SUNDAY 21st FebDay Two: 90km
Sunday started in Dalat with a Banh Mi savoury breakfast sandwich with (sort-of) pâté, veg and chilli sauce. Tasty. We’d been in search of our usual cycling fuel; cereal and bread but our Banh Mi did the job.
It was a blissfully cool morning in Da Lat at 1,800m altitude. We set-out south west and soon found the beautiful decent to the plateau. Broad smiles accompanied 10km of downhill with marvellous views across the coffee fields and forests. Our guide knew exactly where to stop to test our stomachs. At a coffee plantation we learned the difference between the Arabica, Robusta and Mocha bushes and how they use weasels to help production. The beans go all the way through the weasels because they digest the outer hull of the bean. After a weasel-assisted caffeine boost, we headed to a cricket farm. Tasty bar snacks, it turns out once fried and dipped in chilli sauce. Finally we stopped at a silk factory setup by the French in 1945. Nothing had changed since. Louise bought a lovely silk scarf for me to carry. We were also persuaded to eat a raw silk worm chrysalis. These do not make good bar snacks!
In the afternoon we climbed through forested roads around hills lumped here-there-and-everywhere. We crossed a long bridge looking down on lake people in their floating houses. Their solar-powered stereo was blaring out over the fishing pots. More tough climbing on hot roads. Finally, some decent. We swooped-down into the valley as the light warmed, rice fields left and right, sharing the road with cows and tractors. We watched our shadows flicker past the traditional houses and rolled down to the lake for sunset.
All-in-all, a fantastic day on the bike.
Day Three: 80km
Last night we stayed in an indigenous village in a house on stilts, sleeping under a mosquito net. Air was another early start to beat the heat. More uphill today so we made sure to stop every hour to eat a banana – I have never eaten so many in one day before. Here they are extra sweet and make an ideal power snack. After more noodle soup for lunch we cycled to a waterfall for a glorious cool down. The locals looked on in horror as they thought the water was freezing and 70% of the population can’t swim. We chatted to two students from the local university who wanted to practice their English. We were the second pair of Westerners they had ever met.
A speedy finish today after a quick morning. An hour on the road between banana breaks passes so quickly as there is so much to look at. Nevertheless, we were grateful for a rest. Even Alex is tired at the end of the day and not wishing for more cycling so I am very happy! He is also being very patient with me as I am not quite as speedy as him on the uphills. So we are finally very happy to get some descent cycling under our belts.
Dinner with our guide who used to be a lawyer. Seven years ago he realised that the way to enjoy life is to get paid to pursue your hobby every day. He is very well informed on Vietnamese politics, religion and social opinions like the role of women and local marriage traditions. We are learning so much more about the country through him instead of casting about by ourselves with little understanding of culture, not to mention a menu!