So, we're back! Now at Day 4, which is our 2nd day in Da Lat.
But before that, I'd like to share some things that a few friends told me today about their own experiences in Ho Chi Minh City. In the first account, one of them told me that her rather elderly relative had been in HCMC recently and was swindled by a cyclo driver, whereby he was taken further away from where he had asked to go and the driver made him give extra money, and only after that was he brought to his desired destination. The other incident was a group of Malaysians who were in HCMC for a conference, and they had taken a taxi but the taxi driver had taken them to a somewhat remote area where he forced money out of them, i.e. about RM250.00, and only after that were they sent to the place they had actually asked to be driven to. I believe that those things happen everywhere and not just in HCMC. Perhaps it is more rampant in HCMC, I do not personally know, but I feel so blessed that it did not happen to me and my family when we were there, and I honestly do hope it doesn't happen again to anyone. I can imagine how scary it must have been. The thing is, I believe that we must all prepare ourselves well, before we embark on any journey or travels, especially to a place where we have never been. We must read, we must ask people, we must seek as much information as best possible about that particular place. Everything that happens, happens with God's will indeed, I trust and believe that, but I also believe that we have the responsibility to do the best for ourselves. In my understanding, that means making the best effort, so that when we believe we have done our best, only then we can hope for the best and anticipate the worst. Apparently, when I asked my friends if they were aware about the travel guides and recommendations, about only taking the Vinasun or Mai Linh taxis when in HCMC, they said they were not. I am not perfect, and even my own 4 boys sometimes think I am an uptight OCD, who must know the nearest hospital, the basic conveniences and amenities, and the general safety of a particular location before deciding on a hotel, but at least I can rest assured that I have done my best possible to prepare for something that might just turn out to be our worst nightmare instead of a wonderful experience we all hope for. And at the same time I keep my utmost faith. I cannot just keep my faith without making what I believe to be my best effort. So moral of the story, prepare well, and READ. And... okay, last one... And, being Muslims in a non Muslim country, we cannot expect to have things the way we have them at home in Malaysia. Especially in a place like Da Lat and the Mekong Delta. We must know what we want, we must tell them exactly what we want, what our requirements are. If we don't tell, they wouldn't know, and they wouldn't really care. When we tell them, then they will know, and for many, it would be an education for them too, a knowledge they appreciate.
Aannyyhowww... Our first night in Da Lat was so really cold! No wonder many of the local folks were bundled up in heavy winter coats, coz they were moving on motorbikes, BRRRRRRRRR!!! And yet, when we got back to Hoang Loc Villa after leaving XQ Village and finding dinner at the city centre, Rostam and I ordered iced milk coffee, while the boys got cold milk from the fridge! I guess it's always best to have ice cream when it's snowing :)
Our 2nd day would be a long day for us as it was our last day in Da Lat, and we wanted to cover as many of the city's attractions as best possible.
We started with a wholesome breakfast of cereal, eggs, yogurt, milk and their wonderful bread. With hot milk coffee. With the assistance and recommendation from Linh, the young master of Hoang Loc, we had booked a car for the day, as you would have seen in my last posting of brief accounts, and we had our friendly Huynh to do the honour of driving us to our desired spots. The sights we wanted to cover were the Truc Lam Cable Car and Monastery, Datanla Falls and the Roller Coaster, Old Railway Station, Flower Park, and the Crazy House. The French Quarter and Bao Dai Summer Palace were also on our list, if we had enough time. Our choice of sights in Da Lat was based mainly on what the kids loved and wanted to do, and their main requests were the cable car, waterfalls, roller coaster and Crazy House. So based on locations and routing, we prioritised those.
So, first stop Truc Lum Cable Car and Monastery Complex. And while you're looking through our photos, it would also be good to wiki Da Lat for her history and background. And I have included all the other hover links, in this and the previous posts, for your added convenience :)
Notice in the 5th photo above, you can see the Lang Biang Mountain in the background, it is said to resemble a woman sleeping... And in the 9th photo, you can see a station tower, which the Da Lat locals adoringly liken to the Eiffel Tower in Paris :)
The kids were thrilled with the cable car ride! They love all cable car rides, everywhere! They wanted to do it to and fro, but since time was not a luxury for us then, we just took a one way ride from the city station to the temple station. When we reached the Truc Lam Monastery, and I don't use this term very often, the feeling was simply Zen. The landscape with the view of the Tuyen Lam Lake, the calming sounds of the giant wind chimes, the lush greenery and the flowers, it was beautiful.
Though we were moving at our own pace, i.e. not rushing to keep up with any tour group, Huynh indicated that we had to get a move on it to meet our next destination, Datanla Falls. The kids were so excited to get to the falls, coz I had told them about the luge ride, which is popularly recognised as the Da Lat Roller Coaster!
Datanla Falls was super for the kids, they were happy! Damascus and Esfahan had 2 rounds of the luge/rollercoaster, and all 3 boys got to shoot some arrows and guns, and had ice cream by the falls. It was awesome!
After the falls, we headed towards the Old Dalat Railway Station.
Since the train station was nearby the old French Quarter, Huynh said we could make a quick stop there before going on to the Flower Park. So, off we went!
The old Railway Station and the French Quarter had a certain charm about them. It sort of got me imagining how it used to be back in the day. Travelling by train in a well embellished coach, sipping tea or coffee, all prim and proper in my pretty dress, hearing the engine chug away as I soaked in the beautiful scenery out the window. Then back home in my French villa, I'd have breakfast in the garden, with my parasol perhaps, and come night time I would be assisted to bed by my hand maiden, with lace pillows and the heavy brocade curtains drawn... But the Old Railway Station and the old French Quarter were really just a stop, look, go sights, nice indeed, but not much of any activity but some really charming photo ops. The train however does move to and only to the Linh Huoc Pagoda for a journey of about 30 minutes each way with a minimum of 5 pax; while some of the French Quarter houses are being rented out to guests. You may enquire with any of the local tour operators. We didn't do the pagoda train ride or the hotel stay though, just the photos :)
At this point, the boys were not yet hungry, but they were not too keen on doing anymore walking for a while. So I told Huynh that we should proceed to the Flower Park, make a short trip where Rostam and I will go in to browse, while the kids chill in the car with Huynh. I just had to see the flowers. The kids and Huynh agreed and that was how we did it!
If I were a queen, my private garden would look like this! Every morning I'd have a trot and canter around a bit before breakfast. I would have fresh flowers in all my rooms everyday, preferably hydrangea and lilies, and I would of course have rose petals in my bath everyday too :)
By now, all tummies have started to rumble! So off we went in search of a vegetarian menu, and Huynh showed us one at the V Cafe in the city centre.
This was my kind of place. Any place that plays jazz while I eat is my kind of place. The kids liked it too. And the vegetable lasagne was especially delicious.
By the time we finished lunch, it was already past 2pm. We could have tried to do both the Crazy House and the Bao Dai Summer Palace, but it would have been a rush. So we decided to just keep it to the Crazy House instead, so we could go all out and enjoy ourselves crazy there!
The kids lost their mind at the Crazy House! It was like playing snake and ladder. Marrakesh was in and out of passageways and rooms, and Damascus was shouting out for Marrakesh and I was screaming to Esfahan to keep a close look on his two adiks! It was hilarious! We were warned by Huynh to watch the kids closely, as some parts of the house could be a bit dangerous, but they just went on exploring to their hearts' content! Rostam had a bit of an agrophobe attack there, so most times he was stationed somewhere taking our photos. Like the kids, I LOVED the place too! And I'm actually glad that climbing and running upwards and down came naturally to the kids, so I know they will love mountain climbing and hiking eventually. Like I do. I want them to love it :) ...Oh, and have I mentioned that there are many Russian tourists in Da Lat? It could easily be Le Petit Russia instead of Le Petit Paris! But I understand that the Russians have investments there in Da Lat, and they fly in on direct flights from Russia to Nha Trung. Anyway, from a little past 2pm to almost sundown, we were going round and round the Crazy House, it really IS crazy! It was worth missing the Bao Dai Summer Palace, coz the kids really, really enjoyed themselves. We got 7up at the crazy souvenir shop to recharge and went around again for a while more, before we finally said goodbye to
the wonderful Hang Nga Crazy House.
The deal was to have Huynh with us until around 5pm coz he had to fetch his wife from school around 5.30pm; his wife is a kindergarten teacher. But it was almost 5pm when we asked him if we could make a pit stop at the Cho Da Lat (Market), to look for souvenirs for Rostam's mom and sisters. We thought we could find them something in Ben Thanh market, but Ben Thanh proved to be too much for us to handle. I had gotten some Langfarm tea and candy for my kins. Huynh was kind enough to oblige, but he asked if it was okay for him to fetch his wife along the way after the market, before he sent us back to Hoang Loc. Of course! Who doesn't love a kindergarten teacher :) So he dropped Rostam and I at the market while he waited in the car with the kids. Fortunately for us, we had entered at the fabric and clothes end of the market, and we quickly found what we were hoping to find. After another round around the city and the Xuan Hong Lake, we were back at Hoang Loc and we sadly said goodbye to Huynh and his wife. We truly enjoyed his company for the day, he was so pleasant and nice.
After such a long day, we thought we would just stay in and order dinner from the Hoang Loc kitchen, but since it was our last night in Da Lat, we figured we should go back to the city instead, hang out and take in the most of our last night there.
As cold as it was, we kept warm with our Langfarm milk coffee and chocolate drinks, and just enjoyed Da Lat's vibrant night ambience, before we headed back to Hoang Loc and called it a night.
Tomorrow we would say goodbye to Hoang Loc and Da Lat, catch our VietJet flight back to HCMC and quickly head towards the Mekong Delta. We slept well that night, not really feeling the cold as we did the first night, rather enjoying it instead, but feeling a tad bit sad...