Journey to the mountains

With my new found confidence in my abilities to ride a motorbike we set off from Sang’s guesthouse heading north to a place called Mui Ne. After 3 hours of riding we stopped over at a place called Phan Tiet before riding another hour to Mui Ne the next day. I was building more and more confidence as I drove the bike and felt a bit more positive about the road ahead.

We had high hopes for the seaside town on Mui Ne before we arrived. We had heard they had an array of water sports on offer and a good night life. But when we arrived it was more like a sleeping town with not much beach. We stayed just one day there as there wasn’t a whole lot to do. We wanted to try kite surfing but at $50 a lesson for just 2 hours, it was a little steep so we gave it a miss.

We booked a tour to go and see some sand dunes in the morning and watch the sunrise but due to our driver being late to pick us up in the morning, we missed it which was disappointing. After spending time on the dunes (that weren’t that impressive) we went on to see a shallow stream called the fairy stream. We walked through it for about half an hour and enjoyed looking at the sand cliffs and natural surroundings.

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The next day we set off on the bikes to travel on the QL28 road that would lead us through mountain roads to a city called Da Lat. After getting lost once it ended up taking us eight hours to get there but my was it worth it! Despite a bit of rain and many pot holes, the journey was amazing. As we climbed the mountain higher and higher we kept pulling over to take pictures and admire the breath taking view. There was little to no traffic since we were off the main highway which made it easy for me to drive as well.

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We arrived in Da lat to be pleasantly surprised by the city and its forest surroundings. It was like no city we had seen before in Southeast Asia. It was an attractive place that had the feel of a small French town in the Alps. It was scattered with traditional French style buildings and the whole vibe of the town was relaxed and inviting. With mountains and pine trees flooding the surrounding area there were plenty of activities to take part in, including canyoning which sounded right up our street.

We booked ourselves in to stay at a hotel called ‘The Green Hotel’ which was lovely. When we entered our room we found two comfy double beds which we couldn’t help but take advantage of. Because Da Lat is set high up in a mountainous area, the temperature is a little cooler than in other places. Since we had acclimatised to a warmer temperature we felt it was enough to warrant a jumper and trousers. Finally I had a chance to wear my jeans that I had been lugging around for the whole trip!

We decided to take tour called ‘easy rider’ for the day which took us around the surrounding area. Normally the rider has a bike that he takes you around on but because we already had two bikes, we got a discount and followed him around. We just hired him as a tour guide to save us getting lost!

We left in the morning to visit a monastery with a beautiful garden overlooking a lake.  It would be a pretty, tranquil setting if it wasn’t for the hordes of Chinese tourists flocking in. In highensight I wish we had left earlier to beat the rush and admire its beauty undisturbed. It would be an ideal place to live for monks if it wasn’t for the forced tourism. It’s always too busy when you can’t take a picture without someone else in it!

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We then went on to see a famous building named ‘The crazy house’ for its elaborate and unique structure. The house was designed by a female architect in the mid 80’s. If any other person dared to build such an untraditional infrastructure it would be immediately be knocked down but since this woman was the former president’s daughter, she had full permission to go wild and create a building like no other. Her inspiration was that of nature. The building is shaped like one big tree with winding stairs that resemble branches leading to more than 10 quirky bedrooms. Now in her 60’s, its creator still lives in a part of the house sectioned off from the public. We spent a good hour exploring its many fascinating levels. The best way to describe it would be something from Willy Wonka or Alice in wonderland. Pure fantasy!

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Next we went to visit a minority village where we learnt about how the traditional mountain people live then onto a coffee plantation to find out how Vietnamese coffee is made. We learnt about certain deliciously that is sweeping Asia. As usual it was something weird and kind of stupid. It consisted of having weasels eat the coffee beans and then using their faeces to make a ‘delicious’ cup of coffee. We were reassured that the poo was thoroughly cleaned and the coffee beans were removed before a pricey weasel coffee to taste for ourselves. Quite honestly it just tasted like strong coffee, really not worth their efforts and its expensive price tag but we did it for the experience.

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We then went to see a waterfall named elephant falls. It was a pretty dangerous decent down a cliff and stone boulders with steps cut out of them. Lucky we were pretty agile and wearing sensible shoes! We were the only ones there as we stepped carefully down trying not to slip on the wet, mossy steps. The decent was worthwhile as we made it to the bottom and looked up. It was the biggest waterfall we had seen so far and the most beautiful. Covered in trees, rocks and overgrown plants, the landscape reminded me of Jurassic park. I was just waiting for a dinosaur to jump out from the wilderness!

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Next we went to another temple to see a giant laughing Buddha before heading on to visit a silk farm. Our guide was very knowledgeable about everything we visited, giving us interesting information and facts throughout the day. We went to the silk factory and saw how silk was made as he explained the process. We headed back to our hotel at 4:00pm after a long day of sightseeing but before went back we paid to go canyoning for the next day.

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We woke up early in the morning to head off into the mountains for some adventure. Before I go any further I’ll explain what canyoning is. It’s basically absailing down waterfalls. We always enjoy adventures, physical activities so we were really looking forward to an adrenalin fuelled day and it failed to disappoint us!

We started off in the forest on a practise hill to get the hang of it before moving on to a 10 metre cliff that ended in water. Each waterfall was very close to the next meaning we hiked a few minutes to get to each one through rivers and up hills which was fun in itself. The next part we got to was a natural water slide. It was a small waterfall that was so smooth; you could actually slide down it. I was a little nervous as I laid down into the water thinking it was going to hurt but to my surprise it really was as smooth and slippery as they said. We even went in head first which was great fun.

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The next waterfall we conquered was 25 metres and pretty scary looking. I volunteered Pete to go first before I was brave enough. It was frightening yet exhilarating at the same time. When we got three quarters of the way down we had to jump into the water which felt pretty high but was nothing compared to our next challenge.

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We walked further through the forest and ended up at the top of a 10 metre waterfall. We both peered down at it with confidence. We had just absailed down a 25 metre waterfall so this one should be a piece of cake. “So guys we’re just going to free jump off this one” our guide said. “What’s a free jump?” we asked and with that our guide leaped off the cliff into the water! Again I volunteered Pete to go first and slowly followed after him with few minutes of hesitancy. It was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done but a brilliant adrenalin rush!

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The last decent we did was over another water fall nicknamed the washing machine. It was only 10 metres but I almost found it the scariest as it sucked you into a small hole swishing around with falling water. We were shattered after just four hours of canyoning and spent the rest of the day relaxing and planning the route for our next destination. Our next journey would lead us to the seaside town of Na Trang.

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