So sorry that this is a little late so let’s dive right in!
It was a short stay in the mountain city of Dalat, we left Hoi An that morning and our journey South took just under 15 hours to complete. I will say that for most of this trip I have been very thankful for my decision to hire a private car company, this leg of the journey was not one of those moments.
Not only was it a long day by any road trip standard but our driver was only driving one thing… me crazy. He was all over the road, slamming on the breaks and making all kinds of personnel stops… It was time for this leg to be over. I am so thankful my daughter is a champ sleeper in cars, she was passed out for most of it trip!
It was long past dark when we arrived in Dalat. Winding around dark corners I kept looking for some sign that we were getting close to our destination, then I saw It! An illuminated haze just above the tree line, at first I thought that it was just the moon coming through the clouds in a strange way but as we banked around the final corner we saw the source of the light…greenhouses! Hundreds even thousands of greenhouses, this was astonishing to see! I had never seen so many green houses, especially built into the mountains. I only wish that I could have caught a picture while driving.
After such a long trip we wanted to take the next morning easy. We went to the little cafe around the corner from our hotel and enjoyed the cool morning with several small cups of coffee (they don’t make large cups here) while people watching as well as being watched. Everywhere we go we seem to draw a lot of attention because of Harmony. So families…of you are traveling with small babies – be prepared to be watched everywhere you go.
Once we finished our Cafe we wanted to visit a 1926 railway station. One of the oldest tracks of the railroad it the country, you can ride the antique train up to a beautifully remote pagoda. Just over a mile and a half away, we thought what better way to see the city?
This city is like a little Paris, it even includes a radio tower that looks like the Eiffel tower and a river walled in through the city like the river Seine. Gardens along the river, coffee shops and cafes every third or fourth buildings and even most of the architecture throughout the city. I have noticed that throughout Vietnam there is a lot of French history and influence, I never knew that there was such a presence here from the French. It goes to show that you learn something new every day!
Sadly, when we arrived at the train station the train had just left, so we decided to kill time till the next departure. We learned, don’t count your chickens on these trains, each train has to have a minimum of 25 people for each trip and if there are not enough people the departure time is canceled and pushed back to the next. This was a real bummer for me because this was a trip I wanted to take but so it goes and the show must go on!
Dalat is one of the few places in Vietnam that produces wine. Originally planted vines during the French Colonial rule in the 19th century, lands that have been in a state of recovery since the Vietnam War winemakers from around the world have come here to help continue cultivating the wine industry in Vietnam. Coming from wine country myself, I can definitely appreciate the work that goes into marketing a lesser-known industry…and the wine is good enough to take home to my boss (who is a winemaker).
What I am finding to be very strange is the lack of local support for Vietnam wine. We have had to look in unusual places to find it and it is basically never served in restaurants, least not that we’ve seen thus far.
We stopped for a quick lunch then started walking again! This time we found our way to the summer palace for King Bao and this palace is straight out of the 50s even down to the terrible couch fabrics to stay carpets! I was expecting a little more glamour from a royal palace but all we found was simple and modest.
The day continued slowly, enjoying the cool mountain temperatures we wanted to enjoy the air as the temperatures continued to drop as the sun was setting. The night market carts were rolling out and busy getting set up – this was the only time that I have seen the Vietnamese people being rude. But with the insane amount of traffic coming in and out while everyone was in a mad dash to get set up I am not entirely surprised either.
We finally figured out what was being grown in all of the greenhouses we saw outside the city-fruit! Fruit as far as the eye could see, piles of strawberries, apples, oranges, bananas and so much more! Haggling here is very easy because if you move to the next stall down, selling the exact same items because you don’t like the price everyone seems to reconsider their negotiating price.
As the night became cooler we started our short walk back to our hotel for the night. As we walked down the crowded streets I saw large families gathered around a grill cooking street food and warming their hands over the hit coals hoping to warm their numb fingers.
We are off to our final city now – Traveling Photographer Out!