We were arriving into Dalat in the evening and so decided to book somewhere to stay in advance. Camillia Hotel had rave reviews with comments about a communal atmosphere and a characterful owner, Mr Ting...
We arrived and were met by a Vietnamese, somewhat hippy version of Del Boy. Leather jacket, gift of the gab and a greeting of "welcome to our family"... We signed up for a Groovy Gecko canyoning trip, unsure of what to expect and then headed out to the night market for some food. We didn't make it past next door before our first food stop - pancakes with bean sprouts and prawns, a bowl full of herb salad and chilli sauce. Pretty delicious and 15p each. The night market was pretty standard, they really need to diversify their product range, though the minnion hats were pretty cool. We ordered a pork curry and a prawn and garlic curry, which both proved fairly disappointing and cost over 5 dollars - we both wish we'd stuck with the pancakes!
Canyoning, for those that don't know is a combination of walking, climbing, abseiling, jumping and swimming through gorges or canyons. We had a group of 21 people (a big audience for any embarrassing moments). The first activity was to abseil down an 18m cliff into the river below. It was pretty tame and the water wasn't half as cold as expected. After a bit of a walk, we were in an area away from the visitor centre and it was a lot more wild. We were told to lie with our head facing down stream, looking at the sky, as they shoved us into some rapids - very fun! Next was a bit more abseiling practice where we were told to stop jumping like ladyboys... We did some pretty bit jumps down, but the instructors then showed us how it was done, doing the full descent in a single jump.
Next up was abseiling down a waterfall, which entailed getting smashed in the face by water as you tried not to fall over as we were assured getting up would be extremely difficult! I was first up and upon getting to the going where the face became vertical, I was told to jump - the rope wasn't long enough to get to the bottom so that didn't leave much choice... Sophie had no trouble either, but a couple of people had a nightmare. One girl got stuck facing the wrong way and had to be lowered down and then dropped into the water head first - only pride was hurt though.
There were some relaxing moments as we floated down the river on our backs, paddled in waterfall pools and enjoyed a good lunch on the top of a waterfall. The guides were a good laugh too.
The penultimate obstacle was an 11m cliff jump which got the adrenaline flowing. There was a 7m option but Sophie wasn't going to be outdone so she was the first of the girls to do it - unfortunately no picture!
Finally we had a blind descent dropping into raging white water. For a second it seemed that you were being dragged under and then you were spat out looking pretty dazed!
A fantastic day ended with a home cooked meal of lemon grass chicken, soup, tofu, salad, greens and plenty more. It was a nice atmosphere around the table, helped by Mr Ting's "happy water" - 30% rice wine... We met 2 Israeli girls who have offered to be our guides when we are there in September - Tal and Ayelet, we'll hold you to it!
There was too much to do in Dalat. We decided to get an Easy Rider tour rather than getting lost ourselves so that we cram as much into the day. Bombing around on bikes was great fun and we saw all sorts of stuff. Pretty touristy, but that's what we are! My rider was an absolute joker and at our first stop scaled a mango tree to get us something to eat. We also sampled the rice wine - this was fresh from the still and 70% - it brought instant red cheeks! There were also lots of weezles as coffee chewed up and s%%t out is highly prized. For some reason, all the coffee is roasted with chocolate and tastes sweet - not my idea of good coffee... We saw a silk factory which was more interesting than it sounds and a pretty huge waterfall (elephant falls). during our lunch stop my rider brought some florescent yellow "tea" for us to try. It was nicer than the rice wine! After drinking it he took us to see what it was- liquid from a huge jar full of snakes. Apparently fermented juice of poisonous snakes is good for back ache and a man's "strength". "One person drinks, two people happy"...
After a bit more sightseeing, we set off for Hoi An the following afternoon. It is from that 15hour bus journey that I write this post...