Sunset over Dalat
We’ve taken the 3-4 hour trip inland from the south central coast to the central highlands city of Dalat. Whenever we told the Vietnamese friends we’ve encountered our plans they smiled and made a shivering gesture, saying Dalat is “very cold, nice change from heat” with a knowing smile that made us rather nervous.
It’s true that Dalat is cold compared to where we’ve been, but even at it’s elevated altitude in the mountains the typical daily temperature is in the mid-20s, with evenings dipping to about 15. It makes for a very comfortable change and the novelty of not having the background soundtrack of air conditioning constantly on in our room.
Dalat is simply wonderful. An old French colonial settlement that has the reputation of being the garden of Vietnam, where fruit, vegetables, flowers and coffee grow abundantly in volcanically enriched soil cheerful in the knowledge that the climate never swelters or frosts – to pun another Cole Porter lyric: Anything Grows!
The buildings & proliferation of pine trees set in green gardens makes you feel you are in the French countryside……
Home for a week – a room in a French Colonial Villa
Poo Goes the Weasel:
During our trip into the countryside we were offered the opportunity to try ‘Weasel Coffee’. As a non-coffee drinker Sam wisely opted out, but I thought I’d give it a go – sounds interesting, I thought, probably got nothing to do with Weasels I told myself. Wrong, wrong, wrong….the clue is in the name you idiot Mitchell!
Vietnam is now a major coffee producer, but Weasel Coffee is a speciality as it relies on the ‘productivity’ of said Weasels. Many years ago local farmers noticed that Weasels liked to eat coffee beans – after being digested & fermented by the Weasel, the beans would then re-appear in their faeces. A brave & entrepreneurial farmer then took these weasel crap encrusted coffee beans, cleaned & roasted them to produce Weasel coffee – which turns out to be quite a delicacy locally. So, long story short, I drank a cup of Weasel shit. I’m pleased to report no ill effects, although I’m sure I still have a slight after-taste of weasel!
One of the more unexpected things we’ve learnt in Vietnam is the growth of religion in what is a predominantly secular country. Make no mistake, Ho Chi Minh remains predominant in the culture, but there has been an increase in Bhuddism & Catholicism, especially when the diktats of Communist rule became more relaxed. Churches and temples are very popular attracting the devout & curious alike. We’ve noticed a competitive streak when it comes to building bigger, better & higher statues of Buddha in Vietnam – not sure what Buddha would make of this (Buddha envy?). On a visit to a temple our guide asked us what religion we had. When we told him we are atheists, he replied, “ahhh…..freedom,” with a wry smile.
It’s said that the only things in life you can’t avoid are death & taxes…..to which should be added haircuts (although Donald Trump appears to have avoided all three – sad). So it was with some trepidation that I had my first Vietnamese haircut last week. We found a local hairdresser & through the power of sign-language, google translate & the barbers 10 & 13 year old children who spoke a bit of English we established the order – the old classic short back & sides, with a little bit longer on top. 5 minutes later everything was done as requested for a mere 100,000 Dong – just over £3. It was like being back in the 70’s.
We stayed a chatted to the lovely family as best we could, showing them pictures of the Royal Pavilion the Pier & the seafront, giving the impression we live in a theme park, leaving the children wide eyed with curiosity & envy. We’ve found the children love to take every opportunity to practice their English & this gave a perfect setting for the hairdressers children to do just that – we were a captive audience. There are the stock questions; where are you from, what is your name, how old are you….. & a genuine curiosity to learn what we like about their beloved Vietnam.
We both hoped to lose a bit of weight & get fitter on our travels, and regular swimming & profuse amounts of sweating has probably helped a bit (scales suggest no change….grrr). In Dalat as we walked up a hill to our room I turned Sam & said I was so unfit my breathing was laboured. Sam said she felt exactly the same, & after thinking about it (& doing a bit of Google research) we attributed it to the altitude at Dalat, which is over 1500 metres – the point at which mild altitude symptoms occur. Reassured & delighted with our diagnosis we indulged in Passion Fruit cake later that day!
Highlands on the road to Dalat
Top Travelling Tips #2
Instead of finding/buying/packing lots of travel plugs, just take one attached to a home multi-plug lead. So simple but so convenient & no more fighting over who gets to charge what up first. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this sooner. So far we haven’t tripped any electric systems either – which is a surprise given how much we load up! (Credit for this ingenious idea goes to Sandy – a friend of Sam’s sister Tina)
Next Week: We return to the coast to talk rubbish (no change there I hear you cry) & watching the World Cup from afar.