For more photographs of Da Lat see a previous blog here
There were little dogs everywhere. One of the guesthouse dogs, a small whitish pug like dog, was, ‘Not friendly, she will bite you, she already lost one owner and is scared she will be taken away again,’ the hotel woman told me. The other dog was like a small brown poodle with curly chocolate fur, it looked like a cuddly toy and was very friendly. It was young and too bouncy for the other dog, always wanting to play; the woman told me that each day for a few hours it went to her friend at another hotel to give the older dog a break.
During our stay it had a haircut, we thought at first it was a different dog, not only was all its curly fur gone but it was huddled in its bed not greeting anyone. Apparently it was traumatised as she hates having a haircut. ‘She won’t speak to me, tomorrow she’ll be okay.’ The woman said. By the time we left she had began getting back to normal.
Again we had an An Chay restaurant right opposite our guesthouse, the woman who ran it was friendly with a tiny bit of English, and there was a woman assistant who had no English. We were confused by the menu, she showed us a small piece of paper which someone had hand written a translation on. It turned out it was all fake meat but we didn’t realise that at first. I ate rice, tofu and veg, it was very cheap, and beer. Once there was a big ginger cat, like a big cat from home, the size of a small dog, who let me stroke it. Another time I went in by myself to eat and to do my blog, there was a chatty American man there, he told me he had a Vietnamese girlfriend and planned to retire here, apparently there were lots of ex pats in Da Lat.
In Vietnam there are people who are totally vegan or vegetarian all the time and many other people have one day each month where they don’t eat meat. Although generally Vietnam is very meaty, where there are all vegan restaurants, they are superb. In DaLat we found an incredible place, again thanks to Happy Cow. It had signs up saying no meat, no eggs, no fish. At the front it had a Banh Mi stall, these were wetter with different flavours and sauces to the ones in Nha Trang, and inside was a big restaurant. There were lots of tables, and often big family parties would eat there. There were poster menus on the wall and big laminated book menus on the tables. They did a lot of fake meat; it’s not something I’m into per se, having never missed meat but it was nice to have a variety of food and plenty of protein. Everything was vegan. We ate lovely sausages, fake chicken wings, fake shrimp, tofu fake meat, fresh stir fried veg, and my favourite, the most lovely dumplings, dense like pie crust or short crust pastry. And glasses of warm soya milk, delicious and healthy, which I missed so much when I couldn’t get it.
I went to the hairdresser to get my unfortunate orange henna from Kerala dyed over (dying over henna isn’t usually possible which I knew but I tried anyway.) I was very excited about going to the hairdressers. ‘Make brown,’ I said. The hairdresser tried hard and looked far more disappointed than me when it didn’t work. She called a man over who spoke some English to ask if I was happy with my hair which was possibly ever so slightly less orange but I might have been kidding myself. Anthony had made me take his phone for the translation app, ‘Just in case.’ I used it to try to explain that it was henna, it wasn’t her fault, but they didn’t understand.
In a reverse to the waving cats aromatherapy thing, which I’d seen first on Atypical on Netflix and then seen in real life; we saw a cockroach in the room, and then cockroaches were mentioned on Atypical. We couldn’t catch it and so ended up living with it in the room which I was very proud of myself about. We never saw it again; they stay on the floor, they like the dark, they avoid humans. That’s what I said to myself anyway.
We found our way back to the area we’d seen from the taxi; a street full of small vintage and original fashion shops. We bought little cakes at a small bakery which also sold small waving cats, white or gold, in plastic boxes. Near the second hand/fashion street was a yellow wall where we watched countless tourists take photographs of themselves against its backdrop.
On a main road with lots of shops with big signs and hoardings, a little like Triplicane High Street in Chennai where Broadlands was, we were suddenly caught up in two schools pouring out, a crazy log jam of bikes. The uniform of one school was traditional trousers with long skirt overlay with a side split all in white silk, the other was sporty navy blue. Opposite a temple we stopped at a shop to buy water, the man in the shop encouraged two school girls who were in there to speak to us to practice or show off their English. We had a short chat and the shop man looked pleased.
Near the indoor clothes market area, big wide flights of stone steps led down to an outdoor market area with fruit, including tall perfect piles of strawberries in baskets, built one by one in an expanding wall, fascinating to watch, beyond the fruit endless cheap clothes. We bought grapes and satsumas.
We sat on the steps with our thin blue carrier bag of satsumas with the leaves on, and relaxed. It was good to just look. Behind us was yet another hotel called Dream something. Nice Dream, maybe. It’s like we’re being told, ‘It’s a dream!’ And just like that, everything felt trippy and shiny again; the two of us feeling high, feeling like it’s a matrix or an illusion.
Thank you very much for reading!
Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat and writing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appear regularly on this blog.