After a lively ten-hours train trip, along beautiful sceneries, we arrive in Nha Trang as a layover before heading inland. Nha Trang is called happy hour by the sea. It’s true, it’s a high-energy tourist place, with hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs dotted along the long promenade. New sky-high buildings are still being built. It’s yet another beach town that has changed enormously and where we can practice our Russian. Russian signs everywhere. Never thought that learning the Cyrillic alphabet on the Trans Siberian would be handy in Vietnam!
Now we’re here, we take the good life and enjoy an American breakfast, an Italian lunch and a Russian dinner. The high light of the day: a genuine Vietnamese foot massage! What else can we do when it rains? 😉
The next day we leave the coast behind and take the bus to the Da Lat highlands. All of a sudden, we are in spring. A pleasant temperature of 15 to 20 degrees. It is said that if you move to the tropics you will miss the seasons at some point. I can imagine… we love the cool of the mountains! To wear shoes, a trouser and a jacket again, after all those weeks of 30+ degrees. That said, after a couple of days and a full day of never-ending Dutch look-a-like rain, we couldn’t wait to get down to sea level and wrap our warm clothes far away in our back packs again.
Da Lat is superb. The French came to Da Lat to flee from the heat and left behind French colonial buildings. The town feels somewhat European indeed and is called ‘le petit Paris’. Which is honestly a bit exaggerated, but ok, they do have an Eifel Tower-shaped radio tower.
It’s a lovely green area with waterfalls, hills, wineries, coffee plantations and small farms growing all sorts of vegetables and fruits. Of course, we have to try out the Da Lat wine. And of course, on our balcony. It may not be the best wine in the world, neither the best balcony (it’s French…) nor the best view (a web of electricity wires and as always honking scooters) but in combination with the Da Lat atmosphere and the coolness it is simply perfect.
We explore the area and are amazed by the beauty of the waterfalls. It rained a lot and the falls are at full power plus lacking the hordes of tourists! On our way back, our driver stops at a small silk factory and a coffee plantation. The people are very kind and let us have a look around for free. Pretty cool to see the inside of the factory where time stands still.
The coffee plantation turned out to be one with weasels… In Indonesia in the 18th century the Dutch prohibited the locals to pick coffee cherries for their own use. The locals discovered that weasels ate the cherries but left the seeds undigested in their poop and they used these seeds to make their own coffee after all. This aromatic (?!) coffee soon became famous and due to the special process, the most expensive in the world. It’s controversial as the animals often live in small cages and are badly treated. It’s sad to see. We will go for the normal coffee and besides, the Vietnamese coffee taste special enough. Trust us!
The day after it’s time for action! Off-road mountain biking, yeah! Bro, a hill tribe guy takes us up in the mountains. As said, it rained a lot and in no time, we’re covered with mud. The paths are tricky, muddy and by times pretty steep. So happy with the technique we’ve learned in the Dutch dunes. It’s a lot of fun and the three of us speed between the trees. On top of a hill we have a pick nick and Bro tells us more about his life. Da Lat was originally home to the hill tribes who are pushed up into the mountains by the Vietnamese. Today they are the minority and many are poor. I admire Bro. He found a way to study, learn English and take up a job as an outdoor sports guide, far away from his home town. Outdoor sports are still at its infancy in Vietnam, it’s not much of a living and many don’t get the point. Why would you bike around for fun? Still, he chooses to do what he loves to do. It’s brave. We continue and a few hours later we arrive back in Da Lat, satisfied and extremely dirty!
The plan was to go to Ho Chi Minh next (or “Saigon” as many South Vietnamese still call it). However, we don’t feel like going on an 8 hours bus trip and it’s a good excuse to go back to the coast. On our way to Mui Ne we pass the milestone of 30.000 km of traveling, since we’ve left The Netherlands! Amazing isn’t it?! 🙂
Mui Ne has a very welcoming atmosphere and we almost can’t believe it: along the coastal road we see waves! Small… but it’s a clean wave! Fun enough for a SUP! We get excited as the alternative may be kite or windsurf lessons given the strong breeze. Unfortunately, tourism also got its hands on Mui Ne. The pics say enough… It’s hard for the entrepreneurs who try to make a business, but without a beach and investments to counteract the erosion, if possible at all, it becomes mission impossible. On the other hand, and we are not the experts, allowing entrepreneurs to build between dunes and the beach is interfering with a natural interaction. A few springtides and the beach has no way to go, other than eroding…
It’s depressing but we let it go and turn our energy into something else. Not the dunes, not the nearby fishing villages, nor the ancient relics but into a couch. Yes, it’s couch time! It’s funny how you can miss and enjoy the weirdest things when traveling. So nice, a couch and a cup of Vietnamese coffee, it’s all we need for the day.
We’re ready for the bustle of Saigon, that’s for sure!