10 Oct

Our overnight bus from Hoi An to Nha Trang got in at around 4:00 AM, as these overnight buses tend to do, leaving us scrambling half asleep through the dark to iHome hostel. Nha Trang was simply a one night layover for us so that we wouldn’t have to wait around for an hour and a half for the second bus from Nha Trang to Dalat, our ultimate destination. Nha Trang is a very built up tourist city, which attracts a lot of Russians. So much so that signs are in Russian and Russian expats own and operate shops there. Culturally, therefore, there isn’t much to see or do. After we got to the hostel, we slept on bean bag chairs before moving to the beach at around 9:00 AM, where we slept away the day. After an amazing meal of meat in a pineapple (the ultimate combo) we went back to the hostel to take part in free beer hour at the bar with a few friends and tucked in on the earlier side for our bus to Dalat that left the following morning at 6:30 AM. The bus to Dalat was the most dire bus I have ever been on. It was about a 4-6 hour bus ride with the worst headrest in all of Asia. I actually had a bruise on the back of my neck by the time we got to Dalat. 

Right when we got off the bus a worker from the Dalat Family Hostel, where we were staying, greeted us and paid for our cabs to the hostel. We arrived to find a rambunctious stout Vietnamese lady dancing around while serving lunch. The woman, the self-proclaimed Mama, runs the hostel. This hostel was the most open-concept ridiculous hostel I have been to, with as many people in one room as you could fit. Luckily, we were placed in one of the attic rooms that only had six beds since it didn’t have room for bunk beds. Right away we booked our canyoning trip for the following day, the big activity that Dalat is known for, and headed out walking to find the Crazy House, a fairy tale house designed by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga. The house definitely draws inspiration from Gaudi and Dali and makes you feel like you’re a part of Alice in Wonderland. Staircases spiral up giraffe backs and lead to hidden rooms within four separate tree trunk designed buildings. It was truly a wondrous experience and seemed so out of place in Dalat. Back at the hostel for the first night we had a few drinks and partook in some exceptional One Direction karaoke before going to bed.

I did not know what to expect going canyoning I was just told that I had to do it and I quickly obliged. Canyoning, which I have sinned learned, involves scaling cliffs down into the water below. On this day we did this three separate times and I went first for two out of the three times without thinking about it at all, simply because I needed to be in the water below to cure my hangover. And let me tell you, canyoning will cure your hangover. The first two were dry canyons that released you into shallow water while on the third you dropped yourself into a pretty substantial waterfall with blind faith. You actually go under water after being plummeted by a waterfall and just hope that you eventually come back up for air – it was absolutely wild. We also slid down rock “water slides,” floated down rivers and jumped from cliffs seven meters below (11 meters for the more adventurous among us). 

When we got back to the hostel that evening and had the most necessary shower ever, we made quick friends with a few people, some in the room with us and some in the opposite attic separated by our favorite little wall window seat. We established the most excellent Dalat crew I think possible. I loved the Dalat Family hostel simply because it actually felt like a crazy, fucked up family. You’re in a hostel that’s removed from the city, people aren’t coming and going as much, and Dalat doesn’t have an immense amount of things to do so you find yourself just enjoying the company around you (shoutout to Josh, Heather, Melissa, Anisa, Angela and all others who made the time in Dalat so great). That night we started a massive round of Kings and took a taxi to the main bar attraction in town – The Maze Bar – which resembles the Crazy House. It’s a massive bar that has little nooks and crannies and stairways to nowhere. I would honestly be concerned about being drunk in there and getting lost. We found a big table area and hung about there the whole night before stuffing like sardines into a mini cab and taking endless selfies as you must do in such a situation. 

The following day we all agreed that we would attempt to do some activities, including the cable car that apparently gives you an exceptional view of the whole of Dalat. First and foremost, we needed to feed the hungover people and went into town for food. Dalat is known as the city of four seasons in one day and it certainly is true. The days start sunny and warm and then the rain comes around in the early afternoon and the place gets rather cold at night. By the time we had sat to eat torrential storms had started and we decided we would bail on the cable cars and instead go to the grocery store to get booze and snacks for later. We made it back to the hostel and clocked in some cuddling in bed hours before we got at the drinking again. We of course started another massive round of Kings with the booze we had bought at the grocery store before moving into the sound proof bar on the hostel property that they open and shuffle you into at around 9:30 so that noise doesn’t disturb the surrounding area. Here, you hang out in a dingy padded room and plug in your iPad to control music. It is the dodgiest yet most fun bar experience. The night did come to a halt however, when Josh fell from the window separating the two windows, escaping mostly unscathed by some miracle. Blame it on the Pimms! 

The reminder of our time in Dalat was spent laying down, avoiding Mama’s food, and eating in town. We attempted to do the cable cars again the following day, however they were closed due to an “emergency.” None of us even had a reaction when the man came up to our cab to tell us the news, we simply turned the car around to town and went on an adventure to find pizza, which ended in fast food consumption at Vietnam’s version of McDonalds: Lotteria. Afterwards, we posted back up in our mega-bed and watched multiple of episodes of Brooklyn 99 on a single iPad. While this may seem like wasted time for someone traveling, it was one of my favorite days. It was in Dalat that I learned taking time to sit back and enjoy the people around you is just as important for the soul as attempting to see everything you can in a single place. That night, after a few drinks our squad withered down further when Anisa took the night bus. The following morning Angela and I had to be up at 6:00 AM to take our final bus in Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh city. I woke up with a slight hangover and a deep sadness for leaving Dalat. When the girls we were taking the bus with heard we spent four nights in Dalat and wished we had done more they couldn’t believe it. While the bathrooms may have been the most nauseating I’ve had to use thus far and the food made us sick and the rain barely stopped, we experienced true adventure, love and friendship there and I left with an immensely heavy heart.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” 


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