(journal excerpt: February 24, 2012-Dalat, Vietnam)
We have been really enjoying our time in Dalat and I’ve been especially enjoying taking photos! I swear, every time I take out my camera, I breathe a sigh of relief.
Dalat, being the top rated location for Vietnamese honeymooners, is full of tourist kitsch and tackiness and we had to take part by taking a paddle boat swan onto the lake in the middle of the city. I haven’t had a chance to upload more recent photos of all the things we have seen here but I will be sure to include some in my next post. The paddle boat was fun but the lake is quite green with quite a few fish floating belly up. Apparently the lake is drained and dredged every decade or so having just been drained last year but you can’t tell by looking at it! The fish don’t seem to tolerate it much either. Surprisingly, this doesn’t stop people from sitting around it all day, trying to catch the diseased fish. It made me glad I’ve been off seafood the past few months. But mostly the paddle boat just showed me how out of shape I’ve become.
We then wandered around this creepy abandoned children’s amusement park, taking photos of all the weirdness (again, photos to come soon). No idea why it is not in operation anymore but there was still a woman working there, presumably renting bicycles. It’s funny how there is absolutely no such thing as copyright infringement here. The park has weird representations of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Mickey Mouse images are pretty much used everywhere in this country, including on the front of elementary schools, on T-shirts in the market, no problem! Same with the whole bootleg DVD thing. Apparently not an issue.
We went to a free flower garden next to the golf course which was nice but not very well maintained and a little run down. Perhaps because they are not collecting admissions like the other main flower garden here (update: we went to the paid flower garden yesterday, equally mismanaged and dirty). We were particularly surprised to see all the produce growing, just rotting on the vine-pumpkins, tomatoes and chili peppers, seemingly going to no use at all.
We went to the market which is huge and covers two large indoor spaces, spilling out onto the streets surrounding it. Pretty much everything is for sale here, but it’s geared more for locals with not a lot of tourist tat which is great because HCMC is full of that. In fact, I read somewhere that Vietnamese tourists make up about 80% of the tourism here, with the rest being from other countries so it is kind of nice. You feel like you are getting more of an authentic experience wandering around the country roads here. Anyway, back the market. The bottom floor is full of food, local produce and dried local fruits, sugared to the point of candying. I got suckered into buying a bag of mixed dried fruit, most of which were okay but some where just awful and far too sweet for my liking. Like most sweets in SE Asia, they are just TOO sweet for me.
The next day we went to Crazy House, a place we had heard about from Departures years ago. The photos we took (to be posted next time), do not really do the place justice but it is indeed crazy! The mastermind of a Vietnamese, female architect, Crazy house was built, I think, starting in 1990 and it is still under construction. Heavily influenced by Gaudi, as far as I can tell, Crazy House is a mass of artificial hills and terrifying bridges with no guard rails. This fellow travellers Youtube video gives a great idea of what it looks like, actually. It felt like I fell down the rabbit hole, wandering through all the weird themed rooms and we just missed the tourist buses so we mostly had it to ourselves. I don’t know about staying here though. Besides the parades of tourists walking through all day that you would have to put up with as a house guest, the place wasn’t the cleanest looking and the beds all looked rumpled and slept in, not to mention it was more expensive than any other place we had been staying in thus far. Very cool though and very worthy of the 35,000 D admission charge.
Hard to say what we will do on the rest of our days here but we’ve been enjoying wandering around, checking out all the beautiful old French architecture and drinking the cheap local wine. We’re not much for the tourist hot spots, choosing instead to walk back roads and avoid tours and major tourist sites but there is a pagoda that sounds interesting to me that you can also access by cable car. I don’t know about a cable car in the third world, but we’ll have to see!