Days Winding Down in Da Lat – Tours ahead, things to see and do

Some fun things to record and discuss.

Yesterday was a fun day all the way around. I had the tour and then went for a walk afterwards since the weather was kinda dry. Getting back I decided to just have a Banh Mi for dinner and grab a couple of beers from the little market I frequent.

Upon getting back, the hotel owner and two friends were sitting in the lobby drinking cans of Tiger beer and eating a variety of foods. Neither of the friends spoke too good English but they all insisted I sit down and talk. Instead of sharing the beer for three they shared the beer for four and we ate, talked, and laughed. I guess beer and food has a language of its own!

I left after a few beers and went to the room and thought about the amazing day I just had.

Today its still raining so I went to La Viet for coffee and a sandwich or brunch meal around noon. I sat there and watched the weather vary between intense rain and sprinkles or mist. Finally it seemed that things had stopped so I left to walk wherever. It rained most of the time I was out but I just continue and walk the city because its a thing I like doing.

I thought through how my time in Vietnam is slowly drawing down. When I leave Da Lat this Saturday for Saigon I will have spent a month here of pretty good times. With the tours I feel I have seen a lot that Da Lat offers and I still have another tour and a few days of wandering still. I also considered some kind of list of things I want to do still on Wednesday and Friday so came up with a list sorta kinda.

  1. Da Lat Market, Wednesday. I want to look at smaller bags that could become camera bags at the market. Its about 20 minutes walking to get there. The market is fun to just walk through and see all the fresh veggies, fruit, bags, coats, socks, shoes, people. Its all there and if you want to do some street photography my thought is a market is a great place to go.
  2. Da Lat Flower Garden and Lake, Friday. On Friday I will walk the long way around the lake and do the flower garden and see the walk around the lake the other way than I usually do. Its interesting and not so touristy since I don’t think legions of tourists go walking that much.

That gets me to Saturday and when I leave. I have to be at the bus station by 10am so I will leave here by 9am and either walk or get a cab. I board the bus at 11am and will reach Saigon by 5 to 6pm. Then I head to my hotel in District 1 and spend two nights. On 20 August, I head to the airport and fly to Da Nang.

I think Da Nang is gonna be a lot of fun. Its a bigger city along the coast with beaches and pagodas and historic sites and museums! Its my final city in Vietnam and I have about 29 days there.

What I decided when I started traveling in Vietnam was to find cities that I could “anchor” in and spend longer. I spent 3 months in Hanoi and that was really good! I met people, felt like a regular there, and also learned how to walk the city and did that every day. I found favorite restaurants and coffee shops and where to buy things like toiletry items. Then I spent 30 days in Saigon which let me visit so many places but still have the comfort of the homestay. I did a side trip to Vung Tau on the water ferry and was amazed at the ex-pat population and sites there to see.

Now its been Da Lat and the 30 days have been quite good here! I did the Nha Trang trip via bus for 4 days. Da Lat has been fantastic to stay in for this long as well.

Next up is Da Nang and like I mentioned I think Da Nang has a bunch of stuff to go do. I’ll spend about the same number of days there and then fly back to Saigon and make my way to Cambodia. I will have spent 6 months in Vietnam! Six glorious months with so many memories and photographs and people I’ve met.

I alo started thinking about long term in Cambodia. I will get a visa extension of stay there that is easily available for retired folks like me. I can use Phnom Penh as a base and travel to Lao, Thailand, Malaysia. I know next year I will make it to Singapore and then travel to India. India is a long term investment for me. I have friends up and down the country to see. I would have to spend a few weeks in Chennai.

All of that feels so far ahead of myself its hard to imagine but Cambodia is not. I have 4 months pretty well planned out and arranged for lodging and travel between places and then back to Phnom Penh.

So, only a few days left and one more tour to do. Have a few chores on Friday like doing my laundry in my room and packing. I’ll be toning down the bags and dropping the duffel here at the hotel as well as the coat I bought and rain gear.

Then off I go! On to the next place in Vietnam 🙂

Tour of Da Lat — Waterfalls, Pagoda, Coffee and so much more!

Around Da Lat and not within walking distance are a series of waterfalls that are simply gorgeous but you need a way there. You can rent a ride on a motorbike or rent a bike yourself. Since its rainy season here the best way I think and perhaps the most expensive is to get a tour. I chose Da Lat daily tours headquartered here in Da Lat. But since I am a solo traveler and most of these are built for groups or families I had to pay as though I was two. This came up to about $70 yesterday to see about 7 different sites and have the wonderful, funny, and intellect Ha with me as a tour guide.

We visited the Pongour and Elephant falls as well as a beautiful and modern Pagoda and then drove through herds of buffalo and calves and visited minority villages that are completely different and flower farms where I met the owner.

We also spent a leisurely hour or more over Arabica freshly made coffee talking about life, traveling, Vietnam, families and the differences between the US and Vietnamese families. She is a fun and wonderful guide and new friend that communicates in English so well, teases affectionately, and kept me so incredibly involved in the tour.

Yesterday was only the first day I have a tour with Da Lat Daily Tours. Thursday we will visit Pagodas and other sites which Ha has assured me will be fun, educational, and enlightening. I believe her!

Here’s the Da Lat photo album which combines the tours and my wanderings on a daily basis. Enjoy the photo’s of the waterfalls! Of the two we visited yesterday, Pongour waterfall is much better and more beautiful. Its more nuanced and has elements that cascade all around where the Elephant waterfall is more focused with so-called elephant rocks at the bottom that you have to really look at. You can hike to the bottom but I deferred since the way is very slippery and I did not feel like slipping or falling and Ha assured me while the view below is good the danger is real and people have fallen and hurt themselves.

I would say if you visit Da Lat other than waterfalls be sure you include visiting a coffee plantation. I will get the name of the one we went to but I should be able to find it online too since its the largest. Coffee growers actually grow two beans here which have radically different elevation requirements that are both met here in Da Lat. The Arabica bean requires higher elevations at or about 1500m while Robusta beans thrive lower. I saw both side by side and tasted the beans raw. The beans are sweet to taste! We disagreed which one was sweeter. Ha believes that the Arabica is sweeter.

A second amazing thing was seeing the vast differences of other things grown in this food basket of Vietnam. Not just the fruits and produce but also pepper plants. We stopped and I tasted pepper seeds which are highly spiced.

We also stopped at the Ninh An Tu Pagoda next to Elephant Waterfalls and burned incense and toured. The Pagoda is active and the grounds are open to respectful visits with cameras. I love visiting Pagodas and Temples. Do you know the difference between them?

Somehow we fit lunch at a cafe and diner in-between and had cheap and delicious dishes. I had a nice chicken with rice and salad for all of 40k VND. Very reasonable given the rather touristy locales we were in.

The final stops were a minority village and a flower farm where I met the flower farm owner and Ha translated our discussions about growing flowers, families, traveling.

An amazing day and I met a wonderful person who teased, laughed, and told me so much about her life and how families in Vietnam are so different than our US counterparts.