Friday, August 19, 2011
From my research, Da Lat sounded like a wonderful mountain town with delightful agricultural villages and peaks easily accessible by motorbike for exploring. This old French hill station proved to be nothing but a tacky, soulless tourist trap. For one, we were th only foreigners there. It was filled with tour buses bursting with domestic tourists looking to escape the heat of the lowlands and visit the lame attractions that I doubt anyone could like.
We rented a motorbike for my first excursion on the crazy streets of Vietnam. Our first stop and main sight we'd come come to see was The Crazy House, the greatest hotel on Earth. It was a surrealistic wonderland, brainchild of Dang Viet Nga. It was meant to resemble nature, but was too strange to exist naturally. With twisted staircases through caves, fake trees, featuring themed rooms, all occupied by animal statues with glowing red eyes, there has never been a more fun building in which to get lost. It was too bad we'd booked a room elsewhere because this fun house actually had quite nice rooms for a decent price, if you can handle tourists constantly walking through.
We had our second encounter with the warmth and hospitality of the Vietnamese nearby when we searched for our lunch. One place was hopping and the smells were divine. WE walked in and were ignored for five minutes before a woman finally greeted us and told us "No English menu". Vietnamese features a roman script, which is quite easy to figure out. We'd already learned enough food words to at least know the gist of what we ordered. I said kindly, "It's ok, Vietnamese menu" pointing to myself. The woman angrily pointed out the door. We were not deterred and stood in the doorway for a few more minutes before another waitress pointed to the door and yelled "Go away!" We had a lovely lunch next door.
We stopped at a palace, which was more of just a large house. Then we biked 10km North to the Valley of Love. When the word tacky was first used, my only guess is that it was used to describe this wasteland of cheese. Adorned with heart-shaped fountains, sculptures of lovers, benches built for two, a zoo of fiberglass and plaster animals including tigers, giraffes, deer, and even a velociraptor, the valley of love was simply stupid. We did have fun, posing for silly photos and gawking at the Vietnamese tourists who seemed to love it all; they even paid money to the "cowboys" offering tethered horse rides. By the time we'd reached the actual valley, which was not that pretty, we were ready to run.
We hoped on our hog (ok, a 100cc scooter) and headed for the tallest mountain we could see. We rode and rode for miles, the stupid city never ending. How could 100,000 people occupy so much potentially pretty countryside? We passed farms and terraces, between high rise hotels until we reached the mountain, which was lined at the gate by at least 20 megabuses. We retreated, finding a quiet cafe, devoid of tourists for a lovely Vietnamese coffee instead.