Our group spent two nights in Nha Trang, and by all accounts this was not our favorite stop. It’s a touristy beach town that caters to a huge number of Russian and Chinese travelers. Kind of surreal to see menus and shop signs in Russian and Chinese. But that kind of neon tourist venue is no fun in any language.
To be fair, the tropical storm prevented us from enjoying the beach and snorkeling trip that was planned for the day. Instead of calm, sparkling blue water, we had churning seas, rain, and high winds. By Wednesday morning, the rains had receded, and we saw our first blue sky in several days as we biked across a bridge to an ancient Hindu temple on a hilltop overlooking the river as it opens to the sea.
The Po Nagar Temple dates to sometime before 781 when the Cham people settled in Vietnam. This was a tranquil setting with well-tended gardens that provided a restorative transition from the crowded tourist center of Nha Trang. Our ride out of Nha Trang took us through local neighborhoods and markets with fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood for sale. Nice to see a different side of Nha Trang.
And then the fun began. Barry made a video of the varied road conditions that we experienced from Nha Trang to Dalat, and the flood waters we experienced on Wednesday morning were among the most dramatic. Eventually we had to abandon our planned cycling itinerary and hop on the bus to find higher ground.
For the remainder of the day we alternated cycling and bus transport, biking to a lovely outdoor restaurant overlooking a cinnamon-colored river we were cycling near
From there we headed up the mountains toward Dalat by bus. The drive was marked by landslides, rain, and fog. The landslides occurred about two months ago during a typhoon that came through this area. They were worsened by rains that caused the floods outside of Nha Trang. Foggy conditions at the top kept us from cycling the mountain pass down into Dalat (safety first). So we stayed on the bus until we were close to the city and did 15 km of touring around town.
The area around Dalat grows flowers, fruits, vegetables, and coffee. Riding into town we saw acres and acres of greenhouses as well as coffee plantations in the surrounding hills. The Dalat Flower Festival was underway adding lovely splashes of color all around town. Cycling the city allowed us to circle the picturesque Xuan Huong Lake, a lovely green space in the center of the city. We also visited the Dalat Railway Station which was completed by the French in 1932 and enjoyed seeing the vintage railway cars and a steam engine on display.
Before heading to our fancy hotel (a departure from the more basic but comfortable lodgings that are more typical), we visited the Crazy House, a whimsical if bizarre (perhaps intended as surrealist or magical realism) multi-story private residence that has become a tourist destination. Can’t say this was a favorite among our travel mates, but we can say we saw it. The fancy hotel – that was a hit!