Tag Archives: Da Lat

My epic journey from Da Lat to Hoi An via Da Nang

There are no toilets on the bus.
And I am the only Westerner on board.
And no one speaks any English.

These were the first thoughts that crossed my mind as I boarded the Phuong Trang (Futa) bus from Da Lat to Da Nang. Not before having had a major argument with the Futa staff who refused to tag my suitcase and give me any form of receipt when they stored it in the luggage hold.
This 14-hr bus ride is going to be fun. Not.

Inside the sleeper bus
Inside the sleeper bus

I had reserved a seat on the sleeper bus via my hotel in Da Lat and I hadn’t really bothered with many questions. I got picked up at the hotel and dropped off at the Da Lat bus station, where my ticket was waiting for me. Once I got to the bus I realised it was going to be an eventful overnight ride…

My seat/bed was actually quite comfortable and having booked on the “upstairs/window” I had a nice view. We went through mountain villages and stunning scenery, until the sun started setting and I feel asleep (courtesy of the travel sickness tablets).

More mountain scenery
More mountain scenery

Three hours into the journey we stopped at a restaurant. I think we were in the Nha Trang area, judging by some road signs. All announcements were made in Vietnamese only, though, and the rude and unhelpful Futa guys on board ignored any of my requests to explain how long we were going to be there. Great: I am completely on my own here! Roll your sleeves up, Chiara, I thought.
Back on the bus, we followed the road along the coast for some time. In the darkness surrounding us, the lights from the fishermen boats looked like a huge number of fireflies. It was stunning.

Then the bus started climbing up towards some mountain pass, overtaking on hairpin bends seemed to be common practice.
When we stopped again a few hours later – the Futa guys needed a smoke… – a few men got off the bus so I followed. Toilet break, yay! Only to find out that there were no toilets: we were in the middle of nowhere and the men were all standing on the nearby bridge with their legs apart. “Toilet for women?” I asked the Futa guys in my total naivety. They stared at me showing no understanding of my question, then looked at each other and started laughing. Their attitude was really getting on my nerves at that point. Then one of them pointed at the line of men standing by the bridge. Great: bush toilet, but with nowhere to hide. All I could do was going to the other end of the bridge and hope that the darkness would protect me. Not happy.
Back on the bus I fell asleep and slept most of the night.

At 6am we arrived in Da Nang. The bus dropped us off and left. This was not a bus station. And now where do I catch the bus to Hoi An? I was suddenly surrounded by ten men saying “Motorbike! Motorbike!”. No, I don’t want motorbike: it’s 30Km to Hoi An, I want the local bus. Tired and dehydrated I walked to the ticket office and asked for the bus. A heaven-sent guy told me to follow him, and walked me all the way to the bus station, which was 500m away, and left me in front of bus #1 to Hoi An. I got on board and was asked to pay 50,000 dong. No! I know the real price is 20,000 I said. I had read enough internet forums about this scam. The price dropped immediately to 30,000 and I agreed to that. Too tired to argue any further. After all, we are talking about 50c difference here…

An hour later we arrived at Hoi An bus station, which happens to be out of town. On for the last fight! Surrounded again by “motorbike!motorbike!” men, I got asked for 50,000 dong for a ride to town. No! You gotta be kidding. I know the price is 15,000 I said. “Oh town very far” they replied. I stubbornly stood in front of the town map with the GPS on my phone switched on, trying to work out how long it would take me to walk to my hotel and which direction to go.
And I didn’t give in to the motorbike men pressure. And I walked all the way.
Half an hour later and completely covered in sweat, I arrived at my hotel. Shattered.
It was 8am.
I had left Da Lat yesterday at 4pm.

Da Lat memories

I will let the images do the talking…

 

At the hairdresser’s

Today was the day.

I really needed a haircut so I decided that the local hairdresser’s just down the road from my Da Lat hotel would suffice.

So I went. Not before having downloaded on my phone a few photos of what I wanted my new haircut to look like. Nothing fancy, just shorter.

As I walked into the beauty salon, I saw two girls asleep on a couch. Clearly not the busiest time of the day. I woke them up (well, I had to, no?) and asked if they spoke any English. Little to none, I figured out, but with the help of sign language and the photos on my phone I expressed my needs. The girls were soon joined by what seemed the lead hairdresser, who checked the photos too and started with the scissors.

The younger girls stood around me too and kept chatting and giggling, staring at my hair. They were soon joined by a boy who had arrived with his mum. I felt a bit like a circus freak…I bet no Westerners had ever had their hair cut there before.

But all is well that ends well: for a mere US$5 I had wash+cut+blow dry+ head and neck massage. And the new haircut is really nice!

One of my ear rings got lost in the process, but it’s ok.

Da Lat oddity

I look around and wonder if I am still in Vietnam.
Yes I am, but this city has nothing to do with the country I know.

Da Lat is clean, very clean. Almost a sanitised version of Vietnam. The layout, the lake with pedal-boats, the houses and the numerous European-style cafes remind me of cities in northern Italy or central Europe. If it wasn’t for the street food sellers and the fact that everything is written in Vietnamese, I would think I have been transported back home.

Da Lat view
Da Lat view

It is much colder than in any Vietnamese town/city I have been so far (after all we are at 1500m altitude). Being able to walk around in the middle of the day without turning into a pool of sweat is actually a relief. Wearing a fleece jumper in the evening is  a welcome surprise.

But despite the fact that I had read about Da Lat, I wasn’t ready for this and it all feels very strange.

We had dinner at a place called Art Cafe’, something that would not look out of place in Paris.

Table cloths are large sheets of white paper, crayons are available next to your cutlery. You can express yourself there. And I couldn’t resist leaving my mark too :-)

My art production at the Art Cafe'
My art production at the Art Cafe’

The next couple of days are going to be interesting…