After a long and bumpy bus ride Emily and I arrived at Dalat, leaving the coast for mountains. Mountains in Vietnam nearly always mean coffee. So, while getting to grips with the city, our first afternoon was spent in a coffee shop enjoying the local brews and planning the days ahead.
Emily’s former life as a barista hasn’t gone to waste in Vietnam!
We were lucky enough to make some amazing new friends in Mui Ne who travelled to Dalat at the same time as us. Hannah and Peter from Germany and Lars and Franciena from the Netherlands made up our Western Dream Team. After meeting for a few beers, followed by an early night, we were all up exploring the mountainous countryside with our local guide, Jackie Chan. Somehow I don’t think that was his real name… Quick stops at a local flower farm and mountain pass viewpoint were followed by a visit to a local coffee plantation with caged ‘weasels’ (palm civets) and a taste of some of the most expensive coffee in the world.
Finally! A mountain pass photo that isn’t all clouds
Weasel Poo Coffee, or Kopi Luwak as it is more commonly known in the west from its Indonesian name, is exactly what it sounds like. The palm civets eat the beans, poo them out and this is then processed, removing the largely undigested beans for roasting. The resulting coffee is… different. It doesn’t taste of poo. But I wouldn’t say it tasted great either. And at up to $1000 US a kilo I really failed to see what all the fuss was about. None of us did.
More culinary adventures were next, trying the local rice wine at a cricket farm, served with fried crickets as a bar snack. The rice wine was nothing to write home about, but most home made spirits are like that to be fair. At least none of us went blind! The crickets were actually delicious. Pretty much all of us thought so. Crunch, salty and well seasoned. A really good bar snack. The rest of the world seems to be on to something, despite western hang ups about food!
Soon to be consumed!
A trip to the local temple and another Buddha, this time famous for smiling, and we headed down to the amazing Elephant Falls. Not the prettiest waterfall Emily and I have seen this trip. But probably the most impressive. The sheer amount of water cascading over the side is bigger than anything I’ve seen other than Niagra. Health and safety out of the window, you can climb down rickety steps on wet rocks to reach the middle and bottom viewpoints. There is even a cave bored into the rock to explore behind the wall of water as well if you are brave enough. We all were and it was totally worth it. No photos, too wet for cameras or phones, but a memory we can all share as a group. I love waterfalls. So throw in a difficult scramble and the chance to see something so powerful from a different perspective and I’m all over it!
Our final stop for the day was to a silk factory. After seeing a few textile places in Laos I was actually looking forward to this more than I thought I would. The process from start to finish is really amazing, from the farming and life cycle of the silk worms, to the boiling of cocoons through to spinning, dyeing and then weaving. It really is a craft and quite cool to see. I don’t think I would ever pick to see this off the bat, but as part of a wider tour it was good to see another aspect of Vietnamese traditional life. Plus Emily loves it and its always great to see something your partner is interested in.
Silkworms doing their thang
After another evening all together, our team of 6 met up the following morning to visit the ‘Crazy House’ of Dalat. I’m not sure what I expected to be honest. It was something that Emily saw when doing some research on the region and I went along with. For once though, crazy was a complete understatement. It was more like a mini theme park! It actually reminded us of our visit to Meow Wolf last year. This time instead of wandering around the world of Blade Runner we felt like we were stepping through the looking glass and visiting Alice in Wonderland. Walking through woods, oceans, cottages and crazy architecture; all the while discovering rooms above / below and through passages that led anywhere but where you were expecting. I had a lot of fun. But I do feel sorry for any guests who stay there! It is still a hotel, but I think I would go mad after just one night!
Crazy House be Crazy!
We ended the day on pedalos in Xuan Huong Lake. Emily has never been on a pedalo before (obviously missing out on Brits abroad holidays to Spain!) so it was an experience for her. Renting the swan boats for an hour seems like a fantastic idea for the first 10 minutes. After 20 or so our calves were on fire and I couldn’t help but wonder who on earth would book them for 2 hours! The views were great though and we just floated around aimlessly until it was time to head back. The owners must have felt sorry for us as they sent a young lad out to tow us back in a speedboat. Or more likely, they knew we were weak!
Beautiful lake views
Our final day we were on our own again, having said goodbye to our friends the previous day, although hopefully not for the last time. We headed to La Viet, an amazing coffee shop in Dalat that really lived up to the reviews. Not only do they give you free one on one tours of their roasting process, but they have an expansive range of coffee drinks and cocktails. Since it finally rained in this mountainous region (it had been threatening to do so ever since we arrived) we took full advantage of everything they had to offer. A perfectly chilled day before our long night bus to Hoi An… Don’t you just love travelling sometimes?
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La Viet might just be the perfect coffee shop!