Today just me and Liz were to be going for what was described in the brochure as an ‘easy’ trek with a local guide. This was to be a ‘simple’ 12km jaunt across Vietnamese countryside and farmland. Our guide turned up promptly enough for the tour at around 9ish and he seemed a really nice guy. For our trip he had turned up with a driver and informed us that we would be driven to our drop off point and collected from another point (12km away) after having lunch along the way – what could be easier? Our guide was called Tyke – at least that is what it sounded like anyhow – and it turned out this means Rock in Vietnamese. During the walk he told us he was considering to become a Buddhist monk and he felt that when the time was right he would take up the robes and join a monastery – cool guide eh!
Our ‘drop zone’ was not too far out from Dalat, the houses were just thinning out and the farms and forests were taking over. We were left at the bottom of a hill which was slightly ominous to my mind at least. Here was the start of the walk and Tyke took us through the small village at the early start of the climb. He kept stopping to show us what the locals were growing and explaining to us why each of the plants were being grown. A lot of people simply seemed to enjoy growing flowers but like back home, others had more exotic tastes. One or two of the villagers were growing coffee beans which would undergo the same weasel, excrement combination that we had seen used so successfully in other places – yuk! Tyke was really interesting in telling the story about the farmers and how they struggle to survive. He did not seem to mind being quizzed by my wife about his wanting to become a Buddhist monk, he just felt that he was at the right stage of his life where he wanted to make a commitment to his faith and felt disciplined enough to take such a big commitment. He seemed to have really thought it all through very carefully. He said he did not want to end up like a number of his friends and felt that Buddhism would give the chance to offer him an alternative pathway not only of enlightenment but also it seemed of education as well.
Once through the village we started upon the serious climbing section of the walk – remember this was the ‘easy’ walk folks – but what it lacked in ease it more than made up for with the views of both Dalat and its surrounding hills.
At the top, where the views were best our guide told us the touching tale of how two of the mountains ended up being named after two lovers along bit of a Romeo and Juliet theme but ut was quite a cool tale too. Then we went back down the other side of the hill, through the jungle. Our guide, remember his name means ‘Rock’ was less than rocklike when explaining to us about the ‘lecks’ that we had to be wary of in the forest. ‘Lecks’, we found out as we walked are actually leeches. Every so many steps our guide would check his legs and feet to ensure they were all leechless and this kind of behaviour becomes infectious after a while so every few steps we were all at it. All three of us were walking a few steps then bending crouching, checking and then walking again and ….Well, needless to say Rock – with a girly shriek – found one but pulled it off before it got attached, so from then on our checks actually doubled in frequency!
The walk was under the trees and a good one plus, even better, after a while in the treetops we saw some really large creatures that our guide described as being ‘weasels’ but they really seemed more monkey-like than weasely to us. I have looked it up since and am still not greatly any the wiser but my ‘bet’ would be on it being a civet – possibly.
One of them employed in creating coffee probably! Soon after this wildlife spotting, I managed to go ‘arse over tit’ – the technical term for taking a fall – this was at a very treacherous part of the pathway. However, despite my wife and the guide’s panic, only my pride had been wounded so onwards we continued. At the bottom of the hill we reached a campsite by a lake with a picnic area and it was here that our guide magically produced the lunch he had been carrying in his backpack all along. This was a welcome treat and really nice bit of lunch too, some filled crusty roll sandwiches followed by fresh fruit and biscuits too, what more could we want?
Once we had eaten, our guide took us to a boat we were to use to across the lake we had just had our lunch by. On the other side we were met by our driver of earlier in the day who took us first to Paradise Lake and then to the Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) monastery. The lake was okay and more of a site for new holiday chalets but at the monastery our guide was in his element and he was definitely the best person you could have along with you for this part of the trip. He was really interesting not only talking about the subject matter in front of us at the monastery but also how it related to him personally with respect to him wanting to devote himself to Buddhism later in life.
The temple itself was quite opulent with golden Buddhas and a golden Stupa as well as some other really cool statues. The temple tour though was to be the last part of the walking tour before our driver picked us all up and dropped the two of us back at our hotel.
Our first action once back was to have ourselves a bit of a sleep in order to rejuvenate ourselves before the night’s events. The night turned out to be a much more sedate affair than we thought as we all walked into town to a Vietnamese Vegetarian restaurant for tea.
Now this was not as absolutely horrific as I thought it might be, some of the dishes were actually quite palatable and fortunately I do not think that there was any lasting damage to my love of eating meat. I did look a bit pasty the next day though but Liz strenuously denies this! After eating, me, Liz, Sue, Lucy, James (English Veggie) and Phuong all went back to the hotel and whilst our host went to bed the rest of us stayed up to play a few games of pool which my wife and I managed to lose against Sue and James. The pool game was full of double entendres and smutty innuendo and Sue trying to apologise for thinking that I looked like Marty Feldman which must have been the final straw to put me right out of my stride – well that’s my excuse … lol.