The shoe thing can be a big deal there. It wasn't clear to me at first until one day while waiting in a tour bus (not a sleeper) on the streets of Hanoi I saw a woman holding her naked baby out over the street gutter as it was defecating. Apparently diapers are unnecessary...just let the kid poop in the street. I remember looking down at my shoes thinking "wow, these sidewalks are so narrow I frequently have to step into the street, and this is what I've been walking on? I could use a spray bottle of bleach right about now." From then on out I was much more cautious about where I stepped! Keep up the great reports Kevin and enjoy the rest of your trip!
A Dalat Delight
They didn’t have any avocado ice cream, so I had to settle for coconut ice cream.
Life has gotten pretty rough!
I had no idea what to expect by going to Dalat, but I knew I had to get there. It’s a town in the mountains, a 7-8 hour bus ride (in my case 8.5 hours) from Saigon. The weather is about 10 degrees colder on the highs and lows on average, and no humidity.
The bus was interesting. First, you have to take off your shoes when you get on. The reason? Well, it’s a sleeper bus, so you can lay down in your seat, and the Vietnamese are germaphobes when it comes to shoes! I guess to them, shoes are about the dirtiest thing imaginable, and it would be unthinkable to have them on where you are laying down.
The laying down thing is a cool idea, and is probably great- if you’re typical Asian and under about 5’7! I actually wasn’t too uncomfortable, and was thankful to not have to sit for 8 hours, which to me would be worse. I think I would have slept like a log, having woken up at 5 that morning. But this is not how Asia works! The horn must honk about every 10 seconds. And it’s a bus horn. And I think the driver was even more overzealous than average with horn blowing. Peaceful sleep was not on the agenda on the way to Dalat.
The beauty of riding buses is being able to look out the window and witness life in the villages flashing by. Women preparing food. Women sweeping. Men seemingly building something. Kids running around. Churches falling apart. Homes half built. TV screens. Shops. Weddings! Men drinking beer.
Women preparing food.
Decades go by and nothing much changes. I always wonder if they know about the big world around them.
My hotel in Dalat was top notch. They were so welcoming and I was very happy with my room. No complaints!
Dalat is known as the honeymoon capital of Vietnam. It’s also tourist central- for Vietnamese, and a handful of others. In my walks around town, it was clear that almost no one goes to Dalat from other countries. It’s a pretty nice city with a lake in the middle, and a downtown known for its night market- which is a pretty typical Asian market, with lots of shops selling trinkets and t-shirts, with a LOT of food at this one. This is paleo-nam with the large variety of meats on a stick.
A funny side note. Cooking outdoors is illegal in Vietnam. I was standing by where a lot of grills are set up to sell their meat, and suddenly, they all packed up and moved away. Police car came cruising by a few seconds later. No evidence whatsoever of the grills! As soon as the cops left, the grills were back up and firing away. I started laughing and many people around me were laughing too, as if the criminal food sellers just got over on the cops!
I was on a food-trying kick while in Dalat. I really liked these rice pancake things, which are not really paleo! But not terrible either. They’re made from rice paper and egg:
Again, it was a meat-lovers delight. Out of these, I had chicken, beef, pork, chicken heart…and even tried a soy dog for some strange reason! They also sold chicken liver and chicken feet, but I have had those in the past and wasn’t insane about them.
I took a took a tour of the Dalat countryside and had so much fun! I paid a local tour guide named Yun to drive me around on his motorbike and take me to all the major sites. It was the perfect thing to do there and only 20 bucks for an all day deal.
I hiked, drank amazing coffee (with condensed milk!), went to a flower farm and a silk factory, saw 2 impressive waterfalls, a Buddhist temple, a lake, some of the best scenery in Vietnam, a rollercoaster- and finished it all off by downing a couple of crickets!
My guide was awesome and I felt like he gave me 100%.
That afternoon I got back to my room and took a nap. I woke up and did some email, did a little work, and looked at the clock on my computer and it said 6:50.
“Wow!” I thought, “Time just flew by- or maybe I slept longer than I thought.”
Well it was time to eat so I pulled it together and started heading to the market. As I walked outside I noticed something strange. It’s still light out! It gets dark by around 5:45 here. But it was 7:45 at this point, and still a bit light out! I truly thought I was in bizarro world, that some kind of fluke happened- or that it was some weird thing with the moon being extra bright! I really felt like I was in the twilight zone!
I walked down to the market, and grabbed more meats-on-sticks and a ricepaper pancake. I got mad at the woman I bought the meat from. The night before I was paying 5000 dong per stick (25 cents), and this time, I didn’t ask the price, I just assumed it was the same. I got 4 and I gave her 100,000 and she gives me 60,000 back. What? I told her I only got 4 and it should be 20,000.
She said no, that it was 10 thousand each.
I told her I got them for 5 ,000 the night before at the place right next to hers.
“NO!!!!!!!! 40 THOUSAND!” she says.
Basically, she gave me tourist prices while the other woman was nice. At least the pancake things were only 10,000 and filling!
So I decided to skip the beach this time and head back to Saigon the next day. I was told that the Russians have overtaken both Nha Trang and Mui Ne, the two closest beach towns, and that they were overpriced and overrated. Since I only have 2 weeks, I voted for less time on the bus and more time to work and chill and sight see.
The bus ride back was nice. I took about 5 naps, honking was much less of a factor, and actually was able to listen to a couple of hours of my Einstein biography.
Back to Saigon for the week til I leave Saturday…and on fire!!!!!