Today was one of the most beautiful drives of the whole trip. Instead of just monotonous green rice paddies, we cruised past rich earthy plots of land. Enormous mountains loomed ahead and grew with every kilometer closer. Soon, we were actually in the mountains climbing higher and higher, twisting around hairpin turns with sheer drops below. Waterfalls trickled down the face of the rock and into the dense valley of trees. There were several tourists on the road, but in varying levels of intensity. First, there were westerners on the back of the Vietnamese tour guide’s motorcycles, just happy to be along for the ride. Next, came out type of rider, still comfortable on a motorcycle but, at least we were navigating the roads ourselves. The most intense were the groups of cyclists racing around with their spandex shorts and lightweight bicycles, using just their muscles to power up the hill.
The jungle foliage changed to towering evergreens and suddenly we were driving through quaint timber towns with reddish brown dirt and wooden shacks. I could smell the pine needles and reveled in the fact that we were in the woods, just like home, sort of.
We rounded a bend and crossed over a small stream before starting the ascent up another mountain. A backpacker was pushing his Honda Win motorcycle up the mountain, and looked like he might need some help. Just as two other backpackers on motorcycles zoomed past us, we pulled over to see what the deal was. Florian was thirty-five years old, from Germany, and traveling Vietnam in similar fashion to us. He started the bike to demonstrate the problem and all we heard was a variety of clicks, crunches, and clanks. It was clear this bike wasn’t going to make it to Dalat, and the nearest town was still kilometers away, uphill. We offered to take him and his pack on our bikes to Dalat so he could sort out the bike with a mechanic in town. He decided “to hell with it” and kicked the bike over into the gully and started ripping off the license plate, having decided that he had gotten all he wanted from the bike and didn’t want the hassle of reviving it from the dead. Our bikes groaned a bit with the weight–mine with two bags and Byron’s with one bag and the two men sitting as far apart as the bike would allow.
Florian had us drop him off at Dalat Backpackers Hostel, and we figured this would be good enough for us to stay as well. Giving him the ride really paid off because of the camaraderie and hospitality of the hostel. The rooftop patio was cramped, but it encouraged friendships, laughter, drinking, and story telling. The owner, Vu, spoke impeccable English, and made sure we were aware of this fact. He invited everyone who checked in that day to enjoy a family-style “welcome dinner”. He gathered us around a carpet on the floor of the lobby and proceeded to set a bowl and chopsticks for each person, along with heaping plates of rice, spring rolls, tofu, and more. We all sat down, amazed at the hospitality, and started chatting and having a grand old time. I even met a few girls that also drove Honda Wins in Vietnam, which was awesome because this whole time I hadn’t seen a single female rider. Girl Power ?
All of us were eager to go canyoning, which is basically repelling down cliffs, and Dalat is known for this. Dalat is the outdoor adventure capital of the country, with mountain biking, abseiling, white water rafting, trekking and kayaking. Earlier, Vu told us the government was going to cancel all canyoning and close the river dam tomorrow. After a few hours, he told us that he made some calls to some people and he would be the only tour company offering canyoning the next day, but we all had to stay mum on the topic or he could get in trouble. Apparently he had to bribe the government to look the other way when we arrived the next day after the guards did their river patrol. Sketchy, but we all signed up in excitement.
The party continued up to the roof patio and more people started filing in until we were packed in like sardines having a great time. Someone brought out speakers, and the night continued on with travel stories, chatting, and meeting some incredibly interesting people from all over the world–Canadians, Dutch, German, British, and Russian.
We’d been staying in hotels this entire trip because they were just as cheap as hostels. However, that night I learned a valuable lesson: a hotel is NOT always better than a hostel.
0 thoughts on “Day Twelve: Nha Trang to Dalat – 138km ”
I love your blog. Vietnam looks like a backpacker’s paradise. I forgot that you visited Iceland prior to embarking on SAS. I’m headed that way in May – if you have any advice send it in my direction. India is going to be super awesome! I potentially could get you lodging in Hyderabad if you plan on visiting there.
I’ve also been checking out your instagram and I’m super jealous of the great eats and the motorcycling!
Thanks so much, Vietnam has been incredible because it’s a great balance of cultural shock (in a good way) and modern comforts. The people were also helpful and I felt like I could always trust them. Yes! We were in Iceland for a few days and had a great time doing some of the nature excursions they offer. One day we went to see the icebergs and drove past so many tiny villages and black sand beaches and a million waterfalls. The next day we did an excursion to see the hot spring mountains, which was one of my favorite experiences since I like to hike and the landscape looks like it’s from outer space. It’s called Kerflingerfjold, but for some more details, I blogged about Iceland and it’s my first few posts on this blog under the page Travels, then Semester at Sea Journals. Hopefully that can give some good insight 🙂 I’m actually in Hyderabad right now! But, were only staying here for a few more hours before we fly to Mumbai. I’m very excited for India and would love any advice you have! Thanks so much and let me know if there’s anything else I can recommend for Iceland 🙂
I read travel blogs when I’m bored at work, and I just finished reading about your Iceland adventure. Your first hostel experiences sound a little sour, especially the one with the snobby British girl.
Is it unacceptable for girls to show their legs? You mentioned you were uncomfortable and had to buy leggings. That isn’t something I thought about. It’s not acceptable in India BTW…
The day trips you guys went on sound awesome! Seeing Gullfoss and going to the Blue Lagoon are at the top of my list. Did you book them in advance when you were in the states, or just the day before at the hostel?
I’m excited that the hostels serve breakfast. In the past I bring plastic baggies so that I can make a PB n J for lunch haha
My favorite places in India are Kerala and Goa. Kerala is full of tea and spice plantations and have elephant reservations. If you look on my instagram, you’ll find a photo of me on the back of an elephant while it spouts water on me with its trunk. It’s one of my most treasured memories from India. Goa is more of a relaxing beach environment. There’s great souvenir shopping and it’s a beautiful area. That’s where my friends and I rented scooters and roamed around. In Mumbai, you can visit Ghandi’s house – it’s now a museum. Other than that just walk around, you’re sure to have a good time.
Eat a dosa for me!
That elephant picture is hilarious, I love it! It seemed like it was acceptable to have my legs showing during the day on excursions and stuff like that, but at night it seems like everyone dresses up nicer and covers their legs. All the excursions we booked the day before we went, and that didn’t seem to be a problem at all. Haha saying that just made me miss Pb and J! Yes, I’m finding my wardrobe just became very limited having landed here in India. Did you buy clothes here? We’re flying to Goa in two days, but haven’t booked a hotel. Do you have any recommendation on which area to stay? Also, how did you get to Kerala? I’d love to go there but it seems far from Goa, but if it’s worth it I’ll definitely try to make it happen. Haha I will most definitely have a dosa for you!
I think we took trains to Kerala from Hyderabad, it’s doable from Goa. In my experience the trains were not would I would call savvy and it would take a day to get down, but cost effective. In Goa we just walked from BnB to BnB until we found one we liked – on beachfront I think ours was 300 rupees per person per night, but you’re there during a busier season so it will be more expensive. Goa has a pretty great market – the fun alibaba pants and whatnot will be there, you could get some kurtas, try asking for a 5th of the asking price, they rip off tourists like no other – especially for rickshaw rides. I ended up buying a whole wardrobe while I was over there, but I was studying abroad and didn’t have to carry it on my back.
Thanks for the clothing advice for Iceland – it will help me pack. I read a blog that told me to try the street hot dogs there lol
Sadly we decided that we won’t have enough time to get to Kerala since we’re only here for a few weeks and trying to see Nepal too. It’s incredible how large India is! Thanks for the advice for Goa, I’m pretty excited for it and definitely need to add to my wardrobe. Haha I never had the hot dogs but we did have Icelandic horse, which they’re known for