Our last day in delightful Da Lat
Another full-on day, making it more fun meeting delightful people as well as travelling on an old train to see a Dragon made from 12,000 beer bottles! Over to you, Jac:
We returned to the old railway station to take the short train ride through the countryside on the old French colonial train. Sitting in the mid-class carriage, we were joined by Francis, a young maths graduate from Essex University.
Francis, like many, has come via an international organisation that place English people in schools around the world. Arriving in mid-January for training in Hanoi, he was then sent to teach primary aged children in Ho Chi Minh. On arrival, he was told that due to the Coronavirus, the school was closed.
Having been bought up on a dairy farm in Cornwall, he was keen to get out of the smog and heat of HCMC whilst he had no work. The rickety old train took us through farmland with fields covered in plastic greenhouses and stopped in the town of Trai Mat. Here we disembarked to walk up to the somewhat unorthodox, in fact quite quirky, Linh Phuoc Pagoda.
One Buddha was made from golden dried flowers, and a giant dragon made out of 12,000 recycled beer bottles. All the more strange because I don’t think Buddhists drink alcohol - that's a lot of beer!
We enjoyed the buzzy atmosphere and just had time to look around before we returned to our train. We said our farewells to Francis after promising to link him up with others we know in HCMC. A taxi took us to the One More Cafe in Da Lat as Thomas, whom I met at church on Sunday, recommended this delightful café, run by a lovely Australian lady – Lorelle. We enjoyed chatting with her and playing with Pukey, her little poodle.
We loved the ethos of the café. They buy coffee from a local co-operative who support small growers. And we admired the way that Lorelle and her son have put things together to create a simple, tasteful cafe with a relaxed ambience. (We especially liked the poems in the loo!).
We invited Thomas to join us here for lunch. The food, a fusion of Australian/European/ Vietnamese, was delicious, and the coffee - great! Thomas is a such a lovely fellow and a great raconteur, and we could have kept him from his work, running his family Coffee Roasting business BATHI, for hours! We’re old enough to be his parents; however, he has a maturity about him, possibly due to him taking on the family business when his father died a few years ago. His parents, he described as quite liberal, encouraged him to go to University in the USA where he knew an uncle and his sister to study Hospitality/business at Plymouth UK. Thomas (his Vietnamese first name is Trinh), went to the USA a Buddhist and came back a Christian. His wife, mum and sister all now share his faith. His wife works in administration for a Business University in Ho Chi Minh City. They talk daily but only get to see each other every few weeks. As we said farewell, he invited us to call by for a drink at the family coffee bar later that day.
We decided to walk off our lunch up to an old French colonial house, now an attractive resort and spa: Ana Amandara or Ana Resort & Spa. We wandered about the beautiful grounds, admiring the plants, peeping into the villas and onto the restaurant for afternoon tea. What lovely refreshing tea and little treats we shared and for under £2! Our pleasure was increased by the arrival of a great Danish family.
This lovely family rented out their home in Copenhagen and bought their 3-year-old son and 9-month-old daughter for a month travelling slowly around Vietnam.
They were so laid back, positive and friendly and the children were able to go with the flow. Staying at this expensive resort was affordable for them, I guess, due to the low cost of living in Vietnam in comparison to that of Denmark. The young lady was about to go back to her work in E-commerce and her husband was taking time out of the Danish Navy to be a house husband. My kind of man! We taxied back to MayMay apartments and after a rejuvenating cuppa, Tim and I set out for Thomas’s coffee bar, leaving Lindsey to rest. Not entirely what we imagined, the Coffee bar and the office of the family business are based at the family home which was only built within the last ten years, to the specification of an Eastern European architect. We were told to go to the front door via a few barking dogs (not our favourite greeting). Thomas was on his way back from a client but we chatted with his friendly sister who, after making us some of the local artichoke tea, talked with us about her time in Plymouth. She set up the little coffee bar on the road beyond their front garden and helps Thomas in the business. She has other unspoken dreams which we look forward to learning more of in time. Thomas arrived, immediately bought out a couple of beers and offered us a snack of dried sugared ginger, cold cooked chicken livers and a plate of jellied pigs head pie with pickles. Tim, not eating meat now, declined and accepted a banana. I had a go but can’t say I managed much of the pigs head dish! We discussed the art of coffee growing/roasting and he explained how they all live in this rather grand house together. It must be a comfort to his mum, now a widow, to have her family around her. I would have liked to have met her, but she’s suffering back pain and so we only had a fleeting wave from her upstairs. We hope her back improves and she can embrace life once again.
Aware of our grumbly tummies we went to depart and Thomas insisted on driving us back. We ended up calling Lindsey and going with Thomas to Carrot, a restaurant near MayMay. Thomas happens to know the owner, who was off that night, but we were looked after by sweet Khoi, a graphic design student whose dream is to get a Master’s Degree in the UK.
We all tucked into the teriyaki salmon on mash, and it made for a perfect last supper with our new friend Thomas. Another great day in Da Lat.
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