Friday morning I woke up to the delightful news that all but one of the files on my corrupt hard disk had been recovered and I knew I had that file, a photo from last new year, back in america.
Tien and I went outside and had breakfast on the terrace in front of the hotel entrance. It was cold out there but the only place to sit was outside. We needed to find some warm clothes.
After some small interactions with the hotel staff I thought about how at one time I thought that you would know you knew a language well if you got their jokes, but by this time I knew I was dead wrong. Humor exists outside of spoken language and is sometimes the first thing you find to communicate with somebody.
I looked down into the courtyard and saw a man by a Motorcycle with an easy rider logo on it.
Tien and I decided it would be a good way to see the city if we took a tour. After breakfast a bus came by the hotel and took us off to where a tour had just started.
We were greeted by a tour guide who was incredibly hard to understand. Most of what he was saying I could derive from the context and surrounding sounds, but it was the important bits, the things I didn't know and thus had no context for, that I was unable to understand.
The first place we went was a temple called Truc Lan. It was a meditation center where people came from all over in order to study. We didn't stay long and it began raining shortly after we arrived.
Stop 2 was a waterfall called Datanla. The parking lot was at the top and we were given the option to ride a roller coaster to the bottom or walk down. Despite the fact that last time Tien had been on a roller coaster she went into shock I asked her anyway if she wanted to take it. Of course she didn't and so we walked.
The waterfall was beautiful and pretty big compared to all of the waterfalls I've seen in recent years. The path to it went through the forest and under the roller coaster a few times.
Back at the top there were shops that I had ignored on the way down. There were women knitting hats and men carving wood into various shapes. Tien bought a black knit beanie with a white flower on it. I went to look for a drink and discovered that beer was only 9k compared to 15k for a pepsi. We were just getting started on the day so I bought a pepsi.
Stop three was the Lat Kings house. I listened to the tour guide talk for a while and made out much of what he said, but in the end I decided it wasn't worth even listening to him and gave up.
Tien and I took a bunch of photos in the kings house and I really wished I had more of my gear or a d700 to widen the perspective of my PC-E 24mm lens. Some girl from our tour seemed to always be standing in my way talking on the phone so I eventually skipped ahead of her. We ended up with not enough time and were late getting back to the bus, but were somehow the first ones there.
On the way to lunch Tien said that nothing has changed in the 11 years since she was past in Da Lat. This was remarkable because it seems like they're always doing construction everywhere in Vietnam. Colorado Springs would be so jealous.
Stop four was lunch. The restaurant was playing instrumental anthems like Chariots of Fire, Crockett's Theme, and a dream rock rendition of I need Your Love. The sauce with the chicken had a tinge of MSG, but otherwise the food was remarkably delicious. Even the beef that came in a tin foil packet that shouted to us that it was made another and reheated for our lunch was incredible.
Stop five of our tour was a big Buddha statue that the tour guide claimed was the biggest Buddha in Vietnam. Tien and I disagreed silently, knowing that the Buddha on Mt. Cam was bigger. I just smiled and nodded through the rest of what he said about the monks doing something and some other people that seemed really important had done something else.
Stop six was called The Valley of Love. It was a sad, wet, cold place where pale colored carnival rides sat motionless in the mud under a crying grey sky. There was a monkey chained up in a cage by himself going crazy and a metal lattice awning without a single flower growing on the one vine resilient enough to withstand the gloom. There were some miserable horses and yet more construction.
As we were leaving this last sullen stop on our tour I thought about the catch 22 of tourist places. Here in Da Lat I didn't have a thousand eyes staring at me everywhere I went and random people saying hello to me as I walked down the street. The flip side was that it was not as genuine and the prices were obviously geared towards foreign travelers.
We returned to the hotel and crashed, tired from all the walking. It was evening when we awoke. We got some dinner at a place that had only one thing available, then bought and umbrella and went for a walk down by the lake. We found a market where I bought a knit hat and an Adidas jacket and immediately felt much warmer. I thought it was weird that I had to buy a jacket in Vietnam, but I guess that's how it really is. We also bought some pistachios and a bottle of wine, then moseyed on back to the hotel for the night.