Homestaying in vinh long and relaxing in dalat.

4 Aug

In these countries, hotels, transport and tours find you before you find them. Remember only three things when traveling: your name, where you come from, and how many days you are traveling for. Answer these three questions when approached by the locals and… the game is on. You will have accomodation, a booked tour and a bus ticket before you know where you are.

I am still with the helmet, from the motorbike ride from the bus station, and a woman asks me if I want to stay with her family for twelve and a half dollars, in the mekong island next to town. This is why I have come to vinh long, and I like the woman, so I go for it. The house is partly surrounded by water, with clean rooms and comfortable hammocs in the porch. There are four other young couples that, as usual, are traveling for months. The family is happy all the time, which makes the homestay very pleasant. We clean some vegetables and elephant fishes together and make our own spring rolls for dinner. In the morning I learn some vietnamese phrases and ride a bike around the island. It’s a great way to end my mekong journey.

A combination of lonely planet overviews, internet and traveler talks makes my next stop to be dalat, a city in the central highlands of vietnam. In a three hours transfer in Saigon I get out of the bus station and walk the streets, counting blocks to the right and to the left, since I don’t know where I am. It’s not long before a vietnamese couple gives me a map and shows me around. I enter a cute neighborhood, with narrow but well lit streets, with plenty of food stalls and kids playing around. I try to ask for the vietnamese name of what I am eating in one of the stalls. The woman makes a call, receives a message and shows it to me: “fried bread with shrimps”. I knew it in english, but I thank her very much. In the next food stand I have a very complete noodle soup. The man next to me orders a melon juice for me, tapping his chest and pointing his finger at it. This only in exchange of the four magic words “spain”, “axel” and “35 days”. Or maybe it’s very funny hearing me say the three or four phrases I know in vietnamese? “càm ơn!” I tell him. When paying I discover he also invited me to the soup. Going back to the bus station I think, have I ever had a better bus transfer?

Dalat is different from the rest of the cities I have visited in this trip. Its elevation of more than a thousand meters makes it very cool. It’s surrounded by small green hills, lakes and waterfalls. No rice fields. A market, good bakeries and cafes and some french architecture make the town a relaxing place. A group of men with big motorbikes and uniform t-shirts call themselves the easy riders. I meet budha the easy rider at nine in the morning. He shows up with a car and a couple instead of alone and with a motorbike. Not wanting to perturbate their honeymoon tour I make him call his grandson, who comes thirty minutes later. In the first street light his motorbike breaks. He calls a friend. After feeling like cheap mercancy being passed around I have a great tour with Hong. We ride small hills and see the countryside at 40 km/h, through coffee plantations, paradise lake, datanla waterfalls and to a monastery. I can feel his seventeen years in the buisness from his knowledge about catalonia, gaudi and the different english accents that tourists have.

At night I am alone in the hotel (probably the worst in the city), but the owner and the receptionist are nice women that insist in inviting me to tea. I enjoy spinning and zooming in the world in my ipad, showing them where I am from, where I have been and where I am going in vietnam. The old owner enjoys showing me pictures of herself from thirty years ago, when she was young and splendid in the city where she grew up. I wish I could tell her to hike up one of the beautiful hills nearby and take a picture of herself there. That (kung fu panda dixit) yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That this is why it is called the present. But maybe I would be wrong, and most probably she wouldn’t listen. We smile good night at each other.








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