Traveling again, this time on a plane preparing for take-off on a return flight to Ho Chi Minh city.
Da Lat was beautiful and cheesy and cool and sweltering; filled with waterfalls and flowers and coffee plantations and traffic - but not as much traffic as Saigon.
Our host was Huan and his family: his mother and father; his brother and sister and their spouses. The first night we stayed around the corner at his uncle's hotel since Juan's home was full. We found out later that it was a pretty common occurrence, and some travelers stayed at the hotel their entire stay, since it meant a private bathroom and avoiding the late-night partying!
Our bus deposited us at the station in Da Lat around 10 pm, and after our shuttle driver took us to the wrong hostel and a little help from locals, we ended up at Huan's about 45 minutes later. He got us settled in the hotel and confirmed that we'd be joining him and some of his friends for the Easy Rider tour the next day. He also let us know that breakfast was served at his house every morning as part of our stay.
The only other notable thing that night was Randi realizing she'd lost her wallet somewhere between the taxi and our room, and me realizing I'd lost a stone that I was carrying as well. Oh well.
The morning brought her wallet returned by the groundskeeper who found it outside. I don't know if he found my stone too, but I hope someone did, although it was very modest in appearance and its possible that it was just chucked aside. We walked over to Huan's and met his mother and sister-in-law; Chang spoke English and ushered us into the kitchen while she finished cleaning our rooms, and the mother carried on a conversation with us in Vietnamese as she made our scrambled eggs and French bread with local strawberry jam. Not a word of English from her, but she didn't seem deterred by that one bit, and she still managed to communicate to Randi that she had a toothache from a broken molar and that it was very painful.
Soon we began to meet the other travelers staying there: three kiwis; and two Israeli couples were all that showed up for breakfast, although there were allusions to a late night of partying. We were shown to one of the seven guest rooms in the house, a bare but spacious upstairs room with a door to the balcony over the front yard. We dropped our bags and sunscreened up for our motorcycle tour then headed out front to meet our tour guides. There ended up being six of us going, and I got lucky enough to ride pillion on Huan's bike so I was up front for almost the entire day. He also spoke excellent English and kept up a steady conversation even while on the road.
Sights we visited: greenhouses full of flowers, a major cash crop in Da Lat (or money tree as Huan called them); a factory making rice noodles (lots and lots of flies!); coffee plantation where we sampled the weasel poop coffee; a couple waterfalls with a swim session at one; lots of riding on both paved and unpaved roads (sore butts) through the city, countryside, hills and minority people's villages.
We were invited to help cook dinner each each night after Chang did her shopping at the market for that night's meal. We used everything we bought for that meal and didn't have leftovers; since the fridge was mini-sized it barely had room for the beer that the guests were constantly filling it with! Randi and I did some market shopping one afternoon and this is what we got: 1 pineapple,1 watermelon (smaller), 4 carrots (big), red grapes (1 kilo), & 1.5 liter bottle of 7 up and cold water. The grapes and 7 up cost about $1.25 while the rest was each less than 1 USD. Wow. Another interesting observation: both Dasani (CocaCola) and Aquafina (Pepsi) sell water here and the cheapest that I have bought it was 1.5 liters for 15,0000 Vietnamese dong approximately 75 cents. Profits.
Our second tour was pretty "Eh", just the standard in-town tourist sights on a van with others being herded from place to place. The guide would tell the mostly Vietnamese group his spiel first, then gave it to us, a Thai couple, a Frenchman and a Chinese businessman. We saw some Buddhist and Christian buildings, a few other cheesy sights, and a too fancy for our tastes restaurant at lunch. Incidentally this overly fancy eatery was the first place where I had someone argue with me about the correct change. Our waitress had it wrong and it took a few minutes to convince her to give me the rest of my change.
Looking over this I realize that it's just an accounting of events, rather than any real insights. At least to the reader. But when I read it, now and hopefully later on, it will remind me of moments and thoughts and conceptions that will bring these days back to life for me. Right now, in this moment, I am learning how to open to the unknown and let go of my judgments and trust that I will be taken care of.