Although mellow and fun, we had our fill of Mui Ne after a day and we set off the following afternoon to Dalat. The journey was a bit windy, but not too bad. We arrived about 5 hours after departure and made our way by foot to Hai Long Vuong Hostel. The town is known as the “Paris of Vietnam”, due in part to the Eiffel Tower shaped radio tower in the center of town, and we already fell in love with the city on our way to the hostel. This is not only because we stopped at a delicious bakery en route, but I’m sure it played a small part. We booked a room without a window (by accident) and the friendly owners, Tien and Viet, upgraded us to a big room with two double beds and a huge window overlooking the city at no additional cost. Keep in mind this is also the #1 rated B&B/Inn on Tripadvisor in Dalat (and only $11USD/night). We were already impressed.
I can’t say enough about how friendly and helpful Tien and Viet were. We dropped some laundry off to them on the evening we arrived and they had it back to us first thing the next morning for a very cheap price. They gave us information about everything in town, where to eat, what to see, rented us motorbikes, booked ongoing transportation, etc. They were fantastic. After arriving, we were super hungry and Viet gave us a map and told us where we could go to get fresh spring rolls. We had some small fried spring rolls in Saigon, so we expected to stop in and have a quick appetizer and move on to bigger and better things. When we arrived, we found a two story house packed out with Vietnamese people. The first good sign. The next good sign was when we asked for a menu. The server laughed and said, “only spring rolls”. We looked around and saw that everyone was eating the same thing and wasted no time sitting down. We gave her a peace sign and a nod, indicating that we would take two of those. Within minutes, our table was covered with plates of fresh vegetables and herbs, whole onions, green papaya, rice paper, some sort of meat (we think pork), and a creamy/spicy peanut sauce. We looked at all the food and asked the server what we were supposed to do. She picked up a piece of rice paper and put all the ingredients on in a special order and rolled it up and dipped it in the sauce. We thanked her and followed suit. We each probably had 7 or 8 massive spring rolls. It was sort of like eating Vietnamese tacos. We were absolutely stuffed afterwards and we joked with each other about how we told Viet that we would stop in for some spring rolls before dinner. Crazy, glutenous Americans!
It had been so hot in Thailand, Cambodia, and Southern Vietnam that we were practically giddy at the 70-80 degree temperatures that Dalat blessed us with. This town is up in the mountains and it stays quite pleasant up there year round. I even wore jeans in the evening and I got a little chilly! We slept in our nice, clean room without a fan, A/C, or any windows open with covers on! It had been months since we did that. Speaking of a clean room, Tien personally cleans each and every room in the hostel (I think there are 14) every day. She doesn’t trust hiring anyone to do it for her and she would rather keep her guests and their belongings safe. What a sweetie, and a hard worker.
Dalat is a unique town because it caters to tourism; however, it caters towards Vietnamese tourism. 800,000 Vietnamese vacation there each year and only 80,000 foreigners vacation there annually. As a result we saw very few foreigners and the prices were extremely inexpensive. Our first full day in Dalat was a chill day and we fully took advantage of the cheap bakeries and cafes. We had some of the best coffee ever (according to John) and by far the best ginger tea ever (according to both of us). I was also convinced to have the first full cup of coffee of my life. I despise the stuff, but John felt that if I was to ever drink a cup of coffee, I should drink it in Vietnam. I reluctantly agreed and unfortunately the coffee we had was the worst one John drank the entire time we were in Vietnam (so he says). I obviously hated it and decided to continue to enjoy my tea and leave the coffee to the rest of the world. It was worth a try!
Dalat is big on vegetarian food, so we had a fantastic meal at another restaurant recommended by Viet. If I could cook tofu like that, I would eat it every day! While we were eating at the restaurant, a big storm popped up and the power went out. We sat there watching the heavy rain and sipping on more tea until it let up enough for us to venture out to the Crazy House. The Crazy House is a really unique piece of architecture. It is actually rather hard to explain, but it consists of tree house type rooms which can be rented as well as a lot of intricate, maze-like walkways between them. We were surprisingly impressed by the Crazy House and enjoyed the views of Dalat from the top.
We headed back to the spring roll place for dinner and caught up on some Walking Dead episodes. It was a good recovery day. We spent the next day motorbiking into the surrounding hills. Our first stop was the Datanla Waterfall, only a few kilometers outside of town. We arrived quickly, purchased our luge tickets and hopped in line with heaps of Russian tourists to take the ride down to the waterfall. The ride was soo much fun! We could control our speed with a hand brake, which meant we went flying down the track. I didn’t stop laughing the whole time. The waterfall was nice, but I would go back again mainly for the ride. While we were down by the waterfall, the group of Russians started dressing up in “traditional Vietnamese attire” and taking hilarious photos in front of the falls. I happened to sneak a few pictures of them having a good ol’ time posing.
After Datanla falls, we went on a ride through villages, countryside, mountains, and towns to another waterfall recommended by Viet. This one was called Pongour Falls and was less touristy than the popular Elephant Falls in the area. Viet told us that the road to Elephant Falls would be dangerous due to the recent rainfall, so we opted for what he considered to be a better waterfall. The last 6 kilometers to Pongour were absolutely stunning. The countryside was amazing, full of banana trees and other vegetation. Although we almost got clotheslined by a downed powerline being fixed, we arrived safely to an almost deserted tourist attraction. We were basically the only people there aside from some workers and a few monks. The waterfall used to be massive before a dam was built upstream, but it was still gorgeous. We enjoyed it for a bit and left sooner than we wanted to because we could see a storm approaching. We made it back to within 10 kilometers of Dalat before it stared to POUR. We were luckily next to an underpass as it started and we took cover with about a dozen other people on motorbikes. After about 20 minutes of pouring down rain, we were quite chilly and ready to get back to town. It was strangely nice to be cold again, it had been so long! The rain let up and we made it back to Dalat in one piece without getting drenched and spent the evening exploring the night market and nearby lake.
We could have comfortably stayed in Dalat for several weeks, but we forced ourselves to head out the following day to make tracks to Nha Trang.