A thoroughly great Countryside Tour in Da Lat
After some research, I came across Da Lat Trips. One trip piqued our interest – The Countryside Tour. With a great mix of experiences and at an affordable US$15 each, it sounded like a fantastic day out. What we weren't expecting was to eat some interesting creatures! Jac's face was a picture!
Our guide Khoi arrived at 8:20 am and as we were leaving, Jean-Pierre, also staying at May Mays asked if he could join us. Jean-Pierre, one of life’s characters, is a 79-year-old French ex-pat now living in the Philippines. It transpired that he’s a Master NLP Trainer and has trained with a few of the same NLP leaders as I have. It’s a small world.
A lovely lady, Maria from Barcelona also joined us, giving Tim an excellent opportunity to practice his Spanish.
Our first stop was at the Van Thanh Flower village. This was established by farmers who migrated from a district just south of Hanoi in the 1950s. It is now the largest flower village in the area, with more than 200 hectares of flowers that are sold all around Vietnam. With Valentines Day this week, a worker was busy packing red roses. I wonder if I will get any?
As well as roses, the farm also grew different coloured Gerberas. I loved seeing my favourite colour - orange in amongst a greenhouse of pink ones!
We continued our journey crossing the Ta Nung Pass until we reached a Coffee Plantation. Khoi was very knowledgeable, explaining the difference between Cherry, Arabica and Robusta coffee. As well as the size of the plants and coffee beans, the caffeine content is different. For example, the Robusta beans having 60% more caffeine than the Arabica beans. Ah, that may explain why I only get the jitters some of the time when drinking coffee.
Also, here they produce one of the most famous and expensive coffees in the world – Weasel Coffee, and we went to meet some of the little fellas who gobble up the best coffee beans. But why use weasels?
The French colonists introduced coffee to Vietnam but forbade the farmers who grew it to drink this luxury item. Not to be outdone, the canny farmers noticed that wild weasels ate the ripe coffee beans. By extracting the beans from the dried weasel poo, they discovered a superior, smoother coffee to drink for themselves!
Tim and I tried the weasel coffee poo – and it was rather delicious too. The divine taste of Weasel coffee, the exquisite jasmine-like smell of the coffee blossom and the glorious vista, what's not to like?! No good stopping, we had many more places to visit.
Down the road, we stopped off at a house where the owner made rice wine. After being shown the production process and sipping this 40% alcohol beverage, we wandered around to find that the owner had a menagerie of pets: ostriches, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, toads, crocodiles, a snake and a shed full of live crickets!
Our tour description said that once we have eaten these crunchy fried crickets, we’d be addicted. Well, they tasted better than expected, but we’re certainly not hooked on them!
The tour continued with us visiting a Silk Factory. I was amazed at how Khoi kept us to time; we were a chatty bunch! We were shown the life cycle of the silkworm and the process of making silk and even tasted one of the pupae. It was not very pleasant. In the factory, some old machines had punch cards used to make the pattern on the silk. These reminded Jac and me of the music rolls we had for our pianola when we were kids.
Was it lunchtime yet? No, we had one more place to see before then; the Linh An Pagoda. What I was not expecting was to see a beautiful white serene-looking Guanyin Bodhisattva towering 54m above us. It’s so new, only finished recently, that there is hardly any information online about it.
The whole complex had so much to see: three colourful Buddha statues in the Pagoda with multi-armed buddhas either side. Behind the Pagoda, was an enormous Happy Buddha with his cheeky grin and rotund stomach, which the local people believe will bring you happiness and luck if you touch him. In the garden amongst bonsai trees were neat rows of nearly 500 identical white Bodhisattva statues, many of which have been donated by Buddhists from all around Vietnam. What a place!
After this overabundance of things to see, it was time for lunch at a lakeside restaurant. Khoi, taking into consideration our diets, kindly ordered a feast of suitable dishes, all for about £2.50 per person. We met the owner who had a gorgeous portrait of herself. She hasn't changed much.
Our penultimate place to see was the Elephant Waterfall; the widest and most powerful waterfall in this area. It gets its name as the giant rocks at the bottom are supposed to resemble the backs of elephants climbing out of the water. You need to have a vivid imagination!
Jean-Pierre wisely stayed at the top while we staggered down a very tricky pathway. “Health and safety” was non-existent! Thankfully Jac suggested we took her hiking poles and I was glad for the extra support.
Our journey back was full of chatter, with Jean-Pierre getting very animated about racial conflicts. Oh dear, after such a lovely day, this seemed slightly inappropriate, so I redirected the conversation by pointing out the magnificent flower displays as we reached Da Lat city!
Our final destination was the art deco architectural styled Da Lat Railway Station, now operating as a tourist attraction. But let’s find out more about this on Day 817.
Yes, what a thoroughly great Countryside Tour around the beautiful landscape of Da Lat with the marvellously engaging and patient Khoi.
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