We got back from the Cu Chi Tunnels 45 minutes before our bus left for Dalat, so I asked the travel booker where we could grab some food to go; we’d seen many of the locals eating from take out containers, so we knew there had to be somewhere nearby. She pointed us in the direction of Pho 24, where we each got Pho to go. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish consisting of broth, rice noodles, meat, basil, coriander, lime, and a variety of veggies such as onions, bean sprouts, peppers, and lettuce. Everything comes separately so that you can mix it all together in the way that you like it. I got the Pho Bo, which is Pho with beef filets.
Around 4pm our bus to Dalat arrived. I had expected it to be an old thing with uncomfortable, cramped seats and the windows flung open for air circulation. Instead, it was a very nice coach-style bus with plenty of leg room and air conditioning, which was great considering we were in for a seven hour trip. To make things even better, the bus even stopped twice for bathrooms and dinner (Pho Ga [chicken]), another thing I wasn’t expecting. Along the way, our driver even called ahead to one of the hostels in town to book us a room.
When we arrived in Dalat, a taxi took us up to the Pink Hotel, the hostel we were planning to stay at. Upon arrival, there was some miscommunication and the receptionist told us they were full and we’d have to find another place to stay for the night. So, back to the street to head for another place. As we were walking, someone came running up behind us asking if we were there for the Pink Hotel. Turns out, he was the manager, and while his place was full for the night he had made arrangements for us to stay in his uncle’s hostel across the street — these arrangements apparently involved kicking his sister out of the room for the night. The room was nice and came complete with a poster of Titanic, and who could ask for better decor than that?
The next morning we had breakfast and moved over to the Pink Hotel. I ordered the banana bread, thinking it would be, you know, bread made with bananas. Nope. It was a standard bread roll about the size of a sub sandwich that came with two bananas on the side. I pulled the bread into pieces and sliced the bananas on top, which was still delicious.
We had heard there were great waterfalls in the area, so we walked a few miles to the cable car that would take us to them. Of course, the cable cars weren’t running, so we hopped on some motor bikes and asked them to take us to the falls. Total bust; they took us to these piddly little falls that had been turned into a Disney-esque tourist attraction, though it was way worse than anything truly disney. The place was crawling with gross, stinky ponies and taky decorations. Oh well.
We headed back to town to Linh Loi for some lunch — com suon, rice with pork chops. Then we stopped back at the Pink Hotel to use our good friend google to find something better to do in the area. Sure enough, google gave us the name of the Datanla waterfalls, so we grabbed a taxi there and were happy to find some decent, pretty falls. We hung out there for a while before heading back to the market in town. We were hoping to find a monastery in the area, but after ~6 different taxi guys conferred on the matter and called their bosses to figure out where it was, we scrapped the idea since none of them had a clue what it was that we wanted. The market primarily sold fruits and fish, but we eventually ran into aisles and aisles of sweets. One woman was handing out strawberry and mulberry gummy samples; both were delicious, so I got some mulberry gummies for later.
Dinner that night was at Hoan Kim, one of the little cafes just a few blocks from the hostel. Most of the menu looked great, so I let the waiter pick his favorite dish and drink for me to try, something that’s been widely successful in the past. Tonight it brought me a huge plate of deep fried noodles laden with delicious seafood, vegetables, and sauce, along with a glass of carrot juice. Both were good, though I don’t feel the need to stock up on carrot juice anytime soon.
Tuesday morning, the 25th, I had “banana bread” again for breakfast before attempting to hike out to the Valley of Love. We actually followed the directions and everything, but never made it there. Instead, we happened upon a Buddhist Temple on the top of one of the highest points in the city, so we explored the temple and all of the beautiful statues in lieu of continuing to hike to an area we had heard was very touristy anyway. With its high position, we also got more great views of the city; Dalat was much larger than either of us were really expecting.
Back to the Pink Hotel to check out and grab our bus to Nha Trang. We grabbed Pho from a corner stand and ate it sitting on their kiddie stools at the kiddie tables for a quick lunch before the 4 hour trip. This time we actually ended up on a sleeper bus, one that happened to need a tire change 30 minutes into the trip. The rest of the trip went very smoothly. We were traveling along what appeared to be a brand new road; there were construction equipment and dirt piles all along the majority of the road, and at the very end we were actually driving on plain dirt – well, border-line mud considering it had just rained.
We arrived in Nha Trang just in time for dinner.