For more photographs of Da Lat see a previous blog here
Straightaway we loved DaLat. All of a sudden there were old buildings, full of character, old shops and old flats above shops. Apparently there was a tacit agreement from both sides not to bomb Da Lat during the American/Vietnam War hence all the old buildings. It made us realise the contrast with where we’d been before, that all the new, boxy, functional buildings were new buildings built after the war.
There were street food stalls with great big pans of eggs, some looked like chicken eggs, some were small like quail eggs, and big pans of stew or noodle soup. There were grills with tortillas on, with egg poured on to cook omelettes on top of the tortillas. In the street were stalls with piles of scarves, and furry hats with ears on and ear flaps with long furry scarves attached, like kids hats. It was a big change of temperature, again.
From the window of the taxi we saw lots of hair dressers and shops selling cool looking vintage clothes, and tried to remember where we were relative to our guesthouse. It was such a relief to be in DaLat, it was as if we’d left the bad behind in Nha Trang, immediately we both felt better even just driving through.
Ours was a family run hotel, we tried the wrong one at first, we knew it was wrong as it looked too posh, but both had similar names something like My Dream and Dream Hotel both with dream in the name anyway. Ours was a small homely guesthouse run by a well dressed woman with nice waved hair. In the reception were two little dogs.
Our room was in some ways old fashioned with a big wooden wardrobe and a sideboard, and in some ways modern with black and silver flock wallpaper. In the room we were aware of the change in climate; the room smelled very slightly damp, and a bit of mildew when we opened the wardrobe. In the wardrobe, and in a neat folded pile at the bottom of the stairs, were the thick synthetic blankets that were so popular in Nepal and which we’d seen elsewhere too, in Pushkar. I always like to know there’s another blanket, just in case.
Again we were reminded of the difference in tolerance for noise between us from the UK and people in South East Asia generally. Across the road from our guesthouse was a van parked outside which beeped all day, apparently no one complained.
I continued watching Atypical on Netflix which I’d started on the train to Nha Trang. The show is about a teen with autism, in one of the episodes I saw in DaLat he goes to stay at a friend’s house for the first time. His friend has done his best but we see the unfamiliar environment through the main character’s eyes; there’s a waving cat, (the gold cats originally from Japan and China with beckoning paws), an aromatherapy diffuser glowing a colour and puffing out visible scent, and a gold and noisy halogen heater. All these things loom large and become too much for him to cope with.
The next day I saw a waving cat just like the one in Atypical. And on the stairs of our guesthouse was the very same aromatherapy diffuser, the same style but in a different colour…
Mind you, as it turned out, there were waving cats everywhere. One day we sat at an Italian vegetarian cafe, we had vegan cookies and tea. On the sofa next to me sat a real small orange cat, who let me stroke them and purred. In the window of a shop across the road was a waving cat positioned at such an angle that we were facing each other both at matching angles, me turned slightly towards the real cat, the waving cat turned slightly towards me, so that it seemed to be waving directly at me.
I can’t remember if we meditated in Nha Trang or not but we did in Hue and we did in DaLat. In DaLat I found that meditation was helpful for my anxiety. In meditation I felt my anxiety change to excitement, or maybe I was able to reinterpret the anxiety as excitement and to change fear into possibility or excitement; rather than fear of the future, excitement about life’s unknown possibilities. In meditation I was distracted by wanting to think about to my do list. With great effort I dragged myself away from that and asked myself, Why do I want to do this? The answer: because I’m anxious. But beyond anxiety, there was calm, and in meditation I was able to access that, the calm that is always with us.
For every meditation in DaLat I sat on the end of the bed facing the window with my eyes open. There was a pair of silvery white curtains, a net curtain, and a slight gap where I could see out unhindered. Outside the window wasn’t much of a view. I could see two electricity wires. In meditation these represented free will and fate, or free will and possibilities, or ‘you’ and ‘environment.’ I thought about how molecules bond. About how if you raise your frequency you attract ‘better’ things or at least you attract a match.
The mind tries everything- the past, the future, guilt, ‘shoulds,’ things to do, but if you step back from that and let it go you realise that in order to have peace that’s all you have to do: Not do anything the mind is telling you to, or not then anyway. Most of it is not practical or possible, you can’t go into past, for example, so just experience peace, without thoughts. Choose not to think about it. Even if it is practical or possible you can’t do when sitting. Deal with stuff in its present moment when the time arises. Or not…
I thought of what someone (Peter Klopp) had said on WordPress, about light and shadow. He had said, ‘The brighter the light the darker the shadow.’ This was different; people say, the darkness lets the light in, know suffering to know happiness etc. But this seemed to be saying that if you have a bright light, you have a dark shadow as well, as a kind of balance or side effect, something that has to be managed, or accepted maybe. It resonated strongly with me and was strangely comforting even though I felt like I didn’t understand it fully.
In meditation I often thought about Atypical, that’s okay I thought, at least I’m not thinking about stuff I’m anxious about. I felt a pain in one arm and the centre of my chest. I thought about heart attacks, and the tarot man in Thailand telling me I needed to look after my heart. Both my granddads died of heart attacks, I hoped that’d be how I went, easy, one in his arm chair, one at the pool side at the swimming pool.
We are animals that have become conscious. We know we’re alive and that we’re going to die. It’s not ‘spiritual’ or new age or complicated. It’s just if you realise, really realise, I’m a being, I’ve got a life, I’m here, wow, it’s going to end, I don’t know when; then that’s so exciting! Is that waking up/enlightenment? And maybe that’s why people in the East seem to enjoy themselves more, because they are okay with death, whereas we in the West tend to push it away. Oasis in Nepal saying matter of factly, ‘So I die, I die, they be sad for a couple of weeks.’ People of all ages in Vietnam and Cambodia dancing and exercising and socialising simply and cheaply, our Thai friend always laughing and joking…
I began to see the benefits of yoga and meditation, after the low period in Nha Trang. Even my arms felt a little different. I used to do loads of yoga and arm exercises at Sea Win in Kerala relative to now or before now although at the time I didn’t think it was that much/very good.
Just like hitting x number of followers, I look forward to it but when it comes it doesn’t actually do anything. Or when I was one stone lighter, yes I was pleased but I don’t think I ever felt I was there, I always wanted to be thinner, I never felt my body was perfect. Although, I didn’t have a sense of it being wrong, even before that, just kind of neutral. I could wear all these clothes, buy stuff on eBay, anything fitted and felt good, but it didn’t really do anything, I knew it was just a surface thing.
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.