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16 km hike

Da Lat, Vietnam


Again our bus ride was a bit of an adventure. When we got to the bus stop at the Hahn Cafe in Nha Trang, we were told that the bus was delayed because of a problem with the clutch. A fellow passenger with car experience told us that they were really having problems with the brakes after monitoring their work. Not what you want to hear when the bus is heading into the mountain highlands. The ride went off without a hitch besides there being no air-conditioning for the 7 hour journey.
We took it easy that night and ended up booking a 16 km trek with a local travel company for Sunday. The next day we decided to rent a motorbike and cruise the surroundings.
Da lat is situated in the mountains in the southwest part of the country. The French used the city for a vacation get-away up until their departure in the early 60's. The result was the towns architecture is filled with chalets. The area is beautiful, reminiscent of the Appalachian mountains. Best of all, the temperature hovers between 15-24 degrees celsius all year round, so no one needs air conditioning.
After we got the motobike, we started to cruise around and went into a local tourist trap called the Camly waterfalls. This place was so terrible it was great. It had weird statues of elephants and one of a man making love to a tiger. When we got to the bottom of the "waterfall," we came across a man selling 3 shots with a bow and arrow. I couldn't resist. There was even a prize if you hit the bullseye all three times. Unfortunately, I failed to win the grand prize; a sketchy looking bottle of Da lat's own strawberry wine that no one in thier right mind would even consider drinking. After Rachel and I both tried our luck, the man talked us into playing a game involving a freaky clown mask and a pole. The idea was to put on the mask, making you unable to see and then walking about 15 ft. to try to hit an in-ground pole with a stick. The guide said Rachel came closer to hitting it but I disagree. Plus, she cheated by counting out the paces it took to reach the pole without her mask on. Cheater!
Then we went looking for this architectual wonder called the crazy house, but instead found a cemetery overlooking a valley. The cemetery was the most interesting one either of us had ever seen. Vietnamese have an unusual superstition of washing the family member's skeleton 3 years after the person has been buried. According to our guide from Halong Bay, it's best for the family members to do this morbid act but they sometimes hire people to complete the task for them. Since they have to wash the bones, the Vietnamese bury the persons body in an above-ground tomb. Another interesting thing about the cemetary was that both Christians and Buddhists are buried beside each other, so you see both the Buddhist and Christian symbols intermingled in the cemetery.
Next, we went in search of a cable car that traversed 2.3 km over a mountain. I was a bit scared so Rachel tormented me the entire time. We were able to see all of Da Lat from the scenic point.
Today, it was time for the hike that we signed up for the first day we arrived. Our day started by being awakened by a rooster that is lodging right outside of our hotel. The last two days we've been awoken close to 5:30 in the morning with a cock-a-doodle-doo.
An suv picked us up and drove us to a pine forest outside of the city with our two guides. They were both quite friendly though their English wasn't the greatest.
We embarked on the trek at 9 am. The trek led us through coffee plantations and over two suspension bridges that crossed over a muddy river. When we got to the second bridge we found that it was broken. One side of this treachorous looking bridge was hanging down towards the river. We only had two options, to turn back or cross it. We chose the latter. While I was walking across this bridge you would see in an Indiana Jones movie, one of the planks broke. I deftly scrambled to the next plank before I could plunge into the river 20 ft. below.
The next part led us up a big hill overlooking the valley. Before we reached the top, we noticed that smoke was nearby. Our guide told us that locals start forest fires just for fun and that's all it was. Another custom in the forest was for locals to burn and scar the trees so they can extract the sap from them for glue, make-up, and gunpowder. It was sad to see that a good portion of the trees in the forest had been burned at their trunks.
Right after the we passed the fire, we saw a local carrying an object strangely behind his back. As we passed we saw that it was an AK-47. Just up the way his friend was coming along with a machete. The guide told us that they were illegaly poaching animals in the forest. Great, now all we had to be worried about were poachers mistaking us for the wildlife. It didn't help that Rachel was wearing her deer antlers.
Just up the way the guides layed out our lunch. All of my favorites were spread out on the tarp for us, peanut butter, bananas, tomatoes, and cucumbers. It was really interesting talking to the guides. One of them was an English major in college and had a fair grasp of the language. This was the first chance we had to really dig for information from a fairly reliable source. He opened up a little bit about politics and Vietnamese history. After we had our fill, we kept along the path and kept on trekking.
This led to more amazing views and coffee plantations. After some more uphill hiking, we found ourselves in a small minority village where about 100 villagers resided according to our guide. We didn't see many of them though. They must of been out poaching for wildlife. We were pretty tired by this time and kept pushing on to the end of the journey.
We are now resting in an internet cafe down the street from our hotel. There are torrential downpours outside so who knows how long we're going to be pent up here. One things for sure, we'll be waking up early tomorrow. Happy Easter.

Zack


permalink written by  zachel on April 10, 2009 from Da Lat, Vietnam
from the travel blog: Zack and Rachel's Asian Chronicles
tagged Hike, CableCar and DaLat

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