Good morning to everyone
Our morning starts as 90% in Viet nam have - with motorbikes beeping and trucks warbling warning tones as they stop and go around the large roundabout outside our hotel here in central Saigon/HCMC - it is our second last morning of our holiday and we have a big day ahead exploring the history and varied culture of this the largest and certainly prosperous looking Vietnamese city. This includes the confronting war remnants museum, reunification palace and cholon - the famous chinatown of Saigon - trying to some interesting street food and for good measure a couple visits to a pagoda and a temple...
This will be our last blog before we head home from a what has been a wonderful 6 weeks away - although the 3 weeks skiing seems to be a long time ago - after the tropical heat of Vietnam for the past 3 weeks.
Since our last email we spent 3 days in and around Dalat - the cool central plateau city built by the French in the late 1800's - called the flower city by locals - which it lived up to in spades! We had a cool and very enjoyable time in sunny and clear conditions at a lovely 26-27 degrees - being told that there are 4 key things to remember about Dalat - you don't need a/c because of the elevation & cooling winds, you dont have industrial air pollution because it is surrounded by agricultural production, there are no cyclos because of the hills and it is the only city in Vietnam with no traffic lights! Yet another contrast to our previous excursions but no less fun or interesting - the day and night markets were filled with amazing variety - remember Vietnamese eat everything - as we have been told many times!!
We started with a "city" tour of the 7 "priority" sites of Dalat which included a wonderful cable car trip through a pine forest to a Zen Monastery, a train trip to "plastic valley" - the Korumburra/Yarra Valley of Vietnam covered in greenhouses growing flowers and vegetables as well as amazing pagoda built from smashed ceramic and beer bottles! It also included the incredible crazy house - created by a local with a fascination for fairytales and the summer palace of the last king of Vietnam.
Next we spent an amazing day exploring the agricultural pursuits and environmental jewels of the central plateau - by motorbike with our guide Vuong and his easy riding friend Han - (we as pillion passengers) - an incredible experience - certainly until you come to Vietnam you don't realise that all you need in life is a motorbike - it can transport anything and goes anywhere!! pigs to market, chooks home for dinner, milk cans to factory, sugar cane leaves to hungry cows, bamboo & teak wood to processing facilities, building materials including 10m trusses, all sorts of vegetables & flowers to market, families of at least 4 people!! and more!! We just haven't been able to stop oogling at the variety of things and size of loads that these bikes can carry - unfortunately we mostly saw these amazing loads whilst we were also travelling so only have memories, not photos! Until you see Vietnam from this perspective you really haven't lived - and we certainly cannot thank Vuong and Han enough for keeping us safe all day through-out the throngs of traffic whilst imparting their indepth knowledge about how to make weasel coffee, grow mushrooms & flowers and of course explore the beautiful waterfalls - Elephant and Pongour.- it was a wonderful day.
We then headed to yet another highlight of the trip - Cat Tien National Park which because of our amazing lucky cat from Dalat - our tour guide Vuong - we were incredibly fortunate to see a large variety of birds and animals in this beautiful (although extremely warm!) tropical haven in Southern Vietnam. This included weasel, squirrel, deer and the elusive gaur (a wild bovine species), crocodiles with the highlight being a wild langour (monkey) family of 7 - including 2 pregnant females and a baby! I think they were as interested in us as we were in them! Steve did well to capture some wonderful views of these beautiful animals - high above us in the treetops.
Finally we headed to the coast, away from the mountains - through some lovely productive agricultural country with a huge variety of cash crops - coffee, cashew nuts, rubber plantations, dragon fruit, bamboo, and rice being harvested with the first agricultural mechanisation we have seen to date. It was a wonderful afternoon drive after our 10km jungle trek at 37 degrees in the morning! A day and a half at the beach at Mui Ne was a perfect antidote - and we spent our free afternoon visiting Mui Ne's renown white and red sandunes. A lovely way to rest up for a big day here in Saigon today..
Hope you have enjoyed seeing some of our experiences through Steve's camera lens - we have certainly enjoyed living them!
Best wishes to all - until our next trip..
Tracey & Stephen