We arrived at the airport, checked in, and went hunting for a meal. We had to check our weapons at the counter (Ceci always carries her bow and arrow), so we had to go find ready-made food. We found a little banh mi shop. Their sandwiches looked halfway decent given their airport location. We approached the counter and Ceci began her order.
Ceci: One pork sandwich please.
Clerk: I’m sorry, we don’t have pork.
Ceci: Sigh… Ok, I’ll have the chicken sandwich.
Clerk: I’m sorry, we don’t have chicken. Here, fill out this “have it your way” sandwich form and we’ll make your sandwich.
Ceci: Ok. –Begins filling out form then hands it to Clerk–
Clerk: Oh I’m sorry, we don’t have ham.
Ceci was about to lose her mind. Rather than telling us what they had, they allowed Ceci to ask for every possible combination of unavailable sandwich. In the end, she gave up and went for the crappy looking club sandwich in the little food gallery.
After that little episode, we ate our food, hopped on our plane, and quickly arrived just outside of Da Lat, where a shuttle (40,000 VND) would take us the remainder of the 30km to the center of town. The shuttle driver was one of the happiest, smiliest, and friendliest drivers we’ve seen.
We found it funny that, as we approached the highway, there was a sign that said Saigon: → 270km, Da Lat: ← 30km. This means our flight only took us 90% of the way!
Our happy driver dropped us of in the center of town, where we went searching for a hotel or hostel. We came across the Central Da Lat Hostel, which ended up being one of the very best hostels we’ve stayed! For 5USD, you get a huge bed in a relatively small, immaculately clean 8 bed dorm room. Not only that, but the guy running the place, Bon, and his wife were exceptional. They were friendly and super helpful and accommodating.
Something that really added to our experience was the number of fantastic people we met here. To start, there were the Germans. These two guys, Bastian and Phillip, were making their way up from Saigon to Hanoi on their motorcycles. They had great stories and gave off a great vibe. They invited us out to a bar where we happily joined them later that night.
At the hostel, we also met the Canadians, the Swiss girl, and the French guy. With so many people you meet for such a short time, it’s hard to keep up with all their names. But no matter; as Ceci pointed out to me, the good times we had with them will not be forgotten.
While at the hostel, we rented a motorcycle at the hostel (105,000 VND per day) to get around town. On day two, we found a tour offered by a local company, so we took their tour destinations and decided to do the trip on our own.
We found Linh An Pagoda with a giant Buddha, the so-called Elephant Waterfalls, and rain. Lots and lots of rain.
It got to a point where Ceci, my backseat rider, couldn’t keep her eyes open because of so much rain. I, the driver, also had a hard time seeing after a little while. So we pulled over and hid under a roof until the rain calmed a bit. Finally, we started making our way back. The rain eased up, though it never fully stopped. That 45 minute ride, while beautiful, was incredibly long and cold.
Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that Da Lat is super cold! Well, at least by Southeast Asian standards. It must’ve been 65 degrees and all the local folks were wearing their heavy jackets. I couldn’t believe they even owned heavy jackets in this country! Well, during that ride in the cold rain up in the mountains, I understood why a nice warm jacket might be a good idea.
When we returned to the hostel, we came across Bastian who seemed a little down. We asked him how he was doing and what he had been up to. He told us the sad news that he had lost his bag from his motorcycle while doing the same ride that we had just completed. It seems that he failed to properly secure the bag to his bike and dropped it somewhere along the way. He and Phillip rode around for a good while in search of their bag, which included their camera and all their pictures from several months of travel, to no avail. I had read a story not long before about a guy who had a similar story. But he was incredibly lucky in that the person that found his bag was an honest and stand up guy, and he sent emails and posted on Facebook trying to return the backpack to the rightful owner. I told Bastian not to lose hope as he was not the first to go through this, and others had had good luck.
We agreed to meet up later that night at the bar. Meanwhile, Ceci and I went and had lunch, and ended up watching a movie at the hostel to stay out of the rain for a bit. We came across the Canadians, so we invited them to the bar as well.
Later that night, at the bar, we must’ve had a group of 12-15 people! The Germans told us that, just two night before, they were the only ones in the bar.
Ceci called them “the Bonding Agents” for their ability to bring people together into conversation.
When we arrived, we asked the Bonding Agents if they had any luck with their bag. Gleefully, the exclaimed that they had! That a very honest guy from a nearby town had found their bag and took it off the road to get it out of rain and danger of being run over. He turned to Facebook, messaging some of the local hotels and hostels about a found bag. From there, one person told the next and the next until word got back to Bastian and Phillip that their stuff had been found! Cheers to that!
After a few beers, we decided to turn in as we’d be going canyoning early the next day.
Boy, was that an experience! If you don’t know what canyoning is (also known as canyoneering), it is a mountaineering activity that includes hiking, trekking, swimming, and rappelling (or abseiling), among others. Obviously, neither Ceci nor I had done this. But we strapped on our safety gear and jumped right in. And met some more great people along the way!
Later that night, we met up with the Argentian and Dutch girls for some comforting pizza. It wasn’t like what we might’ve had back home, but it was a nice little break from never-ending pho.
Soon after, we went to the bar to hang out with all our new Da Lat friends one last time. We headed back to the hostel to prepare our backpacks for the next adventure in Hoi An.
For me, Da Lat was one of the highlights of our trip. It’s cool weather was a nice escape from the Southeast Asian heat. The scenery was green and forested, which I always enjoy. To top things off, the city where Asia meets the French Alps greatly resembles the tiny country of Andorra! If you find yourself between Southern France and Barcelona, check it out. You’ll see what I mean.
Do you have any stories of great people doing great things? We’ve learned that folks here are firm believers in karma, so many of them try to live an honest life so that they may come back as an even better person in their next life time. Tell us about your good fortune and good influences in the comments below!