Leaving Cat Tien National Park, the next destination of my bike trip from south to north Vietnam was to be the capital city of Lam Dong province, located at an elevation of 1500 meters in the southern part of Vietnam’s central highlands, Dalat. Beginning this trip, as most often, I hadn’t done any serious research as to “where” and “how”. So, my picking up Dalat as my next stop had occurred in a quite random way. And what I was to find there only a subject to my imagination.
It was early afternoon when I started to drive and, having just a while ago finished a ten-hourlong night hike without sleeping at all in between, I was already feeling quite exhausted. There was a distance of ca 160 km I needed to cover in order to reach my destination, and, in addition, the fact I had to cover it with that 110cc motorbike on Vietnamese highland roads, had me well aware of me not arriving there before dark.
The good thing was that I started accompanied by a fair, sunny sky. However, one does not need to be a pessimist to anticipate that this was not going to be the case for long, but rather be a featherbrain to not expect the change when in Vietnam during the rain season. It wasn’t long before the skies blackened, lightning flashed, thunders roared and cats and dogs started to fall profusely from the sky upon my head.
The storm kept raging for some good length of time until it totally ceased, quite coincidentally, right before I entered that part of the trip where some roadworks were in progress. It was actually not the storm that had given out, but rather me that I had driven past it, as the ground there was totally dry. At the beginning, I felt quite grateful towards the skies, but soon I realized that the principal impact the rain’s absence was accounting for on my trip, was letting the abundant mass of dust raised by the passing trucks to roam freely through the air. Thus making its way constantly into my nostrils, larynx, trachea and every other part of my respiratory system down to the lungs. The roadworks kept for a couple of scores of kilometers at least. During which time I had to drive the vibrating by the coarse ground bike with an average of 20 km/h among heavy jam, while constantly covering my nose and mouth with my left hand.
When the works did finally take end, by the time darkness had already befallen, I was quite lucky to find myself driving on a broad and pothole-free highway of European standards. And there I could drive at full speed for the rest of my trip, if it wasn’t for that new storm which made its appearance upon my head, in quite magical a way right after I passed the roadworks, demonstrating in twofold the force of the earlier one and obliging me to stop rendering the fact I was getting wet as a problem at all… as the main issue now was the severe pain the hale falling mingled with the rain was causing me – They say that helmets save lives… And they do indeed so in more than one ways.
The storm’s fury had finally given out by the time I was driving through the wet streets of Dalat, which were reflecting the millions of tints of that luminous, colorful, vivid city. I was bearing the suspicion that this was going to be a popular place for tourists, but what I actually beheld there was far beyond what I had imagined. The whole place was abounding with grand hotels, fancy restaurants, and bars, and large crowds of local and foreign tourists were swarming up and down every street.
I had a virtually exhausting day. So I was really looking forward to some good rest. My friends had made a reservation for me at a local hostel, and that I was in the process of finding. It didn’t turn to be such a simple task. I had already some time driving round and round and up and down that hill where the hostel was supposed to be. There was a proper labyrinth of narrow lanes up there, which at times led to a dead-end or another, at other times back to the same spot I had been a while ago, but never to the hostel.
Judging from the quietness of the neighborhood, and from the name of the hostel (family hostel) as well, I was expecting to find some quiescent family homestay – which would be exactly the place I would like to come to at that very moment. But alas! When I, after all, found my way there I was aghast! For instead of what I was expecting, I found out I was to stay at a kindergarten!
The place was full – and I mean literally full, so one could hardly move inside – with children. Those children, even though a bit older and larger than the ones seen in an ordinary kindergarten, were behaving precisely alike the little ones in all but one respect… They were drinking like fish! Besides that, they were not doing much apart shrieking and screaming.
After I managed with some toil to push my way through them and reach the reception, the staff welcomed me with an act of overdone, theatrical kindness, fondly pinching my cheeks, bearing well-worn, partly forced, smiles on their faces and saying various stuff, of which I could hardly make anything out within the surrounding tumult. Those fellows were not bad people, just habituated to do combinedly the work of hostel-keepers and baby-sitters in a way.
Anyways, after we managed to communicate, I was offered some free, exquisite dinner – of which I’m sincerely thankful – and I was led to the dorm, which to my pleasant surprise was empty and quiet, so that I was finally free to have that good rest I so much worth after that long, long day.