You may remember that I finished last week's post by talking about the rain; well, it's been a recurring theme this week! We've spent most of the week, on the back of the bikes, in our waterproofs, cursing the sogginess! Poor Chin and Spencer were mortified that there was such an unending deluge; especially as they pulled into the scheduled “swim in the sea” stops…in order for us to gaze balefully at the ominous sky. No, it's not been that bad really…we've still seen some pretty awesome things and, once Alex had a new pair of waterproof trousers without a hole in the crotch, everyone was a lot happier! hey, we are British; if we can't handle a bit of drizzle, we are an embarrassment to our country! 🙂
Even though its been much cooler than in Hoi An or Hanoi (as we've been travelling through the highlands), there has still been a definite high level of humidity! Now, if you've seen my hair without any preparation…or as soon as it gets hot, you'll know it has a tendency to triple in size…Now add 6 hours of motorbike riding and you have yourself a real visual treat! haha! It's a wonder Alex can still bring himself to acknowledge me as his girlfriend: “yup, that frizzy, mosquito-ravaged monstrosity is my beloved!”
Again, we've done so much over the last few days so its hard to pinpoint specifics that you might want to read about. So here are a few highlights:
So, they have a delicacy here called Weasel Coffee which, as the name would indicate, involves both weasels and coffee. In that the animals eat the coffee beans, digest them, *cough* deposit *cough* the digested beans which are then collected and processed into marketable beverages. Which we tried. Yes, that's right, we drank coffee that had been sh*t out by weasels!
We saw the process of making silk which sounded like it wasn't going to be a riveting stop in the tour but, actually, turned out to be really interesting. We got to see how they breed the worms, encourage the production of the cocoons and then the factory in which they kill the pupae (by boiling) and unwind the kilometre of silk it wrapped itself in. In the same factory, there were also the looms on which they made the reams of fabric. All in all, a lot more interesting than I thought it would be! Stinky and very loud, but interesting (boiled pupae is not a good aroma!)
Da Lat and the Crazy House:
Chin and Spencer suggested we send an extra night once we got to Da Lat (a place affectionately referred to as “honeymoon city” as “it's so cold, couples can stay in bed all day”) so our bottoms could recover from the saddle soreness for a while before we got back on the road. It was lovely to have a bit of a rest…but it tipped it down almost nonstop while we were there! Typical! We didn't even have the excuse of being honeymooners, so we had to get out of bed and sight-see instead! Haha!
One of the massive highlights for me was the “Crazy House”; a bizarre compound of buildings that were designed and built by a former Vietnamese president's daughter. She still lives at the property and we saw her drawing up new plans for the extension: pretty good going for a late-70year old! To my eye, I could see an influence from Gaudi and got a feeling of Barcelona in its focus on the natural and nature. Alex and I spent a fair while exploring all the nooks and crannies in this fab building; walking (or in my case, practically crawling on all fours!) over incredibly thin, incredibly high bridges with “handrails” around your ankles, sitting in minuscule hidey-holes with adorable miniature wooden table and chairs and climbing up giraffe's necks (yup!).
This is us at the top of one bridge…maybe you can see how high up we were:
We were left to our own devices for the evening and, I'm sorry to say, we were craving some western food so we went to a cafe Spencer had recommended. It was a great decision as we got our western food fix and also a tip for a nearby blues and jazz bar which we wandered down to. It was just what we fancied: great music and a glass of wine!
You can't go to an Asian country and not go elephant riding, can you? It's just such a great chance to be close to such awesome animals! We were given the option of elephant riding and I persuaded Alex that we should go. I am really glad we did because the route the elephants take is through the lake! We essentially went swimming on top of an elephant! We rode next to a bull elephant who had another 2 guests on his back and, once we were in the water, he had a habit of dragging up the water vegetation and thrashing it around to get the mud off before eating it. Needless to say, the thrashing around got me covered in elephant saliva, lake water and mud! Still: totally worth it!
We stopped at the “Vietnamese Saharah” yesterday. As you probably have guessed: this was a large expanse of sand in the middle of Vietnam! Pretty strange to see it looming out of nowhere! We went for a walk up onto the top of the dune and, as the thunderclouds came rolling in, Alex got some really good photos! While we were up there, the wind picked up and we were sandblasted! Alex is missing hair from his legs after this trip which is either from this little jaunt or from extended sandblasting on the bike! Haha!
Today, as we reached Ho Chi Minh, Alex and I went to the war museum. I had been looking forward to this a lot. Not in a “Yay! I can't wait to see reports of horrific war crimes!” way but in that I think it's important to see it to fully understand Vietnam. I had no idea of how affected we'd both be after seeing some of the exhibits. I am sure Alex won't mind me saying that neither of us could finish the Agent Orange wing as the pictures distressed us both so much and we were both brought to tears. When you see the documentation of what went on, it's mind-boggling to think of the recovery and progress that has been made in just 40 years.
Sorry, that's a bit of a downer to finish on but I really do think its important to know about!
I mentioned in my last post that I didn't have pictures of the Ede house or the prison, well, here they are: