I have split our trip into 3 blogs so here goes with the first Da Lat one!
We headed on our trip to Da Lat and Da Nang/Hoi An with our air/train tickets and accommodation booked – and the rest we were just winging – no pre-planned outings or tours. We prefer to get the lay of the land before planning things – although Ivan is really good at researching all the best things to see and do!
Our flight to Da Lat was uneventful and when we landed we sought out the airport shuttle bus – always a great option as a cab would have been about 250 000 VND whereas the shuttle was 40 000 VND per person. A word of warning – the shuttle drops you at the outskirts of the town (by outskirts I literally mean on the edge – not miles away). We walked to our hotel with ease (about 2.5km – bearing in mind that I am 51 and Ivan 62 and we had our backpacks). We find this is a great way to explore and see things you wouldn’t from a cab. We stayed pretty much in central Da Lat across the road form a bakery (always a bonus) and a 50m walk to the night market – the street got closed on the weekend but during the week it was just as busy with an amazing buzz.
After we had unpacked and had a coffee we headed off to explore and discovered the night market. We got to the top of a wide flight of stairs and saw the unfolding scene below us. We sat at the top of the stairs looking down at the growing mass of people.
We were very soon approached to buy a “pizza da lat” basically a rice paper disc covered in peppers and egg and cooked on a grid over an open flame the wrapped like a tortilla – delicious!!!!!! And only 25 000 VND!
We eventually braved the throngs and went down into the market. The variety of fresh fruit and vegetables was remarkable. We found a local “restaurant” – the kind we love with metal tables and plastic chairs and loads of locals eating there – we also got a good vantage point to watch the passing parade of people going about their normal evening business. We opted for the traditional barbeque – cook your own meal – with egg fried rice and a couple of beers – a bargain at 220 000 VND.
After a semi decent night’s sleep – the joys of staying close to the centre of town ! we headed off for a walk around town – predominantly to locate a pub we had been told would be showing the British and Irish Lions Rugby match on Saturday and partly to explore. Our navigation skills seem to be slipping a tad – we located the pub after a while – but the rest of the walk was a true voyage of discovery. As mentioned we like to wander about to see the town – but this was something else, we felt like we were back in Hilton what with the hills and the drizzle – after 6km we had eventually almost circled back to the hotel but opted to head for the lake and sit and ponder life.
These buildings are on the banks of the lake – the one on the left cleverly disguises the Big C supermarket and the Artichoke on the right housing a restaurant these are in Lam Vien Square.
Whilst sitting there we were approached by a man offering us and Easy Rider tour, not for the first time mind you, but this one seemed different and took time to chat to us about South Africa (Nam Phi in Vietnamese) as well as his history. Hiep is 57 and was the original Easy Rider in 1992 – we booked a tour for Saturday (this trip is the subject on the next blog – far too much info for this one). Hiep then said we should walk 500m to the Flower Park as it was apparently a spectacular “must see”. We took his advice but that 500m was in fact 2km !!!!!! But well worth the walk the gardens are fantastically laid and well maintained.
It is worth mentioning here that the Da Lat is the hub of the flower trade for Vietnam, as mentioned, we live next to the main flower market in Hanoi and every night hundreds of trucks deliver flowers from Da Lat for the market. Need less to say we caught a cab back to the hotel.
A tip for catching cabs in Vietnam – there are always 3 numbers printed on a sticker, usually on the back passenger window, these first number represents the basic starting price of the trip (in this case 11 000 VND for first 700m), the second number is the rate per km up to 30km and the third is per km rate from 31km. These can vary dramatically so best to look around before committing to a cab. If you are planning a long cab ride eg airport transfer where the is no shuttle or Uber/Grab option (these are generally cheaper) the I suggest negotiating a price before setting off.
Friday was our 27th Wedding Anniversary and we headed off the to cable car to see the sights from a different angle. At 80 000 VND each for a return trip it was a good deal in our eyes.
The cable car terminates at the Buddhist Meditation centre and we, together with loads of buses, wandered around this “serene” centre – it was as serene as it could be with thousands of people running around.
If I never see another selfie stick it will be too soon. We headed to a steakhouse for dinner – as it was a special occasion and we had passed this place on our walks and it looked really good and small – only seating for about 10 people (they also had happy hour from 3 to 7pm then another beer special after that!!) , we were the only table there when we arrived and we soon understood why the only item available on the menu was the burger and then only as is no chips etc!
It may look like we only eat western food but believe you me it was very unusual for us to eat Western 2 nights in a row.
On Sunday we headed off on our motorbike tour – more of this in the next blog. And yes, that evening it was back to the market and some delicious local cuisine.
In Sunday we bade farewell to Da Lat and flew to Da Nang – but more of that later.