Riding Vietnam Day 160: “Don’t Be Lazy, Let’s Go Crazy!”

I fueled up for my big awaited day of canyoning by chowing down on an authentic banh mi sandwich. With an extra tip to make sure she didn’t skimp on the meat, the woman running the stall graciously and steadfastly went about preparing the baguette. For your knowledge, banh mi strictly means ‘bread’ when translated and becomes something more when you add ‘thit’ for meat that gets further branched into ‘bo’ for beef and ‘heo’ for pork. She layered it with unhealthy fatty meats that give a ka-pow to the flavorful profile, whole cilantro leaves and stems known in Asia as coriander, and cucumber slices as well as a drizzling of chili sauce and soy sauce of all things. Never did love feel so right! With enough energy to fight a bear, I was prepared to tackle the natural adventure obstacle course of canyoning. Canyoning is seen widely as one of the highlights of Dalat thanks to the plentiful waterfalls and mountainous terrain. I had wanted to do canyoning in New Zealand but the price and timing didn’t work out. Canyoning can reach north of the upper $200 range within the confines of the adventure capital of the world so experiencing such a feat for only $25 seemed absurd. The cheap price tag did not come with the endangerment of a cheap experience in terms of safety. We were each fitted with a life jacket, a dainty helmet, and a rock climbing style harness. After some requisite trekking, we were all ready to tackle what was for most of us our first canyoning experience. The first task was to waterslide down a low rolling waterfall/rapid headfirst! When the first person was positioned to undergo it, I thought it was a joke but sure enough the girl was nudged ahead and down with her head leading the way as she rollicked up and down before being deposited in a large pool of water. With each adventurous thing we did, the group leader who acted as the main safety valve for the abseiling would point to the camera usually to our side to get our attention in that direction and say in the most lame Japanese movie accent ‘foto!’ for our action photo shot. I completed a 14 meter dry abseiling as well as another natural waterslide before reaching one of the highlights of the day. If you don’t know what abseiling is, it involves lowering yourself through walking and pushing off the rock in a rock climbing rappelling manner to reach the bottom. In one of the cooler moments of the day, we abseiled down a 25 meter waterfall while the water gushed and coursed over our entire bodies while also trying to knock us off our sturdy, ready stances. When I couldn’t walk down anymore at a height of four meters thanks to the rock forming a greater than 90 degree turn (inverting itself) with the apparent 1.2 meter deep pool of water below, I was instructed to let go of the rope and fling myself backwards in a ideal parallel plane with the water below waiting to catch me. After judging what seemed like a lofty height while getting blasted in the face with a relentless riptide of water, I thrusted myself back while releasing the rope simultaneously until hit the bottom.  Afterwards our group leaders made the questionable decision to call for a rest stop to eat lunch which came in the form of a banh mi buffet picnic. Afterwards, I would say I was banh mi’d out but I had a couple of cliff jumps waiting for me next. With a beating heart beginning to pound out of my chest and a stomach weighed down by the weight of banh hi, I had no choice but to prepare myself for the task at hand in the form of cliff jumping, which just so happened to be the pursuit I looked forward to the most all day. After a relatively easy straight down shot from 7 meters above, I was now prepared for the 11 meter jump. This 11 meter jump is unlike the other jumps I have made in the past because it required a running start to launch yourself far out into the great abyss. To avoid the awaiting stubble of rock tucked closely to the otherwise vertical plane of the cliff face which stood ready to trip me up, I had to make my best imitation of black man hops to make sure I would survive the fall. I stepped up to the plate as the first cliff jumper of our group prepared to meet either my unfortunate doom or glory. With our dripping bodies the launchpad of the rock had gotten quite wet. Along with my less than dependable shoes, some measure of doubt crept into my mind. Too late, I would not let fear hold me back. With as much force as my white man muscle fibers could spring into action, I launched myself out and just barely past the aforementioned stubble of rock. I spun my arms wildly as if they might give me the ability to fly or at least the chance to put a few more centimeters on my horizontal. I crashed into the water absorbed in it’s cool chilly breath before realizing that I had touched bottom with my outstretched toes. If it were not for life jacket who knows how deep and quickly I would have plunged. If fear never played a part in such a thing as this, the high and adrenaline would be minuscule thus severing the wanton, wild-eyed desire to stare death in the face. We continued on taking it easy with some lazy river style floating on our backs with the life jackets keeping us upright but not enough to avoid the random jagged bump hiding in the muddy waters. After a cute chainlink formation with everyone in the group holding hands to keep the whole of us stabilized, we met our last challenge of the day in the form of an abseil into the washing machine. The abseil itself was simple and straight forward but meant letting go of the rope which dropped you into a churning riptide spinner that eventually spit you out. I had no problems with such a test. I hit the white forceful water that spun me about before kicking me out into a bob slightly shit faced and confused as to where I was since it totally threw off my sense of direction and place. Another girl had us on the ropes cringing as each millisecond passed by. She leaned back at the wrong time while attempting to lower herself downwards which caused the water to kick her back flipping her upside down twice over. After some more trekking to remove us from the lower limits of the river run narrow valley, we took the minivan back into Dalat as the company’s theme changed to “don’t be crazy, let’s go lazy!” with a much needed hot shower (never thought I would need such a thing in Africa hot Asia) and some chillaxing. Thomas invited me and one of our roommates to join him for a BBQ with a Couchsurfing friend he made. At a local spot, we picked out our chosen skewers and grilled them ourselves onto the grate covered coal assembly presented to us on our children’s sized table (more apt for imaginary tea with stuffed animals than a group of mid-twenties backpackers). I ate intestines and liver from a foreign animal since I am not afraid to experiment with bizarre foods as long as we aren’t talking dogs and rats. Based on the taste of the lover, I would most definitely be down to try some back home even though this organ has been mostly fazed out of American cooking. Having a chat with local who has the necessary English skills to make conversation possible is always joy since I love asking him the random questions of life that give me a better idea of the country and what it means to be Vietnamese. After our Vietnamese friend left, Thomas, Will (English), and I went to a local bar/club for a drink. We made the regretful decision to order a Tiger beer tower since it tastes most familiarly like chilled tea or water with some fizz. The practice of Asians putting large ice cubes within their mugs helped greatly exaggerate the number of drinks we went though and somehow found a way to further dilute an already diluted drink. After isolating ourselves to the outdoors of the bar/club, we went inside to explore the environment. Since it was a weekday, the place had limited activity but enough to make me realize how little Asians know of the concept of a bar. It is borderline impossible to find a genuine bar out here where you can have a drink with mates while still maintaining conversation. All they know out here is somewhat remixed electronicized renditions of American music to the point you can’t even shout into your neighboring friend’s ear. It was a place that struggled to define itself as either a bar or a nightclub. Regardless I enjoyed the awkward spectacle of a place like this mostly for the unique people watching a venue such as this offers. After enough time losing the sense of sound and hearing, we left to go back to the hostel which couldn’t have happened any sooner after a day like this.

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