We took a taxi from Hoi An to Danang airport and then two flights, Danang/HMC (Ho Chi Min City) and HMC to Dalat. Dalat is now a busy town, high up in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Originally, it was built by the French, during the French colonial period in Vietnam – it was popular for rest and recreation from the summer heat on the coastal plain, where day time temperatures average forty-five degrees Celsius. For Vietnamese people, Dalat is now especially popular for honey moon couples, as it is a romantic place. As we left Dalat airport, in a taxi, we soon noticed that the vegetation was incredibly lush, with the rolling hills providing many beautiful shades of green, as far as the eye could see. Dalat is an important farming area, and its coffee beans are reputedly the best in Vietnam. It is also very popular amongst the golfing fraternity, as it has several good courses and the climate is ideal.
We spent three delightful nights in Dalat, staying in a resort of French colonial villas, converted into a comfortable and unusual complex. The dining room was art deco, with a magnificent dual, semi-circular, mirrored, staircase framing the right and left hand sides of the room with brass banisters.
Our first full day, we took a guide, and went trekking in the pine forest – we covered about fifteen kilometres, going up and down for most of the day. The tough part was at the end of the day, where we ended with a three hundred meter ascent to see a water fall. It was raining on and off for the most of the morning but that gave way to sunshine in the afternoon. The scenery was absolutely spectacular. After the forests, we descended down to the river and there were coffee plantations, as far as the eye could see. We had to cross two very fragile wire rope bridges, the type that rock back and forth as you move – when it is best to look straight ahead and not down!
After the first bridge, we stopped for a picnic lunch that our guide had prepared, it was really nice. We watched the farm workers carry coffee on their motor bikes for onward distribution. Typically, there were two sixty kilo bags, one behind the rider and the other in front of him. What really astounded us was seeing the coffee workers take their motor-bikes and one hundred and twenty kilo loads across the swaying bridge! The floor of the bridge was wooden slats but they were uneven with often quite large gaps through which one could see the fast flowing river below. The farm workers started at 4.00 AM and finished at sunset about 6.00 PM, working non-stop.
After lunch, we followed a path through many coffee plantations, and eventually left the river and started climbing back up into the hills again. We eventually reached our destination, a beautiful water fall. It was a fantastic day.
The next day, our legs were a bit sore, so we took it easy and went for a pleasant stroll around the lake and had a relaxing lunch and discovered Dalat wine, in a restaurant on the lake. Later we returned to our hotel, swam in the pool and relaxed and then took a massage, before heading into Dalat for dinner.
Although Dalat is quite remote and a bit inaccessible, it was a wonderful diversion for us, high up in the Central Highlands, before heading back to Vietnam’s coast line. We were off to Mui Ne next, the charming coastal town that is ninety five percent Russian but that’s a story for another blog…