Wednesday 21 March 2012: Somewhere between Phan Thiet & Da Lat, VN
We were 20 mins early and the bus was 20 mins late. Result: Grumpy Gordon. When we booked this we were assured the pick-up bus would go all the way to Da Lat (inland, uphill) however it was only a transit which picked us up, already stuffed to the gunnels, and more folk got on before Phan Thiet, which we now assumed was to be a transfer point.
WRONG! This was THE bus.Fortunately as last on, all-the-way passengers, we got in the cab with the driver. Certainly more comfortable than in the back, buy OMG was it scary? Our route alternated between dual carriageway, single carriageway, single track, dirt track and washed out dirt track. Guess where we saw the only accident of the day? Correct, the Dual carriageway, and it looked like a head on crash. Charlie just can't get his head round which side he's supposed to be on, given the choice of 2 parallel pieces of tarmac.
We did arrive safely and slightly ahead of the 5 hour schedule. Da Lat seems to be the local market town. It's quite a size, I would guess at 300k souls. It had been raining this morning which contributed to the generally dirty appearance, but once dry and a bit brighter this PM, the town emerged as a colourful a provincial town as you would find anywhere. Lots of examples of the French influence (smelly toilets, strong coffee etc) with many Art Nouveau facades on homes both humble & grand.
Visited the "Crazy House" as it is known. Started in 1990, designed by a Vietnamese, Moscow trained architect and greatly inspired by Spain's Antoni Gaudi, of Park Guell & La Pedrera in Barcelona etc. Very organic and weird. She-who-knows-about-such-things says it's contrived and over complex, but fun nonetheless. There were no drawings prepared, only paintings and sketches from which local artisans & craftsmen worked, and are still working. It's due to be completed during 2015, a bit sooner than La Segrada Famillia, that other Gaudi magnificence. :-)
Weather permitting, tomorrow is "easy rider" day, with an eight hour motorbike tour of town and country. Reports are excellent so expecting a fun and interesting day. Report to follow event.
PS: The village in the background comprised of what could only be "State" housing, uniform size, design and colours. Could be to replace something lost before 1975?