All things considered our bus to Dalat wasn’t actually too bad. This was our first night bus so it seems like an adventure. Coaches in South East Asia allocate you certain seats when you book so you don’t have a choice where you sit, much to my delight after being told we were right at the very back (woo travel sickness). But in reality once I was asleep this made no difference thank goodness! We had three out of five red seats at the back which were pretty packed in and reclined to your chosen degree (my seat did get a little stuck but we got there in the end). I put my headphones in and eye mask on and was ready for the journey.
The only thing that wasn’t so great was how early we arrived: there’s not much open at 4:30am! We found some wifi to get our hostel address as well as using the brilliant offline map app Maps.Me that has come in handy countless times on this trip. We started walking towards our destination in the dark and by the time we arrived it was light because it gets light so quickly. We did have a bit of a navigation issue and Rhianna hurt her foot tripping over a metal pipe sticking out of the ground, but we got there eventually! It’s now 6am and we’re greeted with Vietanmese tea and biscuits and sleepily got shown to our room. Safe to say we clambered straight into bed and fell straight to sleep.
We had a gloriously long nap before heading out to explore and see the Crazy House, a Gaudi-esque creation. On our way we realised we should probably eat so found a restaurant busy with locals and filled up on delicious beef noodles and chicken fried rice before continuing on to the crazy house. In my guidebook it was described as ‘if Gaudi and Tolkien dropped acid together’ and I can see why!
That evening we had a family dinner with the other two people in our hostel. It was a proper spread of Spring rolls and rice with noodle broth. Here’s a snap of the food :
Went to get ready and meet our friend Rico that we’d met in Saigon but we got temporarily locked in the hostel(!) So had to email the manager to let us out – more of a palava than we planned. Awkwardly we had to do the same when we came back as were then locked out! Not the best when you advertise yourself as a hostel without a curfew, not that we were out too late anyway. We met Rico and some other people from his hostel and went to this place called Maze bar with which is indescribable. It really was like a maze with stairs and ladders going up and down leading anywhere and everywhere, it was so cool! You really had to make sure you didn’t lose your friends though because you definitely wouldn’t find them again. We had a fun evening exploring the maze and on the way back we shared some cake from the bakery on the way back to the hostel, top end to an evening 👍
Dalat is famous for its adventure trips – canyoning, cycling, hiking – and in a mad moment I agreed to go canyoning the next day. So we got up early, along with the other two people in our hostel who had booked on too, and had a bleary eyed breakfast of warm bread and homemade strawberry jam before getting picked up in a mini van and taken to our destination. We were bundled out of the van at the side of the road (not as bad as it sounds!) and given all the equipment we needed: an oversized wetsuit, harness, knee pads, life jacket and helmet 👌 They briefed us on what was going to happen that morning and set us up to practice abseiling going down a slope in the woods. Whilst apprehensive at first we each had a couple of goes to get to grips with the ropes which made me feel better about what was happening next!
Throughout the day we abseiled down one dry cliff, one wet cliff and another, shorter wet cliff nicknamed ‘the washing machine’. I was absolutely terrified during all of them, particularly the last one for fear of losing my glasses at the bottom(!) but I’m so proud of myself for completing all three 💁🏻💪🎉 The first abseil was dry so we kept our shoes on for this, holding onto a rope as we clambered over rocks to the top. The guide clipped us onto the ropes and helped guide us as we walked slowly backwards down the cliff. The strangest thing to wrap my head around was that the more you lean back the more stable you are, this seemed alien to me! Here’s a picture of me feeling terrified as the guide held my ropes:
Much to my delight walking down (most of) the dry cliff was manageable (I did slip slightly and scrape my elbow at the bottom) and the sense of achievement I felt when I got the bottom was so high! Looking up at the others at the top who were so far away seemed crazy. Not naturally an adrenaline junkie I was pretty proud.
The next abseil was down a wet cliff around the same height as the first one. I was much more apprehensive about slipping on this one, even though they made us take our shoes off for grip, as the rock had a lip it meaning you couldn’t see the whole way down from the drop. I was scared but okay going down this one until the stream of water hit my face and I couldn’t see a thing let alone where my feet were landing. The guide holding the ropes at the bottom helped a lot by pulling on the rope to help me jump down, so I got there in the end! I think this cliff was around 30m so to look up from the bottom was pretty amazing.
Once we were all down we headed to the final abseil. To get there we had a mini trek along the riverbank through the woodland, which felt strangely alpine. I don’t know what I expected from Vietnam but it wasn’t that! The landscape opened up to reveal the river running down a waterfall and into a beautiful lake, with another group of people ziplining into it. The last abseil of the day was straight down into the waterfall, you had to walk only for the first bit before hanging upright and easing yourself down into the water and then swimming to the other side of the lake. As I said before I was worried about losing my glasses in the so called ‘washing machine’ so this was the one I was most nervous for. Luckily I clung onto them and it was all fine despite plunging into the waterfall at the bottom!
After everyone of the group had completed the abseil there was opportunity to do cliff jumps which I’m sorry to disappoint but I did not do any higher than 3m which was enough for me! However I did do a zip line into the lake which was pretty fun. After this we all got changed and headed back into town in the minivan where Katie and I were told Vietnamese ghost stories by one of the guides as we were sat at the front. 😂 We were driven to someone’s house and given a huge spread for lunch. There were spring rolls, veggie broth, rice, a surprisingly nice tofu in tomato sauce dish, and lots of other bits and pieces. There was so much food that the 10 people in our group couldn’t finish it all! It was super tasty though! Tired and ill we got dropped back off at the hostel with enough time to shower, change and recover slightly before our second family dinner at the hostel, for which we were still fairly full from dinner. Dinner this time was however particularly delicious as we had fresh pancake rolls. They provided us with the rice paper, salad, and shrimp pancakes (small fried pancake type things with shrimp and beansprouts) with a delicious dipping sauce that looked spicy but wasn’t. The hostel manager was a nice enough Vietnamese guy and had bought rice wine aka ‘happy water’ that he insisted we try. We were skeptical because it was in a plastic bag not a bottle but this kind of made sense given it was homemade by someone in the town and bottles cost more than the drink takes to make. It seemed to me a cross between a spirit and a wine, and I found the smell particularly vile! Safe to say I wasn’t a fan but I did try it. When in Vietnam ey?
The next morning we were up early again to get our coach from the other side of town from The Sinh Tourist again at 7:30am to Nha Trang. Driving down through the mountains to the coast was beautiful with all the roadside waterfalls and far reaching views. The only thing was that it was super twisty and Vietnamese driving isn’t the smoothest in the world, meaning I didn’t exactly feel great. Luckily the journey was only 5 hours so I took some travel sickness tablets and pushed through. We made a stop halfway and coincidentally ran into Rico, Bianca and Tom so we said hello to them too.
When we arrived in the coastal town on Nha Trang we were undecided whether we would stay a night or push through and continue to travel north. However, as I still felt bad from the coach, we made the decision to find a hostel, stay the night and have some beach time. We had a refreshing shake in a nearby cafe and found a hostel round the corner so headed there. Min hostel had room for us – success! So we checked in and I went straight for a nap whilst Kate and Rhianna went to explore and visit the beach. Later on we went for dinner to a place called Lantern which our hostel recommended and was lovely. There was a queue outside so you knew it was good. Here I had arguably the best meal of the trip so far, a chicken coconut curry served in a banana leaf – yum!
(Sorry for the delay in post and for the lack of photos , the wifi has been a bit ropey recently!)