After a fantastic start to my Vietnam adventure in Ho Chi Min (Saigon) I boarded a flight to Da Lat.
I knew absolutely nothing about the place other than it offered some good canyoneering trips, having enjoyed my last one in Moalboal.I was keen to do it again.
As I got off the bus from the airport to the city centre and chucked my bag on my back I got a whiff of something rather unpleasant. Somewhere between Saigon and Da Lat a bottle of fish sauce had exploded all over my bag! That stuff might be quite tasty but god it packs a pungent punch.
I walked from the bus station around a beautiful lake to my hotel, which was slap bang in the middle of the night market. I dropped off my bag and spent some time wandering through the market, stalls selling clothes, food and nik naks. Its was great.
My hostel was a dorm room on the top floor of a hotel, 12 beds, 1 occupied. By me. I had a dorm room to myself. Ergh, not the best way to meet travellers. The saving grace was that the rooms bathroom featured a bathtub, and with no one else there I was able to take my first soak in 6 months!
I went exploring Da Lat as the sun rose. The town has such a great vibe. It was made popular in colonial times due to its cooler climate and many of the buildings from that time remain. The parks are kept in such good condition, the lake clean, the grass mown and beautiful flower beds littering the green.
My wander took me to the Crazy House, on the top of the to do list in Da Lat. A bizarre hotel that is open for the public to walk around. It features stairways and corridors in various wacky designs. Its thin bridges linking different buildings or leading nowhere. It was very easy to lose bearings and end up where you began.
It was good fun getting lost in the hotel and it was a very bizarre experience as I wouldn’t have associated the arcetecture with Vietnam.
I booked a canyoneering trip for the next day and a bus to Hoi An for the day after.
That night I was relived to have another backpacker in my room! It was short lived on realisation he spoke no English and wasn’t interested in communicating. It was quite amusing trying to communicate I was going for a bath so if he needed loo then now was the time to go!!
Was collected early for my canyoneering trip, unlike the one in Moalboal where we trekked through the river and jumped off cliffs, this one required abseiling. We had a quick lesson in what to do and geared up, I decided against wearing a wet suit (hard as nails me) and got talking to the other person who had decided to brave it, a Singaporean called Ashley who was travelling with a German called Joanna.
Id done abseiling before and loved it so was quite looking forward to it.
Our first abseil was off a cliff next to a flowing waterfall. I paused halfway down to enjoy the view before commando jumping the rest of the way down into the river! The water was pretty cold!!!! Still didn’t regret the wetsuit though as others were struggling with overheating in the hot sun!
Most of the trekking was next to the river as it was too deep and fast flowing to go through, we abseiled down another cliff before floating along the rapids. We got to the “water slide” a tiny waterfall you could go down as a slide, first feet first, which was fun, then head first. It was fun, until I cracked my back on the edge of the falls! A nice bruise developed from that I can tell you!!
We soon found ourselves at a 10m cliff jump! I love cliff jumps so was one of the first over, I even climbed back up and did it again!!!!!!
The last stop a abseil into a waterfall. Now this I didn’t enjoy, as I hit the falls I began spinning and losing all sense of direction, as I hit the water, the falls kept me under for longer than I was comfortable with! Others had similar experience, so yeah the photos of it are cool, the experience not so much.
I met up with Ashley and Joanna that night and we got food at the night market before heading to a bar we had heard was crazy. Now in my head crazy meant loud music cheap drinks etc so I wasn’t sure, however crazy literally meant crazy.
The designer of the bar must have been the same as the Crazy house id visited before. A maze of tunnels and passages over 5 floors. Its like Lewis Carroll and Antoni Gaudi had got high and designed a bar together.
We found somewhere to sit after exploring a bit and met an English backpacker called Lee. We got chatting and realised we got on great, he was heading the same was I was, just a day later. The bar closed at midnight, and we both felt it was too early, so put in place a plan to go back the following day, assuming I could put off my bus by a day.
Id also arranged with Ashley and Joanna to go and visit some of the local waterfalls on mopeds the next day. So I got up, extended my stay in my lonely hostel, rented a bike, changed my bus for the following day and rented the bikes.
I met Ashley and Joanna at their hostel and off we set. Our first stop was at a beautiful peaceful monastery overlooking a lake unfortunately we couldn’t get down to the lake but it seemed a really peaceful place!
We carried onwards and got to Prenn falls. A nice waterfall with a tourist attraction built all around it. It was a nice fall as you could walk behind it. What I didn’t like here however was the chained elephants and ostriches being offered out for riding. I really hate animal exploitation and was quite curt when offered if I wanted to ride.
After doing a nice big circle and ending up back at Prenn falls (thanks to Ashley’s questionable navigation) we ended up at our final falls for the day, the Elephant falls.
We certainly left the best till last. A clamber down a “path” took us to the bottom of the falls. They were really beautiful and powerful, we found a little bath that lead us to a soaking wet cave right next to them, the cave had an exit where you could go under the powerful water. The only problem, it was muddy and slippy!
Go pro in hand I decided slippy be damned, I was going under the falls. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what happened next! Yup, I slipped! Into mud, wearing a white tshirt!! Managed to snap my go pro strap on the way down and landed awkwardly on my hand! A nice cut on the palm of one hand, and what I suspect a broken finger on the other.
Now I bloody love the t-shirt that was ruined so I carried on to the falls (in pain) and washed it under the flowing water!
Soaking wet and with a very sore hand I made our way over some rocks to sit and stare at the stunning falls. They were amazing, even giving us a beautiful rainbow at the bottom!
We boarded the bikes and began to head back to Da lat. By this point my finger was starting to swell!
As we travelled the 40km back to town, the weather decided to change. What had been a beautiful sunny day, became a torrential storm. We were travelling along mountain passes and the sensible thing would likely have been to pull over, however there was no shelter, my bike was running on empty and I was freezing cold. So we soldiered on back to town! We arrived into town soaking wet and shivering, everything else dry as a bone, the storm had completely missed the town!!!!
I dried up, changed and went to meet Lee for Maze Bar, Part 2.
We got there earlier so we had plenty of time to explore the craziness of the place. We stayed there till closing, playing various drinking games and running around like kids in a playground. When they staff came to kick us out, we decided to play a game of hide and seek!!!!
Unfortunately nothing else was open after the bar closed, so we all got a bottle of rum, found a nice patch of street and sat drinking on the streets till the early like the degenerate hobos we all are!
They next morning lee and I got some breakfast (nachos and spring rolls) before heading back to the Maze bar for a quick drink before our 14 hour bus to Hoi An.
Even though I extended my stay a further 24 hours I could happily have spent much much longer in Da Lat. There was a lot more to see and do and I really liked everything about the place!