To day began early as usual thanks to some restless squawking provided by the vocals of a neighboring rooster. I am pretty sure PETA would have given me exception and a proper blessing if I fulfilled my desires to dismember that fowl creature. After bowl of noodle soup to kickstart the day (it is more gourmet than the average bowl you may be thinking of but I still wouldn’t be opposed to a bowl of cereal or oats right about now), Thomas and I road through outer stretches of Dalat into random towns past rice terraces and an all absorbing ambience of lush green foliage. The main goal of today was to scale the utmost peak around Dalat in Lang Biang park at a total height of 2167 meters. The hike began with a walk along a winding upward road through dense pine tree forestry before diverting to proper dirt path that would eventually lead to the mountain’s penultimate summit. Since it has been some time since my last legitimate trek or hike, the steep slope pushed my lower body to the limits slowly begging for release. With all the pine trees surrounding the darkened lassoing road from the cover of the forest, I felt a bit like I was back in the states in California. The path’s vertical degree grew with steps so steep that I eventually questioned how they could be made for an Asian hiker unless they were to use a step stool the whole way up. The mud played the trickiest part in slowing us down even though it had to rain today (knock on wood!). Once atop the mountain, I could stare down at all the world below me including the limitless rolling hills and the city of Dalat itself that so randomly etched its own existence onto nature’s back. The hills did not look like the average rippled countryside with bumps that protruded in a chaotic shimmering evergreen. In a weird way it brought me back to the Middle Earth shire of New Zealand that could have easily contained hobbit holes. Away from Dalat, the presence of man quickly vanished in a poof with just some farms showing the few footprints of note. Otherwise Mother Nature ran wild all the way to the other far off mountains that disappeared or became a mirage in the mist with the accumulated distance between us. After descending, we ate lunch with my order begging water spinach stir fried and topped with toasted sesame seeds (scrumtrulescent!) before hitting up the market for some necessary mangoes. A couple of the mangoes did not last long within my possession as their refreshing tropical juice could not be denied from me much longer. While continuing our walk around town, I found some fried toasted sesame seed balls that I had read are a favorite in Vietnam (I am prepared in every sense of the word). I pointed at one to test whether the rumors were true. This sesame seed encased dough ball crunched at the first bite before delving into yummy doughyness (perhaps a new word in the dictionary) and some sort of funky citrus fruit reduction hiding and waiting within. To say the least I would try it again. After some laying about to revitalize those drained calves, everyone in the hostel was brought together for a family dinner with each of us sitting on thatched mats in the hostel lobby while young couple owners’ child Tin Tin ran wild. I have loved my time at Tiny Tigers hostel due its feel as a homestay. The meal/picnic was fantastic with various bowls containing rice, noodles, BBQ veggies and beef, pumpkin soup, and spinach. The meal was a second fiddle to the social experience of breaking bread with strangers of the same mindset. Even though we are all out here generally for the same reasons, we each have a unique story and background that brought us out here and continue to motivate us further as we progress down this journey of life and more travels hopefully awaiting us in the future. The 26 year old hostel owner called Leo gave us a night walking tour of Dalat by first walking us through the night market, which is technically illegal according to him. Apparently quite frequently, police will come in and raid the area for the pop-up shops lacking the funds to own a proper setup. The pop-up shops which include food stalls and those selling various articles of clothing will clear out running away until the cops have disappeared before repositioning themselves at their chosen spots in the market. I saw many of the same Asian rice paper tacos/pizzas (buon trang nuong) that I have grown to love getting grilled up around me as the clear favorite of the locals. The market was the many I had seen before but I loved that this one had no distinction between the food, clothing, and touristy crap stalls as each blended together in true Asian chaos. Eventually we left the area to finish off with a free drink at a bar hosting a band singing poorly sung English but some guitar and drum rhythms and beats attuned to the Western ear. Thus ended my last night and day in Dalat, which is something I had dreaded to acknowledge.
Riding Vietnam Day 161: Misty Mountain High