Thursday morning when I woke up the first thing I did was plug in my dead hard disk to see if it had yet another life. Luckily it did and I put my laptop to work backing up my photos and music.
When Tien woke up we went next door for breakfast. I was thinking a lot about Colorado and the fact that my brother was now out of the Army. It had been 5 years since we'd had a family Thanksgiving together since he joined the army just before Thanksgiving. I thought about driving straight to CO as soon as I landed in SF, or perhaps switching my flight to land in Denver instead. It would be nice to have a family holiday again, though I was disappointed knowing that Tien wouldn't be there...
At dinner the previous night Tien and I had decided to go to Da Lat instead of Nha Trang, and after breakfast we went to the travel agency where I'd gotten my ticket for Cambodia and got the information we needed to book a ticket to Da Lat. We went back to the hotel, reserved a ticket on the bus and geeked out for a bit.
We were a bit late checking out of the hotel and the bus service called saying we would miss our noon bus and would have to take the next one leaving at 1pm. We caught a taxi and headed off down Nguyen Cu Trinh to a bus station I'd never been to before.
When we arrived at the bus station, which was a small travel agency in the middle of the city, it was 11:45. Tien talked to some guys on motorbikes who told her we could still catch the 12 o'clock bus if the took us there. She got on one and I got on the other and we sped off through mid day traffic. The ride was quick with a lot of weaving and it reminded me of the ride I took with My just before leaving Bangkok.
The motorbikes took us to a travel agency about 4 blocks from where we had been staying. The problem was that we had booked a ticket with Mailinh and this was not a Mailinh bus. Tien got into a little argument with one of the drivers who demanded that we pay him 100,000 for the ride, which was 4x what our taxi to the 1pm bus cost. When tien gets upset she quits talking in English, even if I ask her to translate, so I didn't know what was going on until after we were already on the bus, otherwise I would've told that guy to get lost because it was not our problem if he impersonated a Mailinh employee with the good intention of getting us to our bus on time. I talked briefly with tien about not clamming up on me so I can help her in situations like that, we accepted a learned lesson and let it go.
The bus was nice. We took off through an area of Saigon I hadn't seen and I decided we should rent a motorbike when we come back so we can go explore farther. The river was cool and there were new buildings being built. It looked more like a modern civic center.
I read the rest of Iron Orchid. It was a decent book but nothing amazing. The ending wasn't all that climactic.
Tien began to feel motion sick because she didn't take her medicine in time. She had some intention of staying awake on the ride and it backfired. I felt really bad and had flashbacks to all those times I've spent taking care of really drunk people.
We stopped for food briefly just before turning off of the main highway into the hills. The terrain was immediately different in more than just the hills. The vegetation was more thick and tough. We continued through winding roads for a few hours and then took a longer break. Tien and I got drinks and skipped food thinking the bus ride would soon be over.
Back on the road we headed into some mountains that reminded me of the western approach of monarch pass in Colorado. The sun soon set and I listened to Tom Waits while Tien slept. The evening silhouettes of hills with hose and street light scattered off in the distant darkness were familiar to me.
We arrived in Da Lat after 8 hours. We'd been told the ride would be 5 hours. I was hungry and tired.
The usual group of taxi drivers were waiting when we arrived. The first man to approach me was dressed in quality jeans and a leather coat and a helmet. He said he was with the easy riders and could take me anywhere. I told him I was with Tien and VN conversation continued with a bus driver who ended up being our local transport.
We were let off at a hotel and were greeted by a happy woman. Since we hadn't arranged a driver or a hotel and had just been scammed in saigon I was very skeptical of what was going on and was ready to walk away if every detail wasn't good, but it ended up that every detail was fine and so we got a large room on the second floor with breakfast included for half of the price we had been used to paying in Saigon.
One of the first things we noticed once we were finally in our room was that Da Lat was cold. Not cool, but cold. It was also raining gently.
We went to find some dinner and ended up at a Chinese restaurant where I once again ordered something that I expected would have no seafood. We weren't anywhere near the ocean, but that didn't stop the ocean gods from frowning on my meal. I just gave the icky parts to tien and hungrily devoured the rest.
Tien was really cold on the way Home so we went hat shopping. We ended up not finding anything and just went back to the hotel. I put my computer to work backing up the files that were on the crashing disk, cuddled up with tien under two heavy blankets and fell fast asleep in the cold and quiet.