Sunday, 16 December 2012

Danang, Hoi An and Dalat

Chris and I had a lovely few days in Danang. As an early Christmas present my parents bought us two nights in a beautiful beachside resort. I kept it a secret from Chris throughout our trip; it was only when our taxi pulled up in the grand hotel entrance that he said "Wow. Are you sure you only paid $25 dollars for this?" We had a wonderful stay and when we had to leave I felt heartbroken (I tried to be mature and resisted the urge to cry).

On the beach in Danang

During our stay we made us of the hotel's shuttle bus to the beautiful neighbouring town of Hoi An, an ancient fishing town that has grown up along the banks of a river and specialises in silk production. For this reason it is now a popular shopping destination for foreign tourists, who enjoy its pretty streets, old houses and beautiful silk products. Trees and bridges along the river are strung with silk lanterns; it's simply delightful. Here, Chris had a suit and a pair of Cuban heeled boots tailor made, and I had a Chinese-style dress made for myself.

Over the river in Hoi An

Traditional Hoi An silk lanterns

Chris in front of the Japanese Bridge
We travelled from Hoi An to Dalat by overnight bus last night. This was a new and strange experience for both of us. The seats in this bus are reclined into beds and are surprisingly comfortable. The bus holds three rows of such beds over two floors. Chris and I were assigned two of the five beds at the back, which are in a row without spaces inbetween. We were very, very grateful that there wasn't anybody in the middle! I was packed into a corner with the bags and couldn't get comfortable. I was sure I hadn't slept a wink until I saw the sunrise and realised I must have been sleeping (Chris later confirmed that I had been snoring). In all it was a pretty good way to travel besides the bumps in the road that sent us flying.

Our bus arrived in the seaside town of Nha Trang in the early morning. We had breakfast at a diving club cafe before boarding a small minibus packed with passengers, luggage and bikes for the four-hour journey to Dalat. The bus was hot and the driver erratic, but the mountain scenery was lovely.

Dalat is the major town of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was popular with the French during the colonial era and remains a favoured holiday retreat of Vietnamese, especially artists. It has a cooler climate than the lowlands which favours the cultivation of strawberries, avacados and other fruit and vegetables not available in the rest of the country. Dalat is also surrounded by pine forest.
Today we went for a casual walk around the lake in the town and then visited the Crazy House, a whacky hotel designed like a large tree, with unique rooms featuring tiger sculptures and mirrors over the beds, all interlinked by a network of ladders and bridges. It was dark by the time we turned up to look around and the place felt spooky, but I was charmed by the quaint rooms that were like Alice in Wonderland rabbit burrows (complete with miniature tables laid with tea sets).

The view over the lake to the 'Eiffel Tower' radio mast

Our walk around the lake

Crossing a little bridge at the Crazy House
We are happy to have some time to take it easy here in Dalat. We plan to spend another day seeing the town and on Wednesday, will take a tour of the surrounding countryside with the famous Dalat Easy Riders motorbike tour group. We return to Saigon on Thursday.

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