Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dreamy in Dalat

Dalat Day One My first full day in Dalat was nothing short of perfect. From the weather, to the people, to the was a very good first day. Here's a peek.

After a quick 40 minute flight from Saigon, I arrived into Dalat’s tiny commuter airport, greeted by a friendly driver from my hotel, the Evason Dalat - Ana Mandara This is the second leg of my Vietnam trip. I decided I would rest in the lap of luxury. But as I mentioned in my prior blog, I got a GREAT deal . $320 bucks for 4 nights!

Now I am mindful that it amounts to nearly 5 months salary for the average Vietnamese, and I know I could have stayed at a backpackers hotel…but mmm… I’ve stayed with my aunt, and that’s kind of roughing it.

I’ve been using a hand towel, well actually my flannel pajama pants to dry off, because I didn't want to offend my relatives by asking for a bath towel that doesn't exist in their home.

And on one occasion, we lost water so I showered bucket water style. Not that I minded at all… just sayin….

It was so nice to take a hot shower with unbelievable water pressure. The things spoiled Americans take for granted...

Anyhoo, once whisked to the hotel, I was immediately directed to the Spa, where I indulged in a 2 ½ hour body scrub and massage. My therapist Nhang was AMAZING…I would say a top five in my many years of getting massages. (See prior post about my bad back).

I checked into this amazing room.

The hotel sits along Dalat's hillside overlooking the city and is comprised of 11 Villas, each villa with five suites/rooms , a shared open area and kitchen and a private “butler.” My butler is a sweet, unusually tall young man by the name of Viet, who says he’s on call 24/7.

Following my massage and unpacking, I headed directly to the pool, where I fired up my computer and Skyped with Jessica and Rob. It was good to see and hear from the ones whom I love most. SKYPE HYPE For those of you who haven’t tried, I LOVE Skype. It allows you to talk and see loved ones via internet for free. And Skype’s long distance service rates (calling over the internet) are so much cheaper. Trust me, I cringe to see my T-Mobile bill when I return. A personal family crisis has had me on the phone many, many times during this trip. SO NOT TRI-ANYTHING Okay, so truth be told, I have not worked out in DAYS. In Saigon, I couldn’t very well ask my Vietnamese family to drive me to the park hyatt so I can use their 25 dollar a day gym… that would have been rude. So while at the pool I swam for 20 minutes, the most I could really handle. I just get sooooo bored. At 4 in the afternoon, I headed into the city, about a 2 km walk downhill from my hotel. I know to the locals I looked so OBVIOUSLY tourist, what with wearing an ironman hat, asics running shoes and sporting a backpack. I wandered through the town square for quite some time, probably walking a 10k or more. Dalat’s main drag is quite quaint, with your usual cacophany of street vendors selling anything and everything.

No way though, am I having the streetside chicken.. Something about that Asian bird flu doesnt sound so appealing.

I strolled around, and I decided to I was going to eat street vendor style.

Dalat Dinner

First it was roasted corn I purchased for 4000-dong. That’s about a quarter.

Then I couldn’t resist. I went for the bowl of bun bo hue from a street vendor and sat on a tiny plastic stool at her little tiny plastic table This is a local favorite, made of a tangy beef broth beef , a lump of curdled pig’s blood and plenty of veggies. I lopped it all up.

Dinner price tag? 15,000-dong. That’s a little over 90-cents. And I even tried to “tip” the vendor for giving me some extra ham, like 30 cents extra, but she wouldn’t have it. I was impressed by her pride.

On my way home I splurged. I bought a a bottle of Dalat red wine for 45-thousand dong.

Initially I balked, but then I realized that was less than THREE bucks. Really, when you pay in thousands, it gets confusing. I still have to process everyday at 1.6 million dong equals a hundred dollars

I walked back up the hill and was home by around 6:30pm. WINE WOES AND BACK TO MY WESTERN WAYS

My Dalat double life continued into the evening. Since the Dalat wine was not so yummy, I ordered a 40 dollar bottle from room service.

I wondered what the local kid who brought me the wine must have thought. I tipped him and asked for change, but he didn’t have any.

So I gave him my 3 bucks. I think he was shocked.

Yeah, speaking of that, that’s another one of my many observations. The Vietnamese are not used to being tipped. Even here at this very western hotel, where most of the guests are germans or brits, there is only a 5 percent tipping surcharge.

Net Net

So last night, in my room, for the first time since this trip, I unwound , and the wine put me peacefully to sleep…. Until around 4:30 this morning…


Even though I lowered the mosquito netting around my bed, one got in. I woke up ass early (like 4am ) with two huge welts near my eye. Let’s pray I don’t get Vietnamese encephalitus.

Breakfast Brewing

Much to my Vietnamese delight, the hotel's free breakfast buffet at the restaurant included bun bo hue! Why eat the eggs and bacon when I can have local food for EVERY MEAL? I'll leave that to the european tourists here at the hotel. It’s Monday morning, another gorgeous day in Dalat, and I need to go check on mountain biking trips. plus i'm heading back into the market because I'm dying to eat steamed snails street side.

I'm loving this Dalat Double Life I'm living....

I could live and die here. Maybe I will one day. Cheers and happy training!

"Take one thing with another, and the world is a pretty good sort of a world, and it is our duty to make the best of it, and be thankful." - Benjamin Franklin

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