Day 5 – Da Lat to Lak – 165KM

18 04 2012

Please remind me never to subject a guest to the horror that is nylon sheets. Imagine wrapping yourself in net curtains, then trying to get a restful nights sleep. Then add in the constant noise from the street, not forgetting to factor in the bloody light in the room that you cannot turn off as there isn’t a switch for it ! Engage ‘positive mode’…four hours sleep will not detract from my fun. However a word of caution to anyone considering a hotel in Da Lat, don’t choose the Hotel Al Nghia.

One of the highlights for this dismal hotel was the en suite boiler in the bathroom. I read “Made in Itali” on the front of it, which instantly inspired confidence. What didn’t inspire confidence was the live wiring next to it, or the spelling on the ‘benefits’ :
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Putting my brush with death aside, we ate another soupy breakfast. Not before changing my blue “Bonus 125” for what could only be described as a “Rat Bike”. Then we pushed on to Da Lat’s first attraction..the Crazy House. The Crazy House was designed by Dang Vied Nga, who whilst studying architecture in Moscow took too many disco biscuits in the heat of Russian disputation. For once, the description was apt :

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However the view of Da Lat from the perilously dangerous top walkway was worth the nausea :

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Moving on after a really tasty Iced coffee with condensed milk, we visited the last King of Vietnam’s Summer Palace. If you are an Art Deco aficionado, you will drool at this place. Designed in the 1930’s by a French architect for Dinh Bao Dai, it was a splendid snapshot back in time. By today’s standards it would seem basic and dated. Back in it’s heyday it was ultra luxury.

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Never one to miss a trick, it’s possible to ride a floral Vespa or even to dress up as a King and sit on the thrown (available at a low price…I make you special deal) !
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Next stop on the Da Lat tour was Dragon Pagoda (Linh Quang). The Dragon Pagoda was destroyed in the VIetnam War, and rebuilt. It is a beautiful building indeed. I even seized the opportunity to take a twenty minute meditation whilst listening to chants. It certainly recharged my batteries.


My Rat Bike needed a little TLC, as the brakes didn’t work. So we dropped into the local Kwik Viet and ‘sorted’ it out. The brakes work moderately better now. From a speed of 60KM it only take 1 week to stop, instead of a month. As a result I am using engine braking quite a bit now, however that’s no really practical for emergency stopping. Still Rat Bike (on right) went like stink…it just doesn’t like stopping.

Our final stop in Da Lat was the Art Deco Train Station. Destroyed by bombing again in the war, it was rebuilt for tourism. My journey here was made more fun by a group of Chinese tourists posing on the vintage train. The girls definitely look better on it than I do though.

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Leaving Da Lat we blasted up into the mountains again, riding for a couple of hours until reaching Elephant Rock Waterfall. The beautiful yet perilous water feature was well worth the nerve wracking clamber up and down the rocky slopes. Rudimentary steps were cut into the rock, but the stonemason must have been drunk. Ashen faced tourists returning from the ‘fall did not provide reassurance to me.

A short ride away were the Silk Farms, where the cocoons are spun into thread.

The next stop was an interesting one. Toan simply said “We visit Weasel’s: ! Mystified yet concerned, in case he had made a vague reference to a brothel we stopped outside a shop. The shop was located next to a coffee plantation. Sure enough, we came across numerous weasels in cages. I don’t know what you would call a collection of weasels, but I think it should be a “snide”. You heard it here first ! I could see a sack of coffee beans next to the aforementioned weasels, but didn’t think anything of it. Toan explained that the weasels are fed the coffee fruit, in order to pass through the coffee bean. Effectively making “Weasel Poo Coffee”. Who knows what it tastes like. Must be good as it’s quite expensive !

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After a non weasel related lunch we then pushed on through the mountains. It was an amazing road, but I could see thunder clouds gathering. Things were going to get wet. Luckily we missed the bulk of the rain, just had to deal with it’s after effects. Huge deep mud filled puddles mixed with sand and gravel make for challenging riding conditions. Factor in the light was fading too…not pleasant. However we did come across the following “floating village” near Krong No which made for a dramatic picture.
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Taking it very easy coming down the mountain in pitch black and the rain, we finally got into Lak at 19:45. I could see hundreds of frogs on the road and fireflies everywhere. I was soaked, and my boots were squelching. Fed up dot com. A cold shower and no WiFi at the crappy Nghi Ho Lak Hotel further fed my negativity. Not to mention I had lost my micro video camera.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Things that I have seen carried on a bike today :

1. Propane Gas Cylinder
2. Several family members

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