After the fun of my overnight bus adventure, I arrived at a wonderful hostel and was greeted by the friendliest guy I'd met so far in Vietnam. I hadn't actually made a booking so when I called and probably woke him up at 6am I was pleased that he was so pleasant. After unlocking the gates and showing me inside he simply asked if I wanted the mixed or female dorm, told me the number and said 'see you later'. This couldn't have been more perfect as I was in desperate need of a few more hours of sleep and sure enough when I went back down to the lobby at 8:30 Peace was just as pleasant.
My first day in Da Lat I managed to dodge all the motorbike drivers, easyriders and tour offers; I took time for myself to explore the market, walk around Xuan Huong Lake, enjoy the cool weather and eventually venture further afield. I decided the cable car sounded like a good adventure for the day and walking there seemed feasible. Thanks to the cool weather the walk was enjoyable, even though others would probably think I'm weird for doing so.
Nothing was going on when I arrived and I thought it might be closed, but within about 15 minutes workers showed up, the cars started running and we were on our way. The ticket to ride is either 50k one way or 70k for a return journey, not knowing what my options were on the other side I decided to go for the return ticket. I've done a few cable cards before but this one was pretty awesome, the views were incredible, I had the car completely to myself, and the ride lasted for a good 15 minutes.
Thankfully I don't have a major fear of heights because my little car was dangling high above the valley and trees below. As we floated through the sky I was afforded with magnificent views of the city to the right and behind me while the rest of the area was just vast fields of green. On the other side of the route passengers embark almost at the entrance to Truc Lam Monastery, entrance is free so there was no reason for me not to explore the grounds.
Aside from the impressive buildings, the monastery grounds are filled with peaceful pine forests, enormous bamboo patches, and beautiful flower gardens. I spent some time relaxing, getting stared at, and breathing in the clean mountain air before venturing back to the cable car office. I was in desperate need of a snack so ordered a cafe sua da (iced coffee with condensed milk) and enjoyed every sip of it. On this side of the cable car route, there's also an option to walk down to Tuyen Lam Lake but I decided I had enough lakes and walking for one day. Instead, I enjoyed my ride back and eventually found myself at the hostel where Peace greeted me with a warm welcome.
I did a quick walk through the Da Lat night market but decided I wasn't in the mood for crowds and getting yelled at. When I got back to the hostel Peace asked me if I'd share a drink with him so we sat in the lobby drinking beers and talking about life. This was ideal for me, meeting locals and learning more about their lives and ambitions (drinks optional). Peace is only 24 but already married with an adorable baby girl. I thought he was doing pretty well for himself, running the hostel but he shared his bigger plans with me. He hopes that he can move abroad (preferably America) to find work, send money home and one day have his wife and daughter join him. It was heartbreaking as he sounded very determined on this path but I know it would not be an easy one to follow. I hope he either finds comfort in running the hostel (it's pretty awesome and you should check it out if you're ever in Vietnam) or finds a way to make the rest of his dreams come true. For now, I'm just happy to have met him and wish the best for him and his family.
I was warned that I'd either love it or hate it. For some Vietnam is a food and adventure paradise while others just can't seem to find their grove. With a turbulent history and remains of division between north and south, it's an interesting place to say the least.