Dalat, Vietnam

It started out as an amazing first night. My hostel hosted these amazing family dinners where pretty much the entire hostel ate a local meal with the family that ran the hostel – all you can eat Vietnamese spring rolls, a salad, a soup, a vegetable, a chicken dish, and rice… all for a pricey $3!

I made friends with a group of Dutch girls over dinner (the Dutch are easily the nicest people I’ve met on my travels), and we decided to go out on the town. Our first stop was the Escape Bar which is a multi-level bar that’s designed like a maze. You buy your drinks at the entrance, and then make your way through multiple stairwells, each randomly breaking out into a cluster of tables / a dance floor / an area full of quirky artefacts / toilets / another bar to buy more drinks. You have to stick together as a group, or you aren’t going to find your friends again. I’d have pictures of the bar, but one of the Dutch girls was designated photographer for the night, and she left the morning after, without exchanging coordinates.

From the Escape Bar, it was another bar, and then another, and then another, until we ran into a bunch of partying locals on the street, who insisted we share their barbecue and beers with them; we did. We also sang a couple of Westlife songs – the only English songs they knew!

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Dalat street party. 

After that, we ended up at the only night club open till 4 am in Dalat… 2 blocks from my hostel. The club was packed: fancy locals in VIP tables on the sides of the club, not-so-fancy locals in little clusters all around the club, and tourists strictly in the centre of the club on the dance floor. The clubs have a weird no drinks on the dance floor policy, I guess they’re worried someone will smash their beer bottles on another’s head? Props to them for trying…

As we were dancing, we noticed a fight break out at the VIP tables. One of the locals grabbed the other by the collar and shoved him all the way to the DJ’s booth. Now the DJ, not wanting the crowd to miss the spectacle, promptly turned off the music so that everyone’s eyes are towards the action. Right on cue, the collar grabber pulled out a knife and stabbed the other guy right in the neck!

Now, there are some people who like to stand and watch fights like these, but not me… I fucking ran! My hostel friends, just like me, ran with. We told the bouncer at the door what happened, and he insisted we get out of there immediately as well; like we needed more convincing.

We ran maybe a block until we were a fair distance from the club, and right outside the little alley where my hostel was, we met some other people from the hostel smoking cigarettes. Clear from any danger (or so we thought), we were narrating our story to them, when we notice some shouting from the direction of the club and the guys from the club were now brawling on the streets with machetes! We ran again, this time straight to the hostel.

We were later told the two guys originally involved probably belonged to rival gangs. And sure, maybe they did, BUT WHO BRINGS KNIVES AND MACHETES TO A NIGHT CLUB! AND HOW DO YOU CONCEAL THEM!

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Anyway, Dalat is a tiny city / town, 6 hours north of Ho Chi Minh City, and the French came here to escape the blistering heat of Ho Chi Minh City. For being this close to the city, I was surprised by how cool the temperatures were. Dropping to 15 degrees at night in the middle of the Vietnamese summers, the hostels here don’t even have air conditioners installed. They don’t need it.

The place is filled with French style villas, and they’ve even got their own Eiffel Tower (it’s a telephone tower – but under renovation currently).

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There’s a lot of trekking you can do in the surrounding hills, and some canyoning as well. I enthusiastically signed up for a canyoning trip, and then proceeded to get very drunk (night of the stabbing), so I did my canyoning trip hungover. A lot of fun, but would not recommend.

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Similar to the Escape Bar is the Dalat Crazy House, which is a home / hotel that was built by the lady who was the teacher to the guy who built the Escape Bar. Quirky house, but I can’t imagine this being a peaceful hotel to stay in – there were over a hundred tourists walking around. It has a nice aerial view of Dalat though.

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Classic Asian girl pose. 

In spite of my experiences though, which I believe was a one off, Dalat is one of my favourite places in Vietnam. The family run hostels, weather, food, and coffee make it the perfect getaway.

Most tourists travelling Vietnam go to the old city of Hoi An from Dalat, but it’s a really long bus journey, so I decided to stop by the beaches of Nha Trang and break up the travel time. But it’s a city made literally just for the Russians – they’re everywhere and more in number than the locals – and everything is either in Vietnamese or Russian.

It’s supposed to be a good spot to scuba dive from in Vietnam though, but I’m poor, so I didn’t go. For what it’s worth, here’s a picture of the beach at Nha Trang.

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