For the first time during our whole trip we had to get up at stupid o’clock, 6:30am to be exact. We didn’t have the opportunity to have breakfast, because when we made it to the top floor there wasn’t a soul in sight. With two empty stomachs we returned to the room and enjoyed the remaining M&Ms, hoping they’d fill a gap. We then grabbed our bags and checked out, Sarah had the misfortune of having to pay for extra coke cans from the minibar as she wasn’t sure how many she had had (greedy). We then darted out the door and up the road in order to reach our coach collection point for 7:30am. We only had to wait half an hour before the coach arrived, we then located our seats and got comfy for the upcoming 5 hour journey. Like every long distance coach ride we’d been on the roads consisted of narrowing winding paths, sometimes with sheer drops either side. At one point the windows were so fogged up (because of our altitude) that I couldn’t believe we were still moving forward. We made one stop to a small roadside service station, then at 11:30am we had arrived, ahead of schedule, somehow the driver gained an hour.
After we retrieved our bags, there were a few hotel scouts trying to lure passengers to their accommodation. We followed one lady who was only charging $7 a night, Sarah checked the room and said it was, “ok but not great”. After all it’s Sarah’s opinion that matters, I’ll sleep anywhere. We checked a couple of the neighbouring hotels, but returned to the first one as they were all similar in looks and price. We climbed the two flights of stairs to our room, dropped off the bags and headed out. We returned to our drop off point first, as we needed to book our bus ride for Mui Ne on the 24/12/12. Seeing as we only had two days in Dalat we decided to book up a one day tour for the following day. We did a bit of a mix and match, choosing the morning part of one tour, and the afternoon part of a second. They arranged this without a fuss, and using our map we made our way to town to try out a restaurant recommended in the lonely planet.
It was very difficult to navigate using the map, as none of the roads seemed to be to scale. We eventually found our bearings and located the restaurant. It was a little place called Chocolate, and was supposedly a nice place to get international food. With that I ordered a pizza, and for the first time during our travels Sarah ordered a burger (granted it was a vegetarian one, but still). The pizza was ok, but the main thing that lacks on them all is the tomato base, if you like cheese, then you’ll love the pizzas of Vietnam/ rest of Asia. During our meal, Sarah was flicking through the bible (lonely planet guide) and she found a place we could visit called “The Valley Of Love”. According to the book it is a place that had become really cheesy over time, partly due to its title. There are gardens you can walk around and sickeningly naff statues to pose beside/ under. After settling the bill, we went in search of a taxi to take us to this lovers paradise.
The taxi fare cost us 80,000 dong, and we had to pay an additional 20,000 each to be allowed access to the grounds. As promised, it was just as it said, the place was filled with cheese. There were groups of Asian tourists, as well as Vietnamese locals taking photos under one particularly weird statue. It was a pair of hands with the male hand placing a ring on the finger of the woman’s. It was mostly couples taking it in turns to have their pictures taken, each time pulling romantic poses. When Sarah and I did it we would tend to pull faces and pretended to be throwing up. Other than the overly romantic statues, the grounds were lovely. When we reached the viewpoint, we were able to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding forests and lake. There was a set of stairs leading down to the lake where we were able to hire a swan shaped peddle boat. For 30,000 each, the pair of us took one out for an hour. Then began a very physical leg workout as we explored the waters, looking like two romantic pirates. We managed to see the majority of the lake, making it from one side to the other and back again in 45 minutes, taking it in turns to steer the vessel. When we got back and parked the swan up our legs were like jelly, making the flight of stairs quite challenging. We then decided to explore the remaining grounds by foot.
As we made our way around the smooth concrete path, there was a solemn horse attached to a carriage. Because it looked lonely I decided to give it a stroke, Sarah said they prefer to be petted firmly, however, when I applied a bit more pressure, the horse turned his head and attempted to bite me. I think there was a reason that horse was on its own. The road wasn’t that long and during the walk we passed a shoddy Venus Di Milo statue (that’s the topless lady with no arms, and in this statues case, with boss eyes and larger breasts than its authentic counterpart). We also passed a random statue of a cello and a couple more hollow heart shaped statues. When we arrived at the house it resembled that of the one Snow White shared with the dwarves. Seeing as we had witnessed everything else, that building concluded our visit. We then returned to the entrance to catch a taxi back to our hotel.
Luckily there was one right outside the front gate, and for another 80,000 we were taken back. We remained in the room for a couple hours, during which time I found a new love of swimwear models thanks to the fashion channel on our tv. We then watched a couple episodes of Dexter, where I nearly fell asleep. When we were finally ready to move again we decided to visit some markets, as for some unknown reason, Sarah still hadn’t had enough of them yet. We asked the people at our hotel to point us in the right direction, which they did, but not before asking us to give them the room key because it might get robbed. With that reassuring news we made our way down the street. On the walk Sarah was distracted by festive decorations, meaning we had to stop for photos before continuing. After capturing Christmas on camera, we eventually found the markets. These were the worst ones yet. Each stall sold the same clothes, and each one looked like the merchandise had been brought from home. It was terrible, and really busy. At one point an Asian guy tried telling me to go into a restaurant for food and was quite persistent that I go in. I had a feeling, by the way his hand brushed against my forearm, that the animated pointing at the restaurant was a distraction. That way he could put his hand in my pocket. Unfortunately for him, I had my wits about me and had my hands in my pockets already in anticipation for such a time. We weren’t at the market for long before Sarah grew bored and we went for food.
This time we visited another lonely planet recommendation, and even took it as far as ordering the shrimp clay pot they also recommended. It was lovely food once again, and after sorting out what we owed, we walked around the corner to a coffee shop. The reason we went there was because our friend Lisa claimed they sold amazing hot chocolates. When we got inside half of Vietnam was sat down. We were told they were too busy for us to sit, instead we chose the takeaway option and sipped on our creamy hot chocolates during the walk back to the hotel. I didn’t need a map this time as I had become quite familiar with roads. The sky was beginning to fill with precipitation, so, with a quick paced walk we made it back within ten minutes, before any rain could fall. When we got to our room it was a case of get changed, get into bed, watch some tv, and try to get at least 8 hours before the alarm clock rang at 7am the next day. It’s a tough life!