Day 69: Dalat’s The Way Uh Huh, Uh Huh, I like It

Today would see us leaving the hotel early and not returning until mid afternoon, as we were off to see just what Dalat had to offer. We had a lot to get through and the itinerary was as follows…
Dalat city tour
Morning:
1. Bao Dai summer Palace.
2. Crazy House
3. Dalat Cathedral
4. Robin Hill 1600m (cable car-2300m-panorama view)
5. Buddhist meditation monastery & paradise lake
6. Prenn Waterfall

Afternoon:
1. Langbiang mountain (1950m) driving up to the top by 4WD Jeep
2. Visiting Lat minority Village
3. Domaine de Marie church

We got up at 7am, went through the boring morning routines, then left the building around half seven hoping to grab some breakfast at the pickup point (which luckily was a hotel). While waiting for our food to come I decided to run back to our hotel to grab our jumpers, as the weather wasn’t looking too good and it was quite cold. The bus arrived around quarter past eight, just when we got seated and were ready to go, the guide read out a different itinerary to what we were expecting. At that moment we realised we had been ushered into the wrong group. The guides soon ejected us and 10 minutes later our actual bus pulled up.

Each stop we made only lasted about 5 minutes at most, as each one was practically on the others doorsteps. The first place we visited was a palace, this belonged to the Emperor who was plagued by the number 13. Remember, I told you all about him when we first heard of his story in Hue. The building wasn’t that glamorous to say it was a palace, it resembled an old hospital from the outside. The interior wasn’t much better, with the decor looking like it had come straight from the nineties. When we entered the front door everyone had to put little plastic covers over their feet, to help keep the place looking…. Shoddy. We were given half an hour to walk around before having to return to the bus for our next stop.

The Crazy House was next on the agenda and was recommended in the lonely planet as a sightseeing attraction. Because Sarah read me the paragraph describing the building my expectations were a bit high, and I felt slightly let down when I arrived. I was expecting more craziness than the place was offering, basically, the building took elements of Alice in Wonderland and Dr Suess and attempted to create a world where nothing made sense. We were told the building was created back in 1991 and has been worked on ever since. We saw there was a newer building still under construction as we made our way around the snaking staircases. You could stay there if you wanted to, but with room prices starting at $35 a night, and it constantly being busy and noisy with tourist coming and going, I think I’ll pass. The group gathered in a little room, where our tour guide gave us all the info he had to offer, before giving us another half an hour to explore. It was quite annoying whenever we ended up behind a certain group of Asian tourists. Every five feet they would stop to take pictures of themselves. When we got pass and out into the open then began our task of manoeuvring around the complicated structure. Everywhere we went, at some point, the road would fork into two paths. On one of these occasions we followed a set of stairs that went up and over the roof of a building. It was quite harrowing at the top, as when it came to going down, the ledge either side of you only came up to your shins. Meaning if you slipped you’d be in serious trouble. After we had been all around, we returned to the bus with three minutes to spare.

The next stop was quite boring to be honest as it was a cathedral. The reason it was there was because of the time the French colony occupied Vietnam, with it they brought over catholic beliefs. While Sarah and I spoke with the guide he told us about 10% of Vietnamese people were of catholic faith. We stayed at that location for as long as that conversation lasted, then it was back on the bus for the cable car ride. After a five minute drive to the top of the hill we were ushered by our guide to the cable car ticket office. We were given the choice of riding it if we wanted to. The tickets cost 50,000 dong each, those who didn’t want to go returned to the bus and met us on the other side. I paid for both our tickets and off we went. The views from the carriage were amazing, we sailed across the tops of luscious green forests, while taking in views of the surrounding woodlands and a stunning lake. It was funny, on one side of us was pure greenery, on the other a city which had been carved into the woodlands. When we reached the end of the line we rejoined the rest of the group and crossed the street to the Buddhist meditation monastery.

With another time limit to work against, we explored the grounds of the monastery as best we could. The grounds were peaceful with lovely oriental designed buildings, pretty gardens and plenty of large bonsai trees to admire, it would have been easy to have spent longer there. The gardens overlooked the paradise lake we had witnessed previously from the cable car. We took some photos and continued to explore the grounds. There wasn’t too much else to see other than a restricted area which was clearly only for monks, this didn’t stop Sarah from standing at the gates and taking pictures though. When we returned to the main area we had a quick look inside one of the temples, then returned to our bus. We were then taken to the final stop of the morning, a waterfall.

We didn’t end up going to the Prenn waterfall on accounts of the weather and the fact nobody wanted to ride an elephant. Instead, we were taken to a different waterfall. When we arrived, there was a billboard advertising the seven different falls they had to offer. Due to our time limit, we had the options of either walking down to see one, or taking the toboggan run. To save money we chose to walk. When we reached the bottom of the never ending staircase we weren’t that impressed with what we saw. We had spoiled waterfalls for us by seeing phenomenal ones in both Laos and Thailand. The highlight of the visit was when we witnessed an Asian girl trying to walk around in a ridiculously high pair of heels, every few steps she’d have to grab her boyfriend’s shoulder to remain upright. How she made it down there in the first place I have no idea. When the clock rolled around to 12:40pm that signalled the end of our trip, it was then back to the hotel for dinner.

We were very disappointed with what we received, the meal was chicken and rice, first of all the chicken was cold, secondly my pieces were bloody and looked like somebody had chopped the pieces with an axe. The only blessing to the meal was the fruit salad for dessert. During dessert, another tour guide came in and asked Sarah and I if we were part of the afternoon group, we told him we were, then hurried out the door to join them. This time we got in the correct vehicle, then off we went to the top of a mountain. When we arrived we had to squeeze seven people into a little Jeep in order to get to the very top. When we reached the summit we were standing 1950 metres above sea level. The views were breathtakingly gorgeous, all the fields were different colour, looking like a giant patchwork quilt. In the distance were mountains, and on the ground was the most silver lake I had ever seen. After taking some pictures, I discovered a new feature on my iPhone’s camera, a panorama setting. It finally allowed me to capture viewpoints more realistically. It gave me the ability to capture perspective to a certain degree, by slowly moving the camera from left to right the phone then crops what was taken and creates one long photograph. When the weather started turning windy and rainy again, we returned to the bottom and headed to the minority village.

The weather really couldn’t make up its mind that day, as when we arrived the sun started to come out again. Our guide walked us through a part of the village, before stopping us to explain what it was all about. He told us the people live very differently to what we are used to, with a main focus on agriculture and choosing to not have an education. The people of the village are of catholic beliefs and get married early. We didn’t walk far through the village before our guide said we might as well turn back. Seeing as the track was mostly dirt and the wind was picking up, he said there was nothing more to see anyways. When we climbed back into our seven seater we were driven to the final stop of the day, this was the Domaine de Marie church. The church was pretty much the same as any you’d find back home. The only fun thing about the visit was watching the children rehearsing for the festive nativity play which they’d be performing closer to Christmas. We had a look around the grounds, and the wonderful flower garden that was out the back, then called it a day. We sat back in the car and waited for everyone else. It was then back to the hotel to conclude our trip.

Due to lunch being such a let down, let alone not very filling, I grew rather hungry and decided it was time to eat again. We visited a couple places but decided on a restaurant opposite our hotel. It wasn’t the best food we’d had, but it was certainly better than the gruel they served us earlier that day. When we finished and settled the bill we went back to our hotel room and snuggled down in bed to watch Dexter. Due to how addictive each episode is, we didn’t leave the room until 7:30pm. We only braved the cold outside because of our bellies grumbling. We returned to the restaurant named Chocolate, and had a burger and curry. However, my burger was more two slices of chicken in a bun than the quarter pounder I was expecting. When we settled the bill, Sarah then stopped in a fruit store. It’s a sad state of affairs when two apples costs more than a beer. After that extortionate purchase we headed back to the hotel for another early night. During the walk we were distracted by a massive festive display which had been erected by the locals. It contained a lot of tin foil, but mostly there were large statues of baby (and adult) Jesus, lots of lights, and a ginormous lit up star which shot more lights all over the place. After taking some photos we walked the remaining 200 steps, just before the rain kicked in. Back in the room we watched some more Dexter, and before I knew it the time was 11:20pm… So much for that early night!

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