Da Lat was a little oasis in the countryside. However, the traffic was incredibly noisy and went through until late. Our hostel, Dalat backpackers hostel, wasn’t very quiet. Not only did we hear lots of traffic, the building itself had thin walls and echoing halls. The lovely, smiling staff and them cooking us a welcome dinner made up for it though. The city was a bit cold, compared to all the other places we have been. Still 22 degrees, but without the sun it could be chilly. Also, it was well noticeable here that the wet season is coming up. Every day around the afternoon it started pouring. Except for the day we rented a motorbike and went exploring. Very lucky.
It was amazing to ride around and see the green surroundings and mountains. In the morning we went to the Pongour Waterfall, about an hour an a half by motorbike. They were beautiful and massive. Because of all the rain, a worthy amount of water poured down the stone bricks, looking like a staircase getting flooded. It was very hard to get a picture without any ‘peace fingers’ in it, and we had to wait our turn until a whole family finally made some space on the rocks. It was nice to climb on the stones to try and get a good angle for photos.
We sat down in the shade for a bit to cool off, with a fresh coconut. For about $1,50 AUD you can buy a coconut here, and they cut it open for you on the spot.
We drove back with the motorbike and ended up on a road where we weren’t meant to go with the bike. There was no other way to go though, and luckily hardly any traffic. On the highway here they still don’t go that fast (60 is the speed limit), so it’s safe-ish. Having said that, most traffic ‘rules’ you should consider as guidelines. So I wasn’t too surprised to see more motorbikes on this road.
In the afternoon, I drove to the Linh Phuoc Pagoda. This beautiful building, also known as dragon pagoda, was built from broken glass, pottery and porcelain. It’s only 65 years old, and renovated in 1990. Not an ancient piece of architecture, but immense and breathtaking. Next to the pagoda is a 49-meter long dragon, which scabs are made from glass bottles. The pagoda is a sacred place, and I find it unbelievable that there were people taking pictures where you’re not allowed, or were scarcely dressed where you meant to cover your knees and shoulders. More about Da Lat
The nightmare bus ride
After Da Lat, we took the Phuong Trang bus sleeper bus to Da Nang. What a drama. Never have I been on a bus ride where I so desperately wanted to get off. We were meant to be picked up from the hotel at 3:15. The van did not arrive until 3:35, when we had just ordered a taxi that we then had to cancel again. Scheduled to depart at 4pm, the bus took off at 4:25 and off we went into the mountains. There hadn’t been any seats on the bottom, so we had to lay on the top level. The bus driver’s assistant was so incredibly rude. When my water bottle accidentally fell down from the stand it sat in, he got angry with me and gestured aggressively how I had to lay it down.
He didn’t speak a word English nor tried to give us an indication for how much time we had with stops. Luckily the bus driver was friendly and smiley and was able to tell us what was happening.
With all the windy roads, I had to look outside to the road continuously to keep my stomach settled. Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one feeling sick, as within the first two hours there were three people vomiting. One of them walked through the bus, while touching every seat, to hand in her full plastic bag. What a nightmare. We stopped at a restaurant/ bus stop at around 6, and we had some food there. It was already getting dark, and we heard an insane amount of crickets around us. On the side of the restaurant something caught our attention. Six little piglets scattering around, and as they saw us, they ran away. One was observing me from behind a tree, but when it saw I was watching it, it ran off. When the food arrived, the mum appeared. She was begging for food and had the biggest puppy dog eyes I have seen. As I have a massive weak spot for pigs, I couldn’t resist and fed half my egg to the pig. She ate out of my hand, and even tried jumping up when I was lowering my hand with egg in it.
The rest of the trip went a little smoother, as we were out of the mountains and the roads were straight. At 4:30 I woke up, as the drivers’ assistants loud ringtone sounded. Within no time the bus driver (a new one, as they swapped over night) started beeping the horn loudly and continuously, as they do here. Never have I heard as many horns as in Vietnam. They make me jump when I am participating in the traffic, and in this bus they made me extremely grumpy. Not as grumpy as the other passengers made me though, who now apparently thought it was a good time to start calling people or talking and laughing out loud to one another. Then the staff member walked past and forcefully walked into my knees twice, even though he had enough space. I had to refrain myself from throwing my water bottle at his head.
We arrived 3 hours early, at 6am, and our check in wasn’t until 1pm.. If there was still any doubt then, I got convinced to never hop on this bus again: right before we got out, we saw to our horror that the staff member was folding up all the blankets, and putting them back on the seats. I did not want to think about how many people have used my blanket before me, nor if they had been vomiting on them too, and I just longed for a shower.