Solstice and I went for a 30 km guided mountain bike ride a few days back in the hills surrounding Dalat. The fresh air and scent of pine needles reminded me of the Yukon. On the way back into town I was really working it on the bike and struggling in the heat of the day when a 3 or 5 ton truck passed me with a bunch of young guys in the back laughing and joking. If this had occurred in 1971, the year I was born, roles could have been reversed with the young guys in the truck being white soldiers and the old guy on the bike being some local. How much can a country and its people change in 50 years?
The people here know they kicked American ass in, as they call it, "the American War" so people here carry themselves with a strong sense of pride. Yet although Vietnam's government is still communist, this place is capitalist with a big "C". "Tip money" is an oft-heard phrase and everything is for sale, from BBQ'd chicken feet to crocheted hats. The boys and I went on a tour of the Co Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong 70 km north if Saigon and we all took turns shooting an AK-47 at $1.00 a round.
We enjoyed a great day on the Mekong river.
Dalat was a favourite place for all of us, the air was fresh and the scenery reminded us of home. The kids especially enjoyed the roller coaster to the waterfall(thanks for the hot travel trip mac & Meg!) and the swan paddle boats!
And wait until you see the ladies' new silk dresses... Ooh la la! Even the boys and I had some new clothes tailored in Hoi An. The historic old town is filled not only with tailors but perhaps the best restaurants of our entire journey to date. Plus Hoi An has beautiful beaches and a pedestrian-only historic quarter with fully restored Chinese and Japanese buildings and more recent French colonial buildings. We were lucky enough to be in Hoi An for full moon when the town dims the electric lights and the streets are lit with colorful lanterns and townsfolk burning fake money for good luck.
We were able to drag ourselves away from the lovely old town and biked to the beach. We also went to Cham island one day. Sol, Manas and I went for a dive and, after snorkeling, Meera and Aleix went for a hike around the beautiful island. The water was frigid, Manas had to wear 3 wetsuits!
Our final days in Vietnam were spent in the historic city of Hue. The misty rain seemed to enhance our scenic walks along the broad Perfume river and visits to the imperial city and to Thien Mu Pagoda, a seven-storey Buddhist monument known for political protests.
The street life of Vietnam is as vibrant as any we've seen and that's one thing we have all enjoyed without having to pay a penny!