Long journey today as we leave Ho Chi Minh city for the last time. It’s a really great place, but it’s good to be travelling to see other parts of this country.
Our journey today takes us to Dalat, about 200 miles away, and in the highlands north east of Saigon (the name that most locals still use for Hi Chi Minh city)
We left the hotel at 8 am and were quickly out of the city onto a brand new toll motorway. The views out of the bus were of flat lands with all sorts of farming. After about an hour we left the motorway and joined a main road. The quality of the road surface is good and we seemed to make good progress before stopping just before 10 am to stretch our legs and grab a coffee.
Had a little moment this morning with ‘seat wars’. Despite our vehicle being big enough for us to each have a double seat, one of the Russians caused a bit of a stir by insisting that one if the others had to move as she was in the seat that she had been sitting in on other days!
After our break we continued on the highway and crossed a river. From the bridge we could see house boats and a village in the river. Apparently they are Cambodian fishermen who are farming fish.
Our journey continued on the same road, but fields and posture gave way to mountains and forests. The road steadily climbed until a couple if hours later we arrived at the city of Bao Loc where we stopped for lunch. I tried the porcupine Vietnamese curry. Which was delicious…and had a similar consistency to pork!
After lunch we stopped in the same town at a tea and coffee manufacturer. We sampled singer jasmine tea before heading off!
A short time later we stopped on the side of the road and Phong showed us where they grow tea and coffee right next to each other. The tea is harvested by hand, daily, and the coffee is harvested and then dried in the sun.
For the next couple of hours we drove on and tight among the route, in many of the houses that lined the road, you could see coffee beans drying laid out on sheets.
Our last stop before the hotel was at a village where, somewhat bizarrely, they have built a giant rooster!
Apparently it was built to tell the story of a young woman who went in search of a five claw rooster, a challenge set by her future husband’s father, before he would allow then to marry!
From here it was a short 30 minute drive to our hotel. After a welcome drink, we checked in to a huge room with two windows!
We meet there group again at 6.30 for the short walk to the restaurant for dinner. After this we took a walk around Dalat to see the annual flower festival that is currently going on.
Dalat seems to be quite a bustling place although I can’t work out whether this is because it is New years eve, or because of the festival. (Vietnamese new year isn’t until February). Anyway, is a good deal cooler here than in Saigon and we’ve had to go back to trousers and jumpers!
We meet the rest of the group at 11 pm in the hotel bar where was a live singer laid on, a clock counting down to new year, some punch, and a finger buffet with some interesting things on sticks, mini sandwiches and dips.
We had a couple of beers and waited for the new year. We were asked to move so that we could better appreciate the singer and then I and another member of our group (oner if the Russians whose name I still don’t know!) Was asked to open the champagne! It turns out that this involved being called to the stage, with two other hotel guests just before midnight and standing there like a lemon whilst the assembled hotel guests counted down from… 90 seconds!
We all managed to time the opening just right and the corks popped on the stroke of midnight! We then poured the champagne before being allowed to return to our table. In the meantime, the singer was belting out a dance version of ‘happy new year’. All in all, not quite the same as the chimes of big Ben and auld lang syne.
The singer packed up by 12.20 and SSSI we finished our drinks and headed back to the room.
Happy new year!
On the strike of midnight