Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Moto-tacular! The amazing road from Nha Trang > Dalat

Day 24 - Thursday, November 28
Distance - 142 kms = total for day ~ 5 hrs
Trip Odometer =  2899 kms
Route - West from Nha Trang on Hwy #2 and (#723) to Dalat - AMAZING ROAD!
Hotel -  Dreams 2 Hotel ($30 US and brand-new)
Weather -  Clear, warm and sunny leaving Nha Trang heading West and inland.  When heading up East side of Pass, it turned to misty and wet with elevation, to misty and rainy, and wet on the Pass, then warmer and clearing as we rolled down in elevation into Dalat at ~1pm.

This was one of my favourite days of riding since being in Vietnam's wonderful north-country weeks prior.  The road from Nha Trang to Dalat is world class and if you are able to experience it with clear weather you will feel like you hit the jackpot.

After riding the kilometres and kilometres of hectic Hwy #1 since Hoi An, it was a true pleasure to ride west from Dalat and inland, to experience another one of Vietnam's rural gems of a road.  Almost immediately after leaving Nha Trang on the #2 west, the traffic got mellower and mellower and the further we headed inland, it was even quieter.  Curve after curve, it reminded me of the narrow lanes of the north with very little traffic.

We both had a fantastic morning of riding.

Amanda and I stopped in the village of Khanh Vinh and picked up a few snacks for a roadside break. We pulled over right as we started to gain in elevation and we had a wonderful picnic on a roadside cement barrier overlooking the valley.  We could see that we were about to enter some 'weather' as we continued up the mountain, so we figured we should enjoy the warm, dry weather while we could.  

A huge thumbs-up to an excellent couple of hours of dry-weather riding on some spectacular roads.

As we continued our way up the mountain pass, we started to encounter a great deal of mist.  This wasn't a surprise from our previous experiences gaining elevation on mountain passes in Vietnam.  We pulled over, donned our rain gear and Amanda decided to throw on her Vietnamese poncho for good measure.  We kept our chins-up and carried on down this spectacular road, curve after endless curve. We had it good all the way up the pass and we knew that it would <hopefully> be similarly dry on the other side of the pass, closer to Dalat.  

"Rain Gear againnnnnn... <sigh>???"

 The roadside waterfalls along this stretch of Hwy #2 and #723 were endless.

We eventually topped out at 1675m in elevation.  Once at the highest points in elevation, the mist and fog were so thick that we had to really slow down due to the challenging visibility.  We then dropped slightly in elevation, the fog cleared and it made it much easier to continue along the wet roads.  We continued along between 1500-1600m in elevation for quite some time and as we got closer to Dalat we entered mountainsides full of pine trees.

Typical 'Bahnar Thatch House' pictured above

Dalat is known for both the misty mountains and pine forests... an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"Da Lat’s specific sights are pine wood (forming the name: “City of thousands of pine trees”) with twisting roads and tree marigold (Vietnamese: dã quỳ) blossom in the winter. The city’s temperate weather stands in contrast to Vietnam’s otherwise tropical climate. Mist covering the valleys almost year-round leads to its name “City of eternal spring”.

The Lonely Planet states that Dalat is like Vietnam's 'alter-ego':  "The weather is spring-like cool instead of tropical hot, the town is dotted with elegant French-colonial villas rather than stark socialist architecture, and the farms around are thick with strawberries and flowers, not rice."

As we dropped in elevation and got closer into Dalat, we encountered this unique hill-side cemetery.  It was very colourful with various graves and tombs built up in different patterns dotting the hillside.  It was quite spectacular.

Pulling into Dalat after an excellent morning of riding was interesting.  We first noticed the French influence in many of the buildings on the outside of town (unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to show more detail).  Many of the buildings have a Swiss-Alps type styling with stone walls, steep rooflines, and shutters on windows complete with flower boxes and flare.

Pictured below is a back-of-motorscooter 'duckling mobile condominium' and in the top left of the photo, you can see some of the French styling with a building in the distance.  

I had reserved a room at the highly rated 'Dreams Hotel' which was fairly easy to find - although, just down the road is the 'Dreams 2 Hotel' which is where we were actually booked into.  It is the same ownership, but luckily, we didn't stop at the first Dreams Hotel on the road.  I guess there is normal confusion with travellers and both of the Dreams Hotels.  The Dreams 2 is the more recently renovated of the two and it was virtually brand spanking new.  Our $30 room was very nice, complete with flat screen TV and freshly tiled bath with glassed-in rain shower.

With our shorter 142 km riding day, we arrived to Dalat at 1pm which gave us plenty of time to explore the city, have a late lunch and to see some of the sights.  We ended up bumping into another Canadian couple who had bought a used Honda 100cc Win, which turned out to be a cheaper, Korean knock-off version. They started a few days before from Saigon - HCMC and were heading north to Hanoi with limited time.  I asked to see their maps and they had one 'free' paper map that was given to them in HCMC.  Their map had very little detail and didn't show much, it was in fact brutal in my view. Seeing that we were almost finished our trip with only x2 days to go, I figured we could help them out.  I had all of our maps and information back at our hotel, so I zipped back to the hotel, grabbed my extra paper maps and then back to the cafe where we met.  I also grabbed Amanda's rain pants to pass along as the couple didn't have any rain gear (they were 'going with the flow') and Amanda figured she could part with them as she had her Vietnamese poncho.  They were very happy with our offerings of the good paper maps, and the rain pants in addition to the information we passed along.

With the year round spring-like climate of Dalat at 1475m, our hotel also offered a sauna, hot tub and steam room on the top floor of the Hotel, opened from 4pm - 8pm.  We were excited to have a relaxing soak and sauna, so we headed back to the Hotel for 4pm sharp and went straight up to the top floor to enjoy a good sweat.

It was a perfect way to wind down after another great day of riding in Vietnam.

 Panoramic view from the top floor of the Dreams 2 Hotel in Dalat.

We had 2 more days of riding ahead of us.  Tomorrow, we would head back down to the coast to the beach resort town of Mui Ne to spend our last night before making the final push into HCMC the following day.

Let the Sun!-Shine!-In! on our last beach day in Vietnam... we were both ready for some more sun and had heard that Mui Ne was a great place to soak up the sun and unwind, we were excited.

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