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Dalat – the Central Highlands

We arrived on the train from hell to Nha Trang, a beach-side town, that seemed to us like it had passed it’s best. Unfortunately the weather was bad for us, raining and cloudy, the sea was rough, so if we couldn’t go to the beach there wasn’t much point in staying. We had booked 3 nights at the hostel, but within a couple of hours we knew we didn’t like the town so cancelled two of the three nights and booked a bus the next day to Dalat in the highlands.

The bus journey to Dalat was pretty horrific, we got the back row, it was the bumpiest and most horrible bus journey yet for 6 hours up to Dalat, from sea level to 5,000 feet, with a crazy driver. We just about managed to keep our breakfast inside us though and  survived the journey to get to Dalat.

Dalat is very different to most of the rest of Southern Vietnam, it’s cooler, like southern European temperatures, not tropical like the rest of the south. They grow grapes for wine, strawberries, flowers and coffee, it definitely felt different to Nha Trang, it hadn’t been damaged by tourists and the people were much friendlier, if a little bit weird.

We stayed at one place for a couple of nights, it called itself a hostel but was basically just some family’s home and the bed was crippling because it was so hard, like concrete. So after two nights we moved to a different guesthouse with a nicer family and a comfier bed.

We did more touristy things in Dalat than we had achieved in Hoi An, we went to the flower garden, Stac loved it, I got bored easily. We went to the crazy house, a network of tree-like buildings designed by a Vietnamese architect that was like something out of a hallucination, so interesting to explore and wonder how anybody could design buildings like this, fully made of concrete but resembling a forest. We also went on the old train line from Dalat to a nearby town called Trai Mat, this is now just a scenic route for tourists but was a nice ride through the countryside to the small town, a visit to a pagoda then headed back in to Dalat, unfortunately there was far too many rude tourists there, mainly from one particular country, but we were sat in VIP (apparently, that was the only tickets they had left), so it was nice enough.

Somebody we had met earlier in Vietnam recommended a “secret tour” with a local guy. I found his email address on a blog, sent him an email and the next morning he picked us up with about 10 others to do his secret tour of the countryside and surrounding villages. The tour started slow, had some strange parts, but finished being an incredible experience, meeting the local village people and spending time with them was an amazing experience that we won’t fully write about on here but if you’d like to know about it, just ask us 🙂

The tour also took in a farm where they grow insects and animals mainly for food, including crocodiles, I tried a cricket, it tasted of nothing but the chili sauce I had dipped it in, was just crunchy and had to be washed down with home-made rice wine. We went to a local market, a silk manufacturing shop, saw the largest waterfall nearby, elephant waterfalls, which was nice, the one we swam in further north was nicer though. We stopped to take some pictures from a viewpoint on top of a mountain, but that was little strange considering they stopped right next to a brick manufacturing plant which i’m pretty sure gave us all some kind of respiratory disease.

Like I said before, the people here are a little crazy, the two guys who ran the tour only ever introduced themselves to us as Jessica and Linda, and that’s how they were known all day. So standing in the smoke of a brick manufacturing process to take a photo seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do to these people.

Dalat was a really nice place to spend a few days, it was quiet at night, so we didn’t eat or drink too much for a change, we saw some nice sights, ate some good food and had an amazing day out on the secret tour. Now it was time to move on to the coast again at Mui Ne, another long bus ride away.

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