Vietnamese tourists. We were the only Western tourists in our part of town so the local kids found us quite interesting (either staring at us or, for the braver ones, screaming hello at us to practice their english).
The local tourists also come to Dalat for weddings and honeymoons apparently. This leads to some awesome tourist attractions like Swan boat rides in the lake and horse drawn carriages and sites such as the “Valley of Love” and the “Lake of Sighs”. We chose to avoid the kitsch, over-the-top “romantic” stuff (Dayna has enough romance in her life already!) and opted for some more general sight-seeing trips.
We spent one day on a tour around the countryside visiting a really long list of local places like coffee/vegetable/flower farms, waterfalls, temples, local villages and a few other bits and pieces.
One of the places was Elephant waterfall where we were told that we should have “good shoes” on as it was a bit of a rough track to the lookout apparently. Too bad they told us this 2 minutes before we got there rather than before we left our hotel as we both had jandals on.
The rough track turned in to a nightmare with jandals on as it was incredibly slippery and there were quite a few places that dropped off in to huge rocky holes. The worst part was it seemed like whoever designed the “track” was just messing with us.
There would be some nice steps cut in to the rock so we would think “Perfect, this is easy” then the steps would end and a deep valley would open up in front of us and we would spend 10 minutes trying to figure out where to go from there. Eventually we would decide that we had to shuffle down the steep slippery rock and leap across a big gap in the track or perform some other athletic feat that isn’t easy with muddy jandals attached to your feet (mine spent as much time on top of my feet as they did under them).
Whenever we got to something that appeared to be the lookout for the waterfall we would find a group of bemused tourists standing on a rock staring around at the bush.
Eventually we found a section of “track” where there was a steep rock face that Dayna navigated by sliding down on her butt. I thought to myself “what a silly girl, I can do that much better” and found a much shorter section to slide down. Too bad I didn’t see the pile of horrid poop left by some unknown creature and slid right through it. It’s a horrible feeling lifting your hand to your face to see what the sticky slimy stuff on it is and a huge stench informing you that your hand is, in fact, covered in crap. It smelt fruity but there was A LOT of it so I have no idea what deposited it on the rock face. My guess is some rare, dog-sized bat with a stomach bug.
We trucked on for a bit longer before finding a rock that we accepted as the lookout. I still have no idea where the actual lookout was but here’s a photo of the waterfall anyway.
By the time we were halfway back up the ‘Track from Hell’ I had started to smell quite ripe so we found a stream for me to wash off in. I quickly gave up on the thought of staying at all dry and just deposited myself in the stream right before a small group of fellow travellers arrived. I informed them that, in case they were wondering, I had sat in sh*t on the track and that was why I was sitting in the stream rubbing my butt. One girl had a bit of a laugh and said she wondered how the pile of crap had been spread out so much by the time they came back up. She quickly stopped laughing when it was pointed out that she was washing her hands downstream from my poop scrubbing.
Eventually we moved on, me with a suspiciously wet behind, and made it to a unique little coffee roastery / rice wine distillery. The unique part was the way the coffee was made there. Weasels are involved.
The story we were told there was that, once upon a time, a guy had picked up some coffee beans off the ground (out of piles of poop) and roasted these up. He discovered that these beans made much better coffee than normal so sought to replicate it again. This is where the weasel’s came in. They feed the weasels the coffee beans and wait for the weasels to do their part before going through their poop to scoop out all the, still intact, coffee beans to be roasted, ground and made in to cups of coffee.
Obviously we decided this all sounded DELICIOUS and we had to get amongst it and try some. At the time, I just thought it was fitting that I drink some poop after sitting in it earlier in the day but it turns out this is some rare, expensive poop coffee.
“The specialty Vietnamese weasel coffee, which is made by collecting coffee beans eaten by wild civets, is sold at $6600 per kilogram ($3000 per pound).Most customers are in Asia – especially Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.Sources vary widely as to annual worldwide production. Some specialty coffee shops sell cups of brewed kopi luwak for US$35-80.”
Our verdict was that it was really strong, a bit too thick/syrupy and not particularly pleasant. I wouldn’t quite say it tasted like sh*t though. We only paid about $2.50 for a cup anyway so sounds like we got a bargain at least!
At the same place as the Weasel poop coffee we also got to taste rice wine and rice whisky and see how it was made. We had a few Russians on our trip who knocked back shots of the 70% ABV rice whisky as if it was nothing but I only managed a few sips. It was strong (and nasty). The rice wine was nice enough though.
The rest of our time in Dalat is already a bit of blur in my head so here is a blur of pictures for you too to sum it up.
Tune in next time for – Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta…