We crossed the Vietnamese border at a VERY obscure border crossing used rarely by tourists. The bus driver was very protective of us! Everything went without a hitch or a bribe, and he kindly dropped us at the city bus station in Pleiku. Pleiku, a city and seat of local government, is not a very inspiring place to spend eight hours waiting for a bus. We had a wander, ordered some noodle soup (Pho) off an entirely Vietnamese menu with phrase book in hand and confusion and sympathy from the owner, then waited in a cafe for the rest of the time.
We had booked a sleeper bus, which had seemed a good idea (the only idea available in fact) for a ten hour overnight bus. Unfortunately, the road to Dalat, our destination, was incredibly windy, we were on the back seat (fully reclined) with three Vietnamese men who had little care for personal space and (bizarrely) Boney M music videos on repeat on the screens. So, not so much a sleeping bus as a being awake all night being spooned by a Vietnamese man bus. Arriving in Dalat a little early in the morning (we left at 6pm, so those maths savvy among our readers will notice that we will have arrived at 4am) we had to sleep on a park bench for a few hours while we waited for a hotel to open.
Anyway, once we found a place (which was a much higher standard than Cambodia, we even had a hot shower!) had a sleep and a very strong (there is no other option) Vietnamese coffee, we went for an explore. After a quick lunch of pork meatball soup and a baguette (everything in Vietnam comes with a baguette) we strolled on to the Crazy House. ‘Like Gaudi on acid’ we were told and it is a very weird concrete construction of winding staircases, giant stone mushrooms, gingerbread style houses, animal themed rooms and confused backpackers.
It had been a while since our last adrenalin rush so we booked a canyoning tour. Spending our morning abseiling down cliff faces, jumping 7m into pools and hiking through the bush, the highlight of the trip was a 30m abseil down a raging torrent of a waterfall affectionately known as ‘the washing machine’. Video will follow!!!!
Drenched, exhausted and full of baguette (again!) we boarded the bus to Nha Trang, the seaside resort.
Turns out that Nha Trang was not the backpacker party Mecca we expected. It was instead an overpriced Russian holiday destination. We spent two nights in the only authentic, Vietnamese food serving, plastic stool filled backstreet restaurant we could find, one day on the beach and then left for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The only true highlight was finding a craft brewery, Louisiane Brewery, and enjoying some real beer that isn’t just watery Asian lager. Got to find the positives!!!!
So, a mixed bag for our initial flavour of Vietnam, but plenty more to win us over yet to see!