Right, so Dalat is probably my favorite city in Vietnam (so far). It’s impossible to separate the city itself, which is aesthetically more similar to a European city than an Asian one, from the stunning mountains that surround it. It’s planted 1.5 km above sea level, making the air cool and thin, and it’s peppered with pine forests that sort of remind me of home—very unlike the steaming jungle lowlands around HCMC. It’s also far less hectic than Saigon, and the people even seem a bit friendlier.
In Mui Ne, I met up with a crew of riders who are also heading north to Hanoi: Joel and Jess, a British couple; Giorgio (“George”), from Italy; and Youp, from Holland. They’re aiming to arrive there by Nov. 8—seventeen days before I’m supposed to meet Ross—so I’m sure they’ll speed ahead at some point. For the time being, it’s nice riding with other people. They’re good company, too.
Anyway, we rode up into the mountains from Mui Ne, really gunning our engines in second gear up those steep inclines and passes. Pretty gorgeous country. Eventually we came through a rain storm about 15 miles outside of Dalat. I got soaked steering through a massive puddle, and for the rest of the ride I was stuck in a pair of waterlogged hiking shoes that were supposed to be waterproof.
We rode into town pretty exhausted, but the ride was still enjoyable. It took about five or six hours, all in all, and we had a nice meal at the end of it.
The next day we took a day trip to Elephant Falls, which is a hundred-foot (or so) waterfall about 35 km outside Dalat. I got filthy trudging through mud and climbing over rocks to reach the cave section of the falls, but it was well worth it. We even did a bit of off-roading on the bikes, steering through what appeared to be a small plantation. Coffee trees could be found at the foot of the falls. I tasted some of the berries, and it was not the first time I’d had raw coffee beans. I tried some when I went to Ghana in 2008, but these were the famous Vietnamese coffee beans I’d heard so much about.
That night, our hostel owner took all his guests out to a restaurant around the corner, ordering all the food for the table and insisting on shots of rice wine every five minutes. We had steamed river snail, beef and greens wrapped in rice paper, and roasted squid with okra. It was fantastic fare, and we all tied one on as well.
We left for Nha Trang the next morning (George, Joel, Jess, and I), and on the way we enjoyed some of the most breathtaking vistas I’ve ever seen. This is truly a gorgeous country, and I regret that I’m not currently in the proper state of mind to communicate just how stunning these sights were. Most of this journey was downhill, winding through well-paved, mostly empty roads (save for the occasional truck or tourist bus). The mountains here just seemed to scream upwards into the cloud, almost vertical. I got a little emotional, to be honest.
Now we’re in a Russian tourist trap by the coast, and I can’t say I’m excited about it, especially compared to Dalat. It’s too hectic, so we’re only staying a night, then we’re back into the mountains, riding north towards Hoi An. We’ll probably arrive there on Sunday.