In Iceland we have a saying that says that if you start at the wrong foot you’ll have a good journey ("Fall er farar heill”). That certainly was true for our stay in Dalat. When we arrived five days ago we arrived late in the evening but we managed to get a ride to a hotel of choice (Dreams Hotel – see the hostels and guesthouses page for details). When we came there everything was closed, not just our hotel but the entire street – iron shutters everywhere. We rang the doorbell but the lady said that they were full and we wouldn’t find any hotel room anywhere in town but we could try the mechanic shop across the street, they might have a room available. When we tried there the shop was as closed as any other in the street and no doorbell but the lady was watching us an invited us into her hotel and said we could stay in her reception area since she had no rooms available. Being our best option we readily agreed. Then the lady went and got us a thick and nice mattress, thick blankets and pillows and we ended up having a great sleep in the foyer :)
On Icelandic “Wife’s day” or “Women’s day” we rented a scooter and rode to The Valley of Love, a very corny amusement part according to the Lonely Planet. It ended up being a nice public park with some amusements for the kids, boats on the lake and a nice forest circling the entire lake. We brought our hammocks and had a wonderful few hours in the park just napping, reading and watching the people.
In the afternoon we rode to an artificial lake and visited a beautiful Pagoda that was on a hill overlooking the lake. They seem to have many artificial lakes around Dalat that are by-products of big damming projects up here in the highlands. The Pagoda was, as I said, beautiful but very different from the once we have seen in Thailand and Cambodia. The garden was beautifully attended with flowers and sculptures. It was a very quiet place and we didn’t really want to leave but they closed early. It seemed a bit unreal, in this place that seemed very old and traditional, seeing the monks bring out the vacuum cleaners just before closing.
Yesterday we rented a scooter again – I think I’ll buy one when we come home, they are so much fun. We rode to a different pagoda out of town. This one had a eight storey tower with a 2.5 ton bell (2 m. in diameter) where you are supposed to write your wish on a post-it note and hang it on the bell and then ring it three times to get Buddha’s attention. The Pagoda also had a big temple and outside was probably a 10 m. Buddha all decorated with dried flowers – quite impressive. After the pagoda we visited a silk factory and saw how silk is made. The whole process starts by acquiring eggs of the silk worm, which is a larvae of this butterfly of fly – I couldn’t quite make out which. After the eggs hatch they are fed huge amounts of leaves (50,000 times their initial weight) and the grow rapidly for about eight weeks (10,000 times their initial weight). After the eight weeks they start making their cocoons by spinning the silk out of their mouths and they continue for a few days. When they are done, they are killed by steam, hot water or stung with a needle. Some are left alive though to produce the next generation. The worms look a bit like little balls of cotton in their cocoons. Now they are put in a spinning machine that unravels the cocoons into a thread that goes into another machine that makes a proper silk thread that is now ready to be woven into cloth that can be used to make garments or what ever. The last thing is to wash the whole thing because silk has some sort of a layer that needs to be washed off to make the transformation from raw silk to silk. It takes 5,000 worms to make one kilo of silk so my guess is that for one silk scarf you need to harvest and kill about 1,000 silk worms :-o
One evening in one of the many nice restaurants in Dalat we met an Icelandic girl. She was traveling down Vietnam after five months volunteering in Hanoi and heard us speaking Icelandic and was quite startled. According to my calculation we have so far met and acknowledged 0,000016% of Iceland’s population. That equals an American meeting just under 5,000 of his country men or a Swiss meeting 133 other Swiss.
The only thing that is really bothering us here in Vietnam is all the garbage laying around. It might be nothing compared to Cambodia but still annoying. The people seem blind to the problem as we see them just throwing the garbage on the street. When we arrived we saw a lady walk out of our bus, taking the diaper off her baby and just throw it in a small pond or lake that was next to the sidewalk – just in the middle of the town – what a lack of respect!
But all in all we love Vietnam, it is very beautiful and the people are just interested in their own thing rather than us, which is a nice change.