Biking Through Vietnam

March 14, 2012

Day 4 – To Dalat

Filed under: Uncategorized — scribblygum @ 4:08 am

Dalat is a famous town in the highlands, about 1500 metres above sea level. It is nice and cool compared to the humid coast cities or the towns to the north that we were yet to ride through.

If you watched Top Gear in Vietnam (who hasn’t?) you have seen some of Dalat. The guys start at Saigon and head to up to Dalat, then down to Nha Trang. Today we are riding from Nha Trang up to Dalat. This is the ride that they did partly in the dark. (At least according to their script writers. 🙂 )

Along the way we stop at a small family foundry that makes hand tools for harvesting sugar cane, a wonderful roadside cafe (of course), are blocked by a rockfall on the mountain road, visit a very elaborate and colourful cemetery, wander round the Dalat markets, and other stuff.

There are lots of pics on photobucket of today but I’ll only post a selection of them here.

Chase up the rest here –

Heading off.

With about twenty people in the group we took up both sides of the road.

This is the beautiful Map, one of the guides. There’s a bit or irony in having a tour guide named Miss Map. 🙂

The local foundry.

We stopped up into the hills at this place. Two men run a small foundry.

They make these sugar cane harvesting hooks. The cane is cut by hand, one piece at a time.

This is TyTy (Tee Tee), one of our guides.

This is the foundry, just a small bucket in the ground with a blower fan working off a bike wheel to force air into the charcoal.

The anvil is a piece of round metal, probably from a military piece somewhere in the recent past.

Here are some blanks. They make them from old truck leaf springs.

In another shed the other guy turns up wooden handles and fits the ferule.

You can see the anvil used to hammer the ferule etc into place. It’s a heavy splined shaft, probably coming from a US tank.

One of the ironies of this foundry is that they used to make these harvesting hooks from abandoned US tanks. That source of metal has now gone, it was 1975 that the US etc pulled out of Vietnam. Consider how much technology went into making a military tank, even back in the 1970s. Hardened steel plating, high spec metallurgy, advanced engineering. And not too many years later people like this were pulling them apart and beating them into harvesting hooks to carry on their centuries old subsistence farming.

These days the country is pulling itself out of subsistence poverty. It’s taken a long time but the economy in places is booming. And in other places it is men like these two who support their families by doing what their fathers did. Hopefully their kids will have an easier time of it.


We stop at a ‘twin servos’ with cafe on both sides of the road. Trouble is, there is only one kitchen. Our meals are carried over the road from the other side.

No inside pics for this one. Don’t know how that escaped me. The food was wonderful and among the nicest we had on the entire trip.

Pics of the road.

It was now starting to get wet. Just misty droplets forming on the visor as we got higher into the hills. We’d already put on wet weather jackets and it was not cold enough to worry about wet jeans or shoes. Kay managed to catch some nice shots as we climbed above the clouds.

Rock fall.

There had been a rockfall some time in the last day or so and it was holding up traffic.

Waterfall near road shows there had been rain in the upper hills.

The rock that the machine is breaking up is now about the size of an average kitchen.

Don’t know how big it was when they started – or how long they’d been working.

We’ve already passed the cars and trucks that are stopped there and we’d gone to the head of the queue.

All that grit on the road made it difficult to get a footing to hold the bike steady. It was like little marbles under foot.

As soon as the machine moved forward a bit bikes from the other side got waved through and we followed before they could change their mind.

The bikes in this pic are not our crew, they are people who’d been there for some time already.

Tourist Centre Long House.

This is being built in the manner of the hill people long houses, used for communal living and meetings.

There was nobody on the site, although there are signs of it being still under active construction.

Jurgen and Katie seem to have a knack of demonstrating their height difference.

Village dwellings along the way.

Cemetery somewhere approaching Dalat.

Dalat area is famous for producing flowers and strawberries.

At the back right of the top pic you can see some of the extensive greenhouses of the area. Hundreds of acres of them.

Strawberries from here are famously exported to Paris.

The markets are plentiful with them. Ironically, so plentiful that we didn’t even buy any.

Dalat City from our hotel window.

Dalat markets.

This part is a car park by day, eating area by night.


In Dalat we saw three beetles on this main intersection in the space of ten to fifteen minutes.

There must be a VW club in town.

Food market in the morning.

Weighing the ducks, alive but tied feet.

Stuffing them into a plastic bag.

Now for some nicer pics.

Dad has just bought these two littlies balloons. The kids are done up to the nines for something.

The boy’s mohawk is coloured bright blue.

Unfortunately the little girl turned away for my second pic, she looked absolutely lovely behind those balloons.

Orchid seller.

This woman is probably carrying her bodyweight in fruit here.

I’ve got a movie of her and she is walking with speed but with difficulty.

Dalat was popularised by the French colonists a century ago for holidays and honeymoons.

In the background of the image above you can see the post office tower, copied off the Eiffel Tower.

Leaving Dalat.

With the damp weather coming up the ranges yesterday we figured we’d get some waterproof pants as well as the jackets we carried. We bought some at the market and never even looked like using them for the rest of the trip.

We left town after stopping for an hour at Dalat Crazy house. This is a place designed and owned by the daugher of Ho Chi Minh’s successor. She’s pretty famous. And so is the Crazy House.

It’s like Gaudi of Barcelona on steroids.

There are 60 photos of the Crazy House on photobucket. I’ll only post a few here. Chase up the rest in the photobucket album.

This part is about five stories high.

Under constant construction. Look how low the hand rails are, and about a forty foot drop.

Rooms you can stay in overnight.

New room under construction. There were two men in here painting the walls with gold and silver glitter with little kids’ paintbrushes.

The other pics are here –

OK, back to the motorbikes, let’s get on the road.


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