Friday, 16 March 2018

Vietnam, day 15: Friendship Pho Breakfast!

Da Lat, Vietnam
28 May 2017
Before heading out for another day's exploration, we packed up and checked out. We would be taking an overnight bus to Hoi An that evening, so we asked the front desk if we could leave our bags there for the day and they were very accommodating. The girl working at reception inquired as to whether we had eaten breakfast yet, and if she could take us out.
She brought us a few doors down to Rosemary Café, a quaint little place with the menus laid out on old records! We ordered drinks, and she popped out for a moment to order some pho from a nearby eatery (just for Yannick, as I don't usually eat breakfast, and she had eaten before work).

Her name was Tho, and we chatted for a while. She was practising her English on us, and was very good! Studying International Relations at university, she was looking forward to travelling to Singapore and Thailand. After a few minutes, a father with his small daughter entered the café with Yannick's pho - they had delivered! Tho was very sweet, and not only paid for our breakfast, but also complimented my eyes.

As we had heard tale of the many hikes that could be undertaken in the area, we visited the tourist information site to try to procure a map, but it was closed. We traipsed around the town inquiring at tour agencies, but they had no maps either. Instead, we decided to take a walk around Xuan Huong Lake.

There was also a road encircling the lake, so it wasn't exactly a nature walk like we had been hoping for, but the scenery was still pleasant. Many motorbikes zoomed down the road, often with two or three people aboard as is commonplace in Vietnam.

Sometimes people would park right by the water to have a snack or (in the case above) to shave using their motorbike's wing mirror.

Occasionally we happened across some fishing spots, but the lines didn't seem very active.

The far side of the lake (from the town centre) felt a bit more upscale, with a fancy restaurant and sculpted gardens. There was less hubbub on this side, though we continued to be passed by horse-drawn carriages bearing tourists along the waterfront. On our way back into the centre, I noticed that the sunscreen had detonated in my tote bag, but we mopped up the mess with tissues and found that luckily not all the sunscreen had ejected itself from the bottle, so we could remain burn-free. 

Concluding our stroll, we stopped at Windmills Cafe for refreshments, which confidently claimed to be "the best coffee shop in Dalat".

The interior was very modern, with plenty of glass, potted plants and dangling light bulbs. The café was situated on the second floor, right above the tourist information office, and we had a great vantage point for people-watching while sipping our teas and coffees. 

We noticed that the retaining wall across the street had been painted with an array of murals, and that it was a popular spot for touristic photos. So after we finished at Windmills, we went over to take some of our own photos! (Side note: look at me, wearing a scarf and cardigan in Vietnam - unheard of!)

For lunch we supped at Da Quy restaurant. Upon entering, we were surprised to find that we were the only patrons, and the lady who ran the place was eating with her family. I almost felt like I was intruding, but she quickly ushered us over to a table (and had to remove a child's stuffed toy from Yannick's seat - how cute!). The price was very reasonable so we ordered more dishes than was typical for us: morning glory, stir fried veggies with tofu, spring rolls, and chicken. Licking our lips after the delicious meal, we went in search of a supermarket to purchase snacks for the overnight bus.

Along the way, our attention was drawn by an adorable fluffy puppy curled up sleepily on a table outside a motorbike repair shop. I wanted to pet him so badly, but also didn't want to disturb him. Doesn't he look so soft?!
After wandering for a while and not finding much, I decided to ask for help at a tourist agency. A group of people flocked together to discuss my question, and then pointed to a man who allegedly spoke English, but he was busy on the phone. Then, a kid rocked up on his bike and he told us where to go. They were so helpful, but unfortunately we couldn't find anything that appealed to us in the supermarket (blast our Western tastes).

Shortly afterwards, we happened across a random street with several fruit and veggie vendors, and bought a bag of grapes for the journey. Success!

It was a very atmospheric street; a bit dusty, with awnings hanging everywhere, and a kid playing around on his dad's parked motorbike. We agreed that this street should be mentioned in Lonely Planet, as it made for an interesting detour and wasn't far from the main roundabout in town.

Even the street that connected the main drag to the fruit and veggie backstreet was a sight in itself, with tubs of shellfish laying out, bright signs advertising for street food, and motorcyclists puttering along the cobblestones.

In one little corner store, there was a tiny child gazing out at the world with wonder and confusion. The shop was so small that the owner had taken to hanging loads of gum (and anything else they could dangle) from the ceiling.
We then tested our luck at finding Voulez Vous café, but we ended up staring at a construction site and figured that either we had the wrong address or it had been demolished.

So, back to Rosemary Café we went! I was digging all the homemade sodas in Da Lat, which reminded me of the abundance of homemade lemonades in Prague. We ordered a passionfruit one and a blueberry one, and read for a little while.
When our time was up, we returned to our hotel where we hugged Tho goodbye, and caught our shuttle to the bus station.

The bus was the same set up as the last overnight bus we had taken, although this time we were on the top bunks! Soon after setting off for Hoi An, darkness fell and a huge storm unleashed its fury upon us with lashings of rain and thunder. The roads were very narrow, and many busses were overtaking us. At one point we barely escaped a head-on collision with a lorry. We discovered afterwards that apparently these sleeper busses aren't exactly the safest option, and most foreign tourists opt for trains or private cars instead. Well...when in Rome? (But yeah nah, we're not getting on one of those again.)