Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Dalat Day 3 and Auspicious Encounters

Tiger Talk
One of the wonderful privileges about travelling is the people you meet along the way. Today I met Annette and Tuyen.
Annette is an incredibly interesting and engaging woman from Copenhagen, Denmark. Last year she quit her job as a nurse to work for free for three months at a Thai orphanage.
Since her stint there ended in late December, she has been travelling solo exploring Southeast Asia.
Vietnam is her last stop, following time spent in Cambodia and Laos.
After this, she's heading for New Zealand for two months. Europeans are quite the globetrekkers. She's my hero.
Tuyen is a 29 year old college student studying Business at the University of Dalat. He is originally from a tiny farming community in North Vietnam. He graduates in one year. And like many college students, he has a part time job.
Tuyen is a trekking guide for Hardy Adventure tours.
Today Tuyen was matched up with Annette and me. We were the only ones today to sign up for the 19 KM "Tiger Falls" hike.
The nearly 12 mile hike took us up, down and around the La Ba River, which surrounds this 1700 KM high mountain.
Don't ask me to convert this. All i know is that parts of this hike felt high and steep.
Our trek was aptly named "Tiger Falls" (Thac Hang Cop) in honor of a tiger who had inhabited this area three decades ago.
The tribal communities knew him and apparently worked around his feeding schedule.
He lived in this den next to the falls. Then one day he disappeared.
So lore has it he died in the forest. Though I wouldn't be surprised if he was shot and poached.
The Vietnamese are known to hunt anything alive. Not trying to cast aspersions on my peeps, just sayin' that in the past, animal skin has been known to surface at the market.
Anyhoo, to this day, much homage is paid to him.
The trek took us through some neat terrain, including some man-made suspension bridges. Not the safest bridges in the world, but they worked.

Now if you were afraid of heights, you would have been in trouble.
No really, one misstep and you're toast. I'm not so much afraid of heights so no worries.
We also passed several veggie and coffee plantations, owned by the government and harvested by the villagers for a small fee.
Our halfway mark found us picnicking at a along the way. Tuyet fed us yummy french bread sandwiches with cucumbers and tomatoes and laughing cow cheese (French influence). We also had a few pastries which we gleefully nibbled.
Then on top of this mountain we had a short visit with a tribal hill community who call themselves the Lieng Tro tribe.
Only a handful of families live here, and there is no running water or electricity.
So while we spoiled Westerners worry about our manicures and get pissed that our TIVO ran out of space to record our favorite show,
The Lieng Tro people are just concerned about their next meal.
Really. These are not pets. They are being raised, much like chiken are, for supper.
It was quite surreal today, hiking to the top of the mountain , to be greeted by abject poverty.
Afterwards, our trek down began.
Dalat Dine-in Dinner for Two, but for one
Even though I much prefer those dollar dinners served on the streets, I can be quite the recluse when it comes to travelling alone and eating dinner.
The last two nights I have ordered room service. It's astronomically expensive by Vietnamese standards, but a hell of a deal otherwise.
Last night I ordered a 12 dollar feast...a four dollar bowl of soup and an 8-dollar plate of lemon grass chicken and rice plate. Now remember, this is a five star restaurant and the best in town.
Tonight I splurged and ordered the seafood hot pot.
At 20 dollars a person, with a minimum of two people, that's 40 bucks. But nothing else on the menu sounded good, and since my trek cost me just 20 bucks (meals included) I thought, why not?
Oh, it so beat any Fleming's steak.
In this medley included prawns, octopus, clams, crabs, and basa fish, a local favorite.
Not to mention fresh veggies galore.
I was in Vietnamese hot pot heaven.
Actually I have been in Vietnamese food heaven.
This was today's complimentary breakfast at the restaurant.
Vietnamese noodle soup or pho served with a basket of croissants and fresh fruit. Ooh and the coffee!
Whether it be culinary or outsdoors, it comes down to experience. I don't collect things (you should see how little I packed) , but I do hoard experiences.
Hey look teammates, it's a Vietnamese girl in a Sugar Cycles team jersey in Vietnam!!!
Seeing the world..... connecting with people.......
those are the things that count, at least in my world, which right now is not just half a world a away....
but it strangely feels like home.
Cheers and happy training!
"Write in your heart that everyday is the best day of the year." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Anonymous said...

Unfreakin believeable! I love the vlogs. I feel like I am right there with ya Chelly. You are so right about life being about meeting people and learning through our experiences. Once again I applaud you for following your heart and taking this journey. We love you and miss you!

Jane said...

I love reading your travel adventures. Really awesome. Local food looks incredible. (not the dog though...)

BizarreRecords said...

Showing your pics around the newsroom.. I'm going to start calling you Nguyendiana Jones