We are now in Dalat, Vietnam Which is an city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
We left you with a bit of a cliff hanger in the last blog, with us not being able to turn the lights on our moped on. This was unintentional, as the post was uploaded by Kate following her proof read before I had chance to complete the final paragraph! Needles to say that we made it back on time before dark and as we arrived home Kate said ‘ what does that switch do’ as she pressed it and the lights came on.
The rest of our time in Phu Quoc passed without incident and mainly involved getting up late, having something to eat, reading, swimming, having something to eat, watching a film and going to bed. By the end of our time in Phu Quoc we were both ready to move on. On the 2 Sept we caught a Vietnam Airlines flight to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) which took a little under an hour on a propeller aeroplane. It was incredibly noisy but fine otherwise.
Saigon is totally manic and the taxi ride from the airport was crazy with the driver in his mangled old Toyota which wouldn’t drive in a straight line as the steering was so loose. The driver was constantly having to correct the steering. It was like postman pat in the cartoon constantly moving the steering wheel even when there are no bends in the road! He would moan about how much petrol cost as his justification for ripping us off(Why???? He would say to us, why is it so much????- Dad Lucas will understand this!) I wasn’t expecting much from Saigon as I had presumed that it would be similar to Bangkok, How wrong I was. I loved it and it is probably our highlight so far.
Once we checked in to our guesthouse we went to explore the city and ended up at the Independence Palace, not realising that it was actually Independence Day and the anniversary of the death of Ho Chi Minh! We then ate some Pho which is very popular in Vietnam and is like a noodle soup. We also booked our tickets for the next day where we would go to Cu Chi tunnels and the War Remnants Museum.
I had read up a fair bit on the Vietnam War (called the American War to the Vietnamese) and the events which lead up to it) and was hoping the day would give me a better understanding. It did, however I was a little unsure of how I felt about how they presented the facts at the Cu Chi tunnels. For example there was an exhibition with some of the vicious and terrifying booby traps, the guide would demonstrate them with the tour party ohhing and ahhing whilst taking photos. I felt that the reality of it all escaped them and I’m sure that if asked, most of the people there would not know anything about the war apart from the fact it was in Vietnam and involved the Americans. I felt that the tunnels were set up as an expensive tourist attraction which filled you in on the gory details but did not explain anything about the history of the event. Most people would leave knowing how the Viet Cong had maimed the unfortunate soldiers who were sent there but not why they were doing it.
The War Remnants museum was, however, quite different. It was a very 1 sided version of events but if you took your time and spent some time actually reading some of the exhibits you would learn a lot. Those of you who know me well will know that I am not at all keen on seeing anything remotely gory and I must say that this museum is not for the faint hearted and really tested me.
I feel I naively went into the museum and was shocked at the images and details of how the Americans conducted themselves. So much so, I needed to sit outside for a bit.
After our cultural day we felt we needed a relaxed final evening in Saigon. So we went to a lovely, lively Italian restaurant and then to the ABC Bakery which had delicious cakes for little money - heaven!
The following morning we were up early to catch our nine hour sleeper bus to Dalat. When we booked the sleeper bus we were shown pictures of smart new buses with great beds and flat screen Tvs and so you can imagine how we felt when our bus showed up not looking at all the like the one in the picture! We were given two beds at the back of the bus , the only part where there were five beds next to each other and you could not sit up as you would hit your head on the baulkhead, the other beds were all single with one on either side of the bus and one in the middle with gangways either side. Luckily the bus was not full so we were able to dominant the five seats which made for the best seats on the bus! We were nervous, however, the first section of the journey as the bus driver would slow down by local bus stops and randomly shout ‘Dalat?’ to see if there we any takers, presumably supplementing his wage. Fortunately only a few got on and so our area was safe. We decided anyway that we weren’t budging if they did try to move us! The journey was very slow and bumpy, with the middle section climbing up through the mountains quite a heart stopper and the large, Double Decker full sized bus was not at all suitable for the road conditions. Despite all this we arrived safely at our destination.
We decided to add Dalat to our journey after Alex had read the Lonely Planet Guide. It states; ‘Dalat is quite different from anywhere else you will visit in Vietnam. You would almost be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the French Alps in spring time….it is the country’s favourite honeymoon spot and still retains the final word in Vietnamese kitsch…indulge your indochine colonial fantasies in Francophile Dalat’. when we got here we wondered around town with our waterproof on in the drizzle wondering if the lonely planet author had actually visited this dirty, concrete jungle. However we gave it the benefit of the doubt and decided to sleep on it and what tomorrow brought. Unfortunately, after a long walk ( in our waterproofs, through drizzle and shower) through the town our opinion didn’t change. We cannot deny that the surrounding area in stunning, and we enjoyed admiring the views from a cable car, but the town itself was not worth the nine hour bus journey.
So that brings us up to now, tomorrow we are catching the bus for the next part of our journey through Vietnam to the coastal town Mui Ne which the lonely planet reports to have its own microclimate due to some enormous sand dunes which ensures little rainfall…..but we wont hold our breath!!!