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Dalat - Vietnam's City of Love

Or an Asian San Francisco?



The weather took a turn for the worse and after 24 hours of non-stop drizzle and storms we took a noisy minibus (the drivers sound their horn at any opportunity here) up into the hills to the city of Dalat.

Kitsch and colourful buildings, flower filled landscaping, and a replica Eiffel Tower have all turned the city into a local honeymooners getaway and Dalat reminded us a lot of San Francisco with it's pastel-coloured houses, hills and misty, foggy climate. We took a lovely cable car ride across the pine-covered hills to a lovely lake and pagoda (home of the best windchimes of all time).

Sadly, as the rainfall increased our love of Dalat decreased; we fell out of love with Dalat, it was freezing cold, I (Jo) got a cold, and it failed to stop raining for the whole two nights we were there.

We had hoped to take an Easy Rider motorbike tour on our second day but it was too wet so instead we braved the weather in a minibus with Vicky and Benjy, an English couple we met in Mui Ne, two Swedish girls and our amazingly smiley happy tour guide Fuk.

First stop - Crazy House. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Designed by a Russian trained Vietnamese architect, this lady is the Gaudi of 'Nam. Stepping inside the house we converted to children and, despite the rain, ran around up and down staircases snapping photos.

We visited a pretty flower farm and a coffee plantation – although at this point we we're all distracted by a road rage fight involving two men on motorbikes, an umbrella, a rock and a lot of shouting. After that we took a wet and dangerous clamber across rocks to see a huge waterfall, probably the most forceful I’d ever seen (although it was fairly brown, so not as picturesque as usual). Following a trip to a pagoda to see a big fat laughing Buddha, and a spot of pho at a local cafe we moved on to a silk farm and factory. Finally, the last stop on the trip, we were introduced to the oh-so-hygienic (not!) process of rice wine fabrication.

How to make rice wine (Vietnamese village style):

Step 1: Some old rice sits at the back of someones house on the ground for a week or two, exposed to the elements, a filthy bird cage suspended above, and featuring regular visits from the family dog when it fancies a sniff/pee/bite to eat.

Step 2: After a spell fermenting in a giant plastic barrel, where it takes on a pungent banana-like aroma, Granny tips the rice into a large vat of water and cooks it for several hours until the alcohol evaporates.

Step 3: The distilled liquor is piped away and Granny then grabs the leftover hot rice slop and gives it to the pigs. To achieve a real vintage, the rice alcohol is then put into the ground for six or so months to mature.

Step 4: Once ready, it is the custom to add some sort of animal/random matter to the wine – snake, silk worm, cockroach, toad, dead bird, bark – whatever is readily available will suffice.

Hmmm – tastes like rotten vodka. We've been politely declining it since our enlightenment.

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Posted by aspindi 21:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged dalat silk rice_wine crazy_house

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