Vagabonding Field Report: Cool aliveness with some bull riders in the mountains of Dalat, Vietnam
- $18 room
- $25 food
- $25 entertainment
Strangest things we’ve seen lately:
Back home, before 2011 when we hit the road to become The Nomadic Family, we used to not move without seat belts. I would allow the kids to unbuckle only when the car came to a complete stop in the driveway, and not a second earlier. Today, after hitchhiking on the back of banana pickup trucks throughout Central and South America, our motorcycle accident in Cambodia, and most recently, after sitting on the roof of a jungle expedition truck in Gopeng, Malaysia; we no longer regard transportation safety a parental concern. (God help us!) Strangest thing I’ve seen lately, is all five of us on the back of motorcycles on the curvy mountain roads surrounding Da Lat, Vietnam, with not a care in the world. I’ve spent my entire motherhood telling the kids how motorcycles were death traps, and here we are, with the Bull Riders of DaLat, on motorcycles. Strange, and liberating, indeed.
A typical day in cool, crisp Da Lat, Vietnam:
There are two typical sorts of days: adventure days and chill out days. On adventure days, we’d take the Bull Riders of Da Lat for off-road, unreal magical insights into Vietnamese society and unreal nature. They’re fun-loving staff would give the kids individual attention and love and we’d laugh the entire blessed time. On chill out days, we’d do our studies quietly in the room/apartment at Bihn Yin Hotel and then go walk the streets. The market of Da Lat is magical, maybe even more-so at night. The food is amazing, the people are sweet, the weather is unreal. So walking those hilly streets, strolling around the lake, or going to the market and stopping by for sweetened bean curd tea was always a treat.
Fascinating conversation with a local:
We spent most of our time in Da Lat, and, in case you haven’t noticed, totally fell in love with the Bull Riders. There were things that fascinated us in talking with them- how humble Uncle Hung this professional guitar player was, how hard Hin works to develop a name for this hard-working little band of motorcycling tour guides, and how Vietnamese government won’t let their people go out and explore the world so easily. The idea of not being free to travel floored me, let alone the other restrictions of strict censorship with no Facebook as just one example. I spent a good deal of my time in Vietnam falling in love with the people and then slurring ‘Damn Communists!’ under my breathe when we were spit on or yelled at. So, fascinating was more so what was not said than what was. Fascinating was also a humble invitation by the Bull Riders to a ‘goodbye dinner’ which ended up being a 5-course 20+ people goodbye feast in honor of us. No wonder we still think of lovely Da Lat and still deeply, deeply sigh.
What we love and hate about Da Lat, Vietnam:
- The people who embraced us and loved us with all of their hearts
- The cool, coldness after a year of sweating in South East Asia
- The 50 cent avocado pudding, coconut ice cream, and strawberry shakes
- The $1.50 unreal lunches (next to aforementioned dessert stand)
- The Bull Riders in every way imaginable (link to a cool Facebook album)
- That we got so upset when we were spit at (clearly we shouldn’t have asked the lady for a different color of gumball)
- That we still got upset when someone was nasty to us, even after we gained some wisdom (maybe for we feel it also ruins it for all the remarkably nice Vietnamese people out there who embrace foreigners with such love)
- That the government is limiting its beautiful people in so many ways
- That we couldn’t stay longer
A challenge we faced:
Theoretically, our family is training for our up-coming Annapurna Circuit Hike and Volunteer Trek for September 2013. Theoretically, we thought Da Lat would be a great place to get in shape and do some hikes in higher altitudes. Theoretically, it was perfect. Our challenge came in facing the reality of our choices. We did do hikes, actually, and realized how out of shape and not ready we are for high-altitude hikes. We did circumvent that 5 km lake a few times and found out that my knees (which I killed by running 10km a day on pavement in Lima, Peru in hiking boots) don’t do well on cement. So, Da Lat was great for getting us in shape but was more of an eye-opener for how far off we are from being ready to hike the 5000 km Annapurna.
What I learned:
Again, that people are people are people and that they are so beautiful no matter where you are in the world.
That drunk Vietnamese at a wedding are hysterically funny people.
Oh, and that if you buy the coconut ice cream and then a strawberry shake, even though it’s all home-made, it’s too much sugar for one stomach to handle well. Have one or the other each time you go to the market.
After Da Lat, Vietnam, we had some more time in Saigon where we learned to risk our lives every time we crossed the street.
You can find Gabi Klaf and her family now in their third year of non-stop vagabonding travel adventure at The Nomadic Family.