All Da Lat & More

Da Lat was one of the destinations we fit into our schedules on the recommendations of other travelers. Nestled in the mountains inland in south vietnam it was a gorgeous and lush town known for its adventure activities like trekking and canyoning. We were convinced to come to this town for the canyoning in particular. Canyoning involves descending down a, you guessed it, canyon which is usually accompanied by a beautiful river in the touristy options. We arrived at around 5 AM to the town. Fortunately the hostel owner was awake to let us in and allowed us to crash on the couches in the lobby. After a brief nap we woke up to research and sign up for canyoning the same day. The package we signed up for included three separate repelling or absailing locations with a couple of jumping points into the river. The activity exceeded our budget but everyone assured us it was totally worthwhile. We exceeded our budget a little extra following the advice of our parents and paying the extra dollar for the company known to have the best equipment and follow all the safety regulations. It also worked out the company we went with had an amazingly friendly and fun staff and the price included professional photography as well.  

The path we took down the river was stunning. We were sold more on the actual absailing than the view but the view was certainly its own reason to do the canyoning. Constantly surrounded by lush forests, walking by several waterfalls, and even absailing down one it was a sight to behold. For the absailing itself we got to test our courage and our skill. Despite any safety measures it can feel like hanging from a thread so when the staff encouraged us or anyone else in the group to try and jump from the rock for a long decent like in the movies, we were all treated to a hilarious show in the beginning with our tiny, stunted hops. By the third absailing location (if you include the practice run at base camp) most the group was performing respectable if not impressive jumps down the rock face. The scariest and greatest part of the day is when we stopped at a 9 meter cliff face with menacing pieces of rocks that you had to clear in order to successfully jump into the water. Our guides instructed us that if we were not 100% confident in our running and jumping skills that we should not attempt the jump. Ross being Ross was one of the first to jump and of course, he not only pulled of a bad-ass video of the jump on the GoPro but also got a great picture of himself looking confident and muscular. Natalie on the other hand, who is quite possibly the clumsiest individual that either one of us know, also a whopping 5 foot 3 on a good day with short legs to match, took a little convincing to finally get the courage to take the running jump from the cliff face. The feeling of making the jump was absolutely exhilarating and definitely had nothing to do with the Adrenalin pumping through our veins. When we examined the pics later, Nat looked uncoordinated and goofy but she knew that the jump was one of triumph! 

After a long day we finally returned to our hostel, the Lone Wolf, which was run by a sweet lady who offered home cooked meals during most nights of the week. We were also lucky to have arrived during a local holiday so she cooked some special foods for the evening tied to the holiday. The hostel itself was likely also her family’s home as we saw her family around most of the time we were there. Besides exploring the mountainside and doing extreme activities there was one other thing to do in Da Lat and that was go to Maze Bar.  

When we asked what was so great about Maze Bar everyone just insisted we had to go see for ourselves. So we gathered a group of people, a couple of whom knew the way, and headed off. We knew it was an actual maze of sorts based on the general talk, but Ross was imagining a basic one story 90 degree angle turner maze like the old school Windows screensaver. Natalie had similarly pictured a traditional corn maze. When we got there though we found it was about two steps away from an Echer staircase maze. It starts simple enough with a bar at the entrance and the option to go up or down. But the place was about four or five stories tall if you include the basement area and there was not a single right angle to be found. It was all winding staircases and curving halls. There were even just holes in the walls ceilings and floors one could squeeze through to get to another area. Any space large enough to be a room seemed to have some theme like forest or ocean. If there was an “end” to the maze it was finding the second bar on the third floor that had a dance floor and balcony. Another little Easter egg to be found is on the second floor balcony where several newspaper clippings posted to windows give a history of the bar. It started as a cafe and the maze motif was an artistic choice. Apparently there was a big art movement in the town a number of years ago and Maze Bar is one of the last big projects to survive.

The following morning we spent on video chat with our families before departing on an afternoon bus to Na Trang. Unfortunately Na Treng does not get its own post because we were only there for an hour before getting on another bus to Hoi An. About the only things worth mentioning were the beach we saw was beautiful and Ross made a fool of himself during the brief dinner when he fell from his plastic chair to the sound of a loud crash causing every head to turn and getting a few mutters we expected translated to some disparaging statement against foreigners.

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