31 October 2009 – day 15 – Saturday – Dalat City, Vietnam
Today we drove from Nha Trang to Dalat City, which is to say, we drove from the sea up to the mountains. It may be a good thing too, because we've heard rumors about a monster typhoon heading straight for Nha Trang. They say it will make landfall on Monday. So moving to higher ground sounds like a good idea.
The bus ride, however, was long and grueling. It was a five hour drive. The first half of the drive had really bad roads, under heavy road construction,
so everyone in the bus was getting bounced around. I was writing on the computer, and because I wasn't looking up, I started to get motion sick. I put the computer away and it took me a long time to recover.
It was a slow day, but we still saw some interesting things along the way. For instance, we saw a cockfight. We were told that it's a popular “sport” here in Vietnam, but unlike some places in the world, the birds do not fight to the death. They only fight until there's a clear winner. When we tried to take photos of the fight, the men there became very unhappy with us.
I also saw a motorbike that was loaded as full as humanly possible with bananas. It was amazing. Unfortunately, my photo didn't turn out very good because it was taken through the bus window with a lot of glare.
At one point, we got off the bus and took photos walking across a pedestrian bridge across a fairly good sized river valley.
Well, we thought it was a pedestrian bridge. After a while, two motorbikes came roaring across the bridge. The first time they crossed, they went slowly, but for the return trip, they went as fast as possible, which was scary for people near the bridge.
We also saw families with pigs
and cute puppies nearby. I saw one girl drinking directly from the river and thought that was amazing. She must have one hell of an immune system to fight off the bacteria in that water.
On one side of the bridge was a family and they had a little girl with a very cute smile.
Eventually we stopped for a potty break. We stopped at a small restaurant where they had eastern-style toilets. Which basically means you have to squat. However, they had some fun pets. They had cute puppies, a monkey, a weasel (I think), and even a turtle.
Back on the bus, we drove and drove. We saw beautiful scenery. The trees became bigger and bigger. Eventually we started seeing big pine trees. We also saw waterfalls. Unfortunately, none of the scenes translated well to photos. I took them anyway.
At one point, we saw a traditional house for that region, kind of like we saw in that one history museum.
We stopped again at a gas station. I took photos of some coffee plants with coffee beans on it.
The countryside was forested and beautiful. We got out a few times to stretch and take photos.
After a long drive, the trees started thinning out and it started looking like farm land.
We started seeing large greenhouses. It was the first signs of Dalat City. Apparently, the city is well known for its flower business. People here grow tons of flowers and other produce, and much of it is kept in greenhouses.
Once we arrived in Dalat City, we stopped at a embroidery factory.
We didn't buy anything, but the artwork was beautiful. I sat outside the store while other people shopped. We ended up seeing a minor motorbike accident involving two women. Nobody seemed hurt, at least not badly. They dusted themselves off and kept riding.
Next, we took a ride on a gondola that went down the mountain for a while. That was very fun to ride.
Down below we could see people farming. Well, most of them were farming but some were apparently supervising.
Our hotel is nice. The city was occupied by the French a long time ago and their influence is still heavy in Dalat City. There is a replica of the Eiffel Tower here that is lit up at night.
At the end of the gondola ride was another small park that had some flowers.
After that, we drove to a Buddhist monastery and pagoda. It was lots of fun. They had some very beautiful flowers, some of which were very odd.
We took lots of photos at the monastery.
In the evening we had a home-hosted dinner. The hosts were very nice and served us wonderful food.
They had two beautiful daughters. The oldest daughter played the piano for us.
Interesting observation about Vietnam for the day:
Think about it: Vietnam is a communist country. There are only four communist countries left in the world: China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam. I think you would have to be crazy to visit North Korea because of their lunatic dictator Kim Jong Il. People from the United States aren't allowed to visit Cuba. It's illegal. The only way to get there, I'm told, is to visit Canada and fly from there. When we were in China, we couldn't go where we wanted; we had a government guide accompany us and watch us for the entire trip. So these other three countries are very oppressed and I feel like they have no freedom. But here in Vietnam, Kathy and I can walk wherever we want, take a taxi to any location, see anything we want. It has the feeling of a completely free, commercial free-enterprise system. The amount of freedom we've been giving is astounding: it's difficult to believe this is a communist country at all. Except, of course, that the government controls the media and we were warned not to take photos of government buildings and military places.
Overloaded vehicles of the day: