Saturday, August 3, 2013

Climbing a Mountain in Dalat, Vietnam

Dalat is known as the "Seattle of Vietnam" -- a cool, dry, heavily French-influenced mountain town where Saigon's residents escape the heat of the coast.  You know I love the mountains, and I also love not being sweaty, so Dalat is the place for me!

We bussed our way up here, slowly slowly (seriously, like 10 mph up the hills), through acres and acres of coffee plantations and rows and rows of flower-filled green houses. The city really does feel different from the rest of Vietnam -- I'd say a mix of San Francisco, the French Alps, and Anywhere City Asia of course. The Seattle part comes from the coffee -- that and strawberries are their thing, and there is literally a coffee shop every third storefront. So Yes please I will have a fresh chunky strawberry jam baguette with my coffee, mmmk thanks!

The canal that goes through town.

Psyched to get our outdoorsiness in, we rented a motorbike to go check out Lang Biang Mountain, about 10k outside the city. When we arrived we saw "zebra" rides (so weird and random), and a paved road to the top of the mountain.

View from the top.

Hmmm, well that's a little bit disappointing...let's see if we can make this more interesting! Andy pulled out his Open Street Map GPS App (seriously a lifesaver -- we probably would never have made it out of the streets of Bangkok without this gadget), and found what appeared to be a trail up the mountain someone had marked.

I am becoming a pretty pro scooter-driver. 

Well that Someone must have been a deer, or maybe a bird, or possibly a professional bushwhacker, because there was nothing even remotely trail-ish about the route we traced up and down the mountain. On the way down, we gave up on the "trail" pretty quickly and instead off-road navigated our own way down the steep mountain, through brush and prickers and rocks and trees. This resulted in a cultural/agricultural detour through a series of coffee, carrot, and strawberry fields. I can't imagine what the farmers thought of us -- two giant bewildered foreigners (one casted), plodding through their rows of crops and every so often pausing to look intently at a phone to re-oreient.

It was touch-and-go for a while there, but I'm happy to report that we survived!

For such a sleepy slow-feeling town, Dalat had a hoppin' night market! It contained streets and streets of clothes and shoes and trinkets, plus many many snacks (meat on a stick! dried squid! omelet on a portable barbecue! roasted sweet potatoes and corn! hot milk!), and delicious fresh fruit from the local farms (plums and pears and strawberries!). I bought some strawberry jam and also a bag of artichoke tea, their other specialty.

Night Market.
We had a REALLY good dinner here too -- steak strips with sesame (you cook your own on a terra-cotta shingle), and Seafood Vietnamese Salad, which is squid and shrimp and shredded cucumber, carrots, hot peppers, peanuts, cilantro, mint, and lime juice.

I highly recommend Dalat as a great change-up from the humid Vietnam coast. If you go, stay at Hotel Pink House, which has really big rooms with great windows and water pressure. And get breakfast at the place next-door that advertises "American Breakfast." It has relatively big cups of coffee, and the best fried eggs I've ever had -- two eggs over easy over rice with chives and the spicy/sweet/vinegar sauce that is everywhere here. Plus, SO MUCH DELICIOUS COFFEE EVERYWHERE!