Buon Ma Thuot to Dalat
Monday passed in the blur of a 90 kilometre ride. We set out from our hotel in the middle of town, negotiating roundabout on the main street before making our way out of the city. In town we came across one of our favourite sites, a garbage truck that played music – just like an ice cream van. Our guide was surprised that our garbage trucks didn’t do that!
The day was windy and the rain was threatening but held off all morning. The route was ‘undulating’ with more than enough steep hills to keep the serious cyclists happy or even admitting they were sick of hills by the end. When vehicles are coming up behind and want to pass they start a frenzy of horn blowing to ensure you know they are there. But the sounds and intensity of the horn is always in inverse proportion to the size of the vehicle. There are times when you think at least a semi trailer is behind you and you frantically squeeze to the side of the road to find a small sedan car passing with plenty of room to spare.
On the way we stopped at a small stall to try durian. It smelt as bad as described and tasted as bad as it smelt.
We passed through more paddy fields and watched the harvesting and after 50 kms stopped for lunch on the shores of a large lake. After lunch and a other 40 km ride awaited us. Yet again undulating with seemingly more ups than downs. But we all made it and then had long bus trip to our hotel in Dalat.
Tuesday we ‘discovered the hidden gems of Dalat’ by bike. First stop was the train station built by the French, complete with the old steam engines on display. We then headed down to a very popular botanical gardens theme park by the lake. It demonstrated that the Asian aesthetic is roster different to the Western. There were large floral sculptures of puppy dogs and bees, tea pot topiary, a wine bottle Christmas tree, sculptures of cactus wearing white gloves and holding pot plants, swan shaped peddle boats on the lake, opportunities to pose on a horse in a Wild Western saddle holding a wooden gun, and all the while pop music blasting through the speakers. It seemed very popular – especially the Micky and Minney mouse shaped garbage bins. In keeping with the theme, next stop was the Crazy House – again words almost defeat me. It was built to look like a tree house and has endless staircases and pathways connecting the buildings, going over the roof or going nowhere. Crazy is the word. From there we headed to the last Kings summer palace. More a mansion than palace and built in the 1930s with all the period furniture still in place. Our final stop before lunch was a Buddhist temple – a stark contrast to our other morning visits.
After lunch we wandered around a local market and then were taken to the coffee and tea merchants where we all finally had the opportunity to taste kopi luwak – the kind of coffee made from the beans that have been eaten and digested by civets and then washed and dried and made into coffee. I tasted it for the experience, but really, I couldn’t see what was so amazing about it. Despite our guides earnest entreaties to spend our free afternoon at another temple and another flower garden we all resisted and went back to the hotel for a rest before dinner.
Tomorrow is our final day of riding and is 100 kms.