The way from Saigon to Dalat was exhausting. Normally are 300 km in one day not a big deal, but on main roads its hard to ride here, because the truck and bus traffic is as insane as in India. On side roads you need anyway longer and if there are still heavy thunderstorms on the way, then you have to stop again and again. In addition, on this ride my cell phone suffered a damage caused by water – so an extra stop for more than one hour in a smaller city o repair the phone at a repair workshop was urgent. Without a suitable navigation device, I would be up in a creek for the next months. Therefore I’d to hit the road for about 10 hours at the first day.
Da Lat is a medium-sized city with about 200,000 inhabitants in the southern part of the central Vietnamese mountain region. It is a real hill station – as I had always imagined the Indian Hillstations, but could never be found on the subcontinent. It is situated at about 1,400 m above sea level and has a much more pleasant climate than in the hot coastal regions or in the south of the country. Together with the daily rain during my stay, it let the outside temperatures cool down to below 20 degrees.
It is a pleasant city and there was plenty to visit in the rainy recesses. Such as the Linh Phuoc pagoda on the outskirts or the Bao Dai summer palace of the last king of Vietnam. This palace is very modest, but nevertheless it is situated in a beautiful garden. I had bad luck there, because about 200 school kids visited the palace at the same time – it even turned such a peaceful place in somewhat stressful.
In the green hills around Dalat you can find a number of plantations. The main plant is coffee, but also fruits and tea are cultivated in this area. The countryside is easy to explore by motorbike, especially in the south you can find some very interesting sites. jVery impressive iwas the Linh An Temple, about 30 km outside the city. Especially the huge silver Buddha is a particularly sympathetic guy. If you are big enough and reach the toes, you should touch them, because it should bring luck.
Insects are rich in proteins and are on the diet of the people in all of South-East Asia. The animals are not caught in the wild but specifically bred. I was on such a cricket farm and to sort out whtat they had to offer. In addition to the crickets, rice booze were also distilled – the specialty of the house was a cricket schnapps and roasted crickets with sweet chilli sauce. Both, the spirits and the insect snack has been tasting extraordinary delicious.
The main attraction for visitors of this region is the coffee. Vietnam has the second largest coffee growing area in the world and you can find huge plantations in this hilly area with its milder climate. There is not only normal coffee available, but also the most expensive coffee in the world: the famous weasel coffee. Coffee beans are fed to weasels – actually it is a certain kind of cat but are designated as weasels. The animals digest the beans and ferment them in their intestinal tract before they are excreted again. Then the coffee gets processed until it can be drunk. Depending on where you buy such a coffee, but you have to pay between 60 and 100 USD for one kilo of the beans. I have visited such a coffee farm and drank a cup – tastes great.
4 days had to be enough for Dalat – so it’s time to move on towards coast – to Nha Trang.