Dalat, le Petit Paris, honeymoon capital, vegetable paradise and motorbike heaven. Now not sure why Paris other than the mini Eiffel tower and a few french style buildings but the rest is true. Set up in the hills surrounded by stunning countryside its much cooler which is a welcome break. Surrounding Dalat there are huge plantations of every conceivable vegetable, and lots of flowers as the soil is so good. In the city centre there is a market where some of the produce is sold, but most gets shipped all over Vietnam. The usual barmy collection of loaded up scooters carrying all their goods, women carrying cooking facilities, and lots of Vietnamese tourists fill the market amusing colour and odd looking food.
We were only here for two days so our first aim was to sort out an easy rider to take us out into the country. Easy riders are bikers generally with old (or very old) proper motorbikes who you pillion with and act as guides. However we wanted to ride ourselves, nothing like cruising around the hills bugs in your face. We picked, or should i say they picked us ambling along looking lost, a tour from the Easy Rider club next to the Peace cafe. Our rider and guide Kim sorted out a route and another bike for us for an early start the next day. We ate at the book recommended Da Quy where we practically devoured a small farms worth of great vegetables and surprisingly good Dalat local red wine. On our return to our hotel a show was going on in the theatre in the town centre which we were encouraged to go into, it was being televised and a man in a very shiny suit introduced a variety of singers and dancers, including a cracking we love Vietnam show piece, which had something to do with china and a huge flag unveiling at the end. Outside amongst the crowds kids were jumping skateboards and the worlds worse Michael Jackson dancer was trying hard.
After a fairly horrendous nights sleep (more of that later) we met Kim in the morning,there were two bikes to pick from. A Honda cruiser with a slightly better engine than the 125 badged on the side and upgraded seats, and a Chinese badged something cruiser. The latter had a better engine and a very easy clutch, but the seat won. I rode both around the town first to test which was a little hairy. Then without further ado Kim leads us off. We were a little worried about it being a tourist trap as there were lots of stops but every stop was interesting and Kim was an excellent guide. We stopped at a flower farm, saw some cracking vegetable farms, coffee plantations, an impressive happy Buddha, a silk factory which was bizarre and using 200 year old machines, the Elephant water falls, a rice wine and weasel coffee shop( coffee bean eaten by weasel,then you drink it post exit..). We stopped at probably the dingiest and fly ridden ‘restaurant’ yet seen for lunch for Pho, we are still alive 2 days later so it was ok. In between we rode some amazing roads and the scenery was stunning. The seat kept us fine, the engine wasn’t quite my 1000cc Ducati but managed just about. Around 70km round trip later we arrived back, worn out and shared a very welcome cold beer. Lots of graffiti on the walls say thank you and talk about how friendly they are. We totally agree, a great day.
Now usually you get undressed for bed, in our case after waking up itching all over on our first night we put clothes on. We are not sure if it was the washing powder, something in the bed, or something in the air but after the first night we were taking no chances. Thankfully, we still had thermals with us so we were completely covered up for the second night and slept better. We stayed at the Dalat Plaza, room 303. It was also very noisy from the road, and the light in the bathroom was so dim that it was helpful to have a torch.
We booked an onwards bus to Nha Trang.