Yet another early morning wake-up call. I got on the bus first with four other people, then an old Vietnamese dude got on and sat right next to me. I politely moved. Bad bus luck that day, another local couple got on and fully reclined their seat so my knees were practically under my chin, and then they sat upright. Luckily they moved after a while to avoid the sun.
Arrived in the mountainous Central Highlands province of Da Lat a few hours behind schedule which left me not much time to explore the town in daylight hours. I checked into a 'mini-hotel' (apparently 10 rooms classifies it as such), and got a room with two double beds and all the luxuries for $5. Had a bit of a peruse around the lake, but it was threatening to bucket down so I spent an hour making the most of the t.v., not that there was a lot to choose from and I ended up flicking between a documentary on tomato ketchup and fashion tv, both highly intellectual.
When hunger hit I went in search of my friend who'd arrived the day before and was staying across the other side of town, but Da Lat has the most confusing road system I've ever seen, so after an hour of fruitless searching I gave up. I decided to go scout out a street vendor who made the a speciality Vietnamese noodle dish called bun ga. No luck so settled on a baguette, I asked for cheese, no meat, I got cheese, pate (both spread on with chopsticks, skill), pork, and a few things I'd rather pretend weren't there. Sod's law the next block down I found a stall with bun ga. Into the bag went the baguette. I think I'm the only ferang they've ever had as they were so bemused with my presence. I asked for bun ga... I was given pho ga, completely different dishes and the latter I've had a lot of, but it was still very enjoyable. Somehow found my way back to the hotel.
The next morning I'd booked onto a small tour around the area, it was fab, had a great and really funny tour guide. Started off by going on a cable car across the valley, breathtaking scenery. I don't think I'd make a great skiier having to take them all the time, it was enjoyable but a bit too rocky for my liking. The cable car took us right to a Buddhist Meditation Centre, where we learnt about life there and wandered around the gardens. We seemed to spend ages there so I got bored pretty quickly, but I guess it was very serene. Next stop, a waterfall. It was a steep walk down (which I chose to do rather than riding the 'rollercoaster' down there). It was nice enough but I've become a bit 'blah' about waterfalls as I've seen quite a few during my time in Thailand, including some of the best in the country. It was a jam-packed day, from there we were whisked to the beautiful, slightly crazily decorated dragon pagoda. I donged the big bell for good luck and walked all the way to the top, grateful I don't suffer from vertigo. Pretty impressive views. We stopped on the way to lunch at the oldest railway station in Indochina where I got my photo taken on the front of an old steam train.
After lunch we went to a 'tribal' village where I bought a hand-weaved, though plausibly factory-machine made, pencil case, for my makeup, of course. We learnt that in their culture if a girl in the tribe shows a boy her belly button and he looks at it then he has to marry her. Extreme! We were supposed to be finishing up somewhere were they let you ride a buffalo, which I was overly excited about for some reason, but the weather turned and we were taken to a silk embroidered picture workshop. The pictures, 'made out of cozy love for their homeland', were incredible detailed but I wouldn't have any of them in my house, they were all pouncing tigers and goldfish and old men and things. I was more amused by the badly interpreted sayings, my fave being: 'oblivion and unknowledge of human rights is the cause of having barbarous actions which is indignant at good sense of human being', supposedly from the preface of the international declaration of human rights, obviously deemed very appropriate for a silk shop. After a quick stop at a fruit candy and snake wine shop (literally a snake in a bottle of rice wine, the Vietnamese equivalent of viagra) we arrived back in town.
Finally met up with my friend that evening and had delicious Mexican food (when in Vietnam...) and then went to the cafe I'd searched in vain for the previous night, where I had a strawberry milkshake which was pretty much dessert in itself. Went for the cartoon network that night in bed.