One thing that I have been hearing repeatedly from other cyclists about Vietnam is the amount of noise on the roads. There are over 90 million people here and the roads are quite congested. Unfortunately the easiest way to get yourself noticed is by the use of the horn. Most of the trucks, coaches and mini buses have aftermarket air horns fitted with the loudest, sharpest and most piercing tones. And boy do they know how to use them. They are used constantly by vehicles through the towns as well as on the open road. You don't have more than 2 minutes without hearing them, often from extremely close quarters and they seem to be used solely for bullying other road users. Many times in the last two days riding I have seen coaches overtaking lorries with horns blaring as they push oncoming scooter riders onto the verge or force them to stop. And for some reason, just like the traffic in HCMC, having someone push you off the road here is accepted quite calmly. . . . .  except by me. The frequency with which I am swearing has increased dramatically as drivers continually sound their horn in short blasts as they approach from behind. Even in the market place where people ride scooters through the crowds and between the stalls they use the horn to push other people aside. Just this morning as I was in the process of buying some fruit a woman sitting on a scooter, shoulder to shoulder with me, sounded her horn five times just to let me know she wanted to pass. To say that I am fed up with it would be an understatement. I am wondering how long I can last and whether  I head west, back into Laos and head to China from there.
Still, in between having my eardrums assaulted there are some very nice places to visit and Da Lat is one of them.
While on the road to Da Lat I met a Vietnamese/Australian who was running from HCMC to Da Lat with a friend and two support cyclists. As we made our way to his girlfriend while she waited for him he told me about his plans to organise runs for Vietnamese people. It seems that there is a potential market for these events here. When we met Tram I couldn't believe she was riding her bike all the way from HCMC to DL. She was riding a single speed bmx with small wheels and the saddle almost as low as it could go. The pedals were creaking enough to make me wonder if she would make it to the next corner, let alone DL. We met up that evening at the next town and spent a couple of hours together over dinner discussing how running events were organised, advertised and controlled in the UK.
My first destination on reaching DL was the Crazy House, an architectural odyssey partly inspired by the work of Gaudi and created by Dang Viet Nga. Overcoming opposition from the Peoples committee of the city of Da Lat as well as the government in Hanoi, Dang has now been allowed to continue development of the house unrestricted. The house is also a hotel with each room having a theme around an animal or insect. It's quite an amusing themepark type of house and an amazing architectural odyssey.
Next stop was the flower garden. Da Lat is set around an artificial lake which is surrounded by grassy banks and parkland. The flower garden is also set next to the lake and includes formal flower beds, a rose garden, statue garden and bonsai section. Topiary hedges have been created including tea pots and a serpentine monster.
The statue garden, including some rather risque (for Vietnam) nudes.
Some more old French buildings.
The picture below on the right is the train station, although it is not used very much any more. There is a train that runs to another local town supposedly up to eight times a day but in fact only departs if there are at least two people aboard, otherwise you may have a long wait. There are supposed to be plans to reconnect Da Lat to the mainline but nobody knows when. One more side trip I went on while at Da Lat was a cable car ride to a local pagoda which is set in beautiful grounds and surrounded by trees. Unfortunately I left my camera in the cable car pod on the way back. Luckily I had backed up all of the photos to my notebook so at least the other pictures of Da Lat can be seen here. I went back to the cable car station to see if it had been handed in. As I arrived the pods were being taken off the cable and parked up for the night which allowed me the opportunity to check them all, but the camera had gone. That will teach me to keep my wits about me a bit more.
Da Lat is a very pleasant city that is surrounded by valleys that have been taken over by market gardeners. There are plastic greenhouses everywhere but luckily not in sight of the city itself. The ride from Da Lat was an undulating affair with an emphasis on gaining height, but at last the crest was reached and with it a dramatic descent back down to the coast and my next stop, Na Trang.
 





Leave a Reply.