Sunday, 10 March 2013

Weasel coffee, crickets, waterfalls and the Da Lat countryside

So we all awoke early, Maura and I and Clara and Sonya were going to have breakfast together but there was no time by the time we'd all gotten ready. So instead we had 5mins to rush down to the market to get a quick Banh My. Our tour minibus was late, surprise surprise, so we didn't leave until 9am in the end.

Our first stop on our countryside tour was a trip to the flower gardens, as Da Lat isn't rice paddies, it's farm land, as the soil doesn't hold water for rice. Instead they farm some of Vietnam's best coffee, they have tons of greenhouses growing various flowers and plants, fruit and vegetables and Da Lat is known for it's strawberry farms. So the flower gardens were ok, saw some flowers, some roses, etc. Then we moved onto a small village and the coffee plantation, which we were definitely interested in - some coffee tasting? Yes please! So we saw the trees that the coffee is grown from and I took a few shots of the amazing scenery from the farm. Then we went down to see the weasel farm where they make weasel coffee (the coffee beans are fed to weasels, they poo them out and then they are processed to make coffee), it's a Vietnamese speciality! Then we were allowed to sample some of the coffee - we tried the weasel coffee, which is quite strong, and the Moka coffee which is more creamy. We then went back and paid for another 2 cups (we hadn't paid for our first yet but we were keeping it on the hush), however our tour guide came to tell us it was time to leave, so we didn't have time for the coffee. So what did we do? Ask for our money back! So we ended up getting free coffee, score!

Next it was onto the cricket farm, where they farm-breed crickets before deep frying them for consumption by the weird S.E.Asians who love them. We tried a fried cricket - they are weird, I managed to get one without legs so it wasn't too bad, but I wouldn't 'choose' to eat one again. Took a few pictures of teddies dive-bombing into the plate of fried you do. Then we tried some fresh artichoke pollen which was a weird, sweet taste but quite good, and apparently good for your skin! After that we headed to a silk factory but we weren't interested in it so we decided to go for a random walk across a rickety bridge into a local village, which looked quite wild west with the red soil and dusty road. We were late back to our bus, and we'd now fast established that we were going to, yet again, be the late for everything - keeping on time is not my speciality - I think I've come to realise that over my travels!

It was then onto Elephant falls, one of the biggest waterfalls in the area (less touristy than Datanla falls), where we had a 20min hike down to it. There was a ledge we could take photos on and then if you rock-climbed down a little further you could get right underneath it for some awesome pictures and for a bit of a splash to cool you down, especially as it was now midday and baking hot!

Unfortunately when we arrived another 2 tour groups turned up at the same time so we had a bit of a traffic jam getting down, but then me and Maura decided to just sit and wait for everyone else to start heading back up before we even went up on the ledge, as we didn't want other people in ur pictures and wanted to do it at our own pace, so obviously we spent way too long down there, taking pictures, getting wet, having fun scrambling over the rocks! So yes, we were late up and our tour guide had started to cotton on. She basically hated us for the rest of the day lol. Once up we then spotted some ornamental lifesize elephants which - duh - we had to climb on for pictures! And then there was a mushroom seat, again, picture opportunity, and by that point we were the last ones to enter the temple up the steps near the waterfall. Went and took some pictures round at the largest laughing Buddha in Vietnam, decided not to go in the temple as it was like the ones on Marble Mountain at DaNang, Hoi An. So of course we were then late back to the bus again.

It was lunch-time, so we headed back to Dalat city and had lunch at an expensive hotel - we really should have gone to one of the cheap street restaurants next door instead, as the food wasn't even that great. Noted for next time! Then we had 15mins before the bus came back from taking someone to the bus terminal. So of course we decided, 5mins before it was due to pick us up, to go and get Ca Phe de Sua (Vietnamese milky coffee), down the road. Of course, the bus turned up just as we'd ordered, too late now so it'd just have to wait for us, which our tour guide wasn't happy about as usual lol. We then went to visit some city sights. We went to the old railway station (oldest in Vietnam apparently), and a 'strawberry farm' which was basically just a cash-in stop-off at a farm shop that sold strawberry based products, with a small strawberry patch out the back - Maura stole a couple to eat! So we walked off and had a look at the views across Da Lat and the farms - were last back again!

Then our final stop was the Crazy House, which we'd read in the Lonely Planet, was supposed to be some 'Alice in Wonderland' type house...and it most definitely was! There were so many wacky sections, bridges, rooms, a crazy garden etc. So we left our tour group here as it was round the corner to our hotel and we wanted to take our time and spent the next hour and a half, wondering around, getting lost and taking some wacky pictures. Then we headed back to our hotel, and saw a motorcycle accident - luckily the guy was fine. Then just sat around, freshened up, Trent, Peter and Barbara arrived back from their trek absolutely exhausted, but we'd decided to all head to the backpackers bar for a few beers as it was our last night. Clara and Sonya hadn't come back by the time we were ready so we left a note hoping they'd be able to join us when they got back and then headed to the bar. It sold super cheap food too so we had dinner, a few cheap beers and I had a glass of white Da Lat wine, which was nothing special but only cost me £1. We then decided to head to the other backpackers bar after, Trent and Barbara would join us later as they needed to try and book a bus for them all to Ho Chi Minh City tomorrow.

When we arrived they had awesome music, cheap beer and board games - what more could you want from a bar?! Peter met a group of Aussie's who were from his hometown (small world!) so they and a Dutch girl joined us and we decided to play a few games of Twister. It was just me and Maura at first and everyone thought we were mental, but after seeing how much fun it was, everyone else decided they wanted to get involved! Ha we are such trend setters! Before we knew it, 6 of us were playing a game of twister at the same time, and the rules were that whatever the spinner landed on, we all had to move to - which made for some very interesting Twister-ing. It turns out though that no-one could beat Maura the Twister Queen!

It was then time for the ultimate travel game - JENGA! So there were 10 of us playing and we had quite a few games so it lasted a while! Trent and Barbara joined us halfway through - all the while the beers were flowing! The Aussie's left around midnight as 2 of them were cycling all the way to Mui Ne tomorrow (4hrs by bus, it was going to take them two days - crazy people but a good adventure if you're fit enough!) and Barbara left early too as the girls hadn't shown up and she was worried, so wanted to head back to the hotel room. So it was just me, Maura, Peter, Trent and the Dutch girl left, so we decided to play a few games of pool - Europeans against the Aussies - and then when the Dutch girl went home, me and Peter against Maura and Trent. We eventually left the bar at 1am and took the short walk back to our hotel, Da Lat is deserted at night, but that played in our favour when we saw an abandoned police car/jeep. So obviously, this was a massive photo op for Maura and I, so we quickly hopped in and pretended to hijack it - if the keys had been in the ignition it would have been so easy to steal it, as there was no-one - not even the policemen - around.

Then we headed back, found the girls had made it back safely after their moped day, but Clara was leaving in an hour for HCMC because her flight was the next day. So we said goodbye and then tried to pay for our part of the room, which turned into a huge cuffuffal as the reception staff had forgotten I'd paid a little this morning when paying for the tour, so it took us a while to sort it out but in the end we managed to settle our bill. We also paid for our bus to Mui Ne tomorrow - the others were headed to Ho Chi Minh tomorrow so we'd all be saying goodbye at breakie. Then we headed to the room and all sat around chatting and messing around for ages, before finally hitting the sack.

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