Day four and we hit the most horrendous road I've ever had the misfortune to travel on. 100 km of pot holes, bumping up and down and dust. Sore bum. We're travelling across a plateau so it's also exceptionally windy. We get through the worst of it in the morning and then we are in pine trees, rubber plantations and coffees at the side of the road whilst swinging in hammocks.
We arrive at Buon Ma Thuot and eat Vietnamese Nandos - fried chicken street food. I'm exhausted so I hate to think what poor Mr Bin feels like. An early night. Only....there's some mental karaoke going on outside and they are awful. Caterwauling doesn't do it justice. Have a lovely chat with Faye, so nice to speak after a month!
The next day we out in the countryside again. We visit a family that hand makes rice paper and a brick factory. These people work insanely hard and it's just another reminder how easy our lives are.
We stop at an incredible waterfall, a mini Niagra Falls. Mr bin takes me around the back and explains there's a cave. Go on, get in. What?! In the water under the waterfall? With all those to rocks? I'm too scared! So he gets down to his under crackers and comes in with me. What a legend.
Vietnam is the second biggest global exporter of coffee and there are coffee trees everywhere as well as cocao and rice paddies and more tea. The scent of coffee flowers, a bit like jasmine, fills my nose. We have the most amazing lunch of crab Pho, one of the best things I've eaten.
Late afternoon we arrive at Lak Lake, a sublime natural lake. I have elephants outside my window! We eat dinner with lovely aussies and their guide. We drink a lot of rice wine. Another guide, Windy, shows up. He is a hoot. He's very witty and a massive exhibitionist and sings songs to Mr bin's guitar playing. Unfortunately, Mr bin tells me he's a big drinker and the beer with breakfast the next morning confirms. Sad.
The Aussies scoot off on their scooters, I wave bye and we set off for our last day. The scenery is really something else. I'm singing the small faces itchycoo park in my head 'it's all too beautiful...' But I'm not high on hallucinogenics, this is for real. We're back in mountains and jungle and it's getting cooler, up and down and hairpin bends.
We're almost in Dalat and stop at a monastery by Paradise Lake which is so peaceful with the gentle gongs and chanting of Buddhism.We sail on into Dalat. Mr Bin sets me up with an awesome hotel and we go to his family's house for dinner. He's just the best. His wife cooked some great food and I chatted with his two boys aged 13 and 7.
Today I've been out with them again. His sons are so lovely. The youngest just wants to hold my hand and say 'it's yummy!' The elder takes me around like a mini Mr Bin tour guide.
The countryside around Dalat is stunning. So many shades of green, coffee, flower and strawberry farms. I try civet coffee, the stuff pooed out by weasels. It's actually amazing and you can see why it's 500 dollars for 1kg. So mellow, so delicious.
I've spent seven days with Mr bin and it's certainly been the highlight of my travels so far. He's shown and taught me so much, we've laughed sooooo much and he's looked after me every step of the way. The stuff I've blogged about doesn't cover half of it. Seeing him with his boys just makes me realise that he's doing it all for them, so they can have a good life. And also that despite the politics and the bull s***, he's immensely proud of his country. It's been the most fantastic experience.
Dalat is positively baltic so I'm off to Saigon in the morning and aiming to be in Cambodia by the weekend. Over a month gone already...wah!