Barb and I are now in Da Lat, Vietnam. We are staying in the Dalat Palace, which is a gorgeous early twentieth century hotel with high ceilings, elegant hallways, claw footed tubs and a bronze rotary dial telephone on the vanity! Well deserved if I do say so – we were up at 2:30 am for a 06:00 flight. With the TET holidays, everyone in this country is travelling it seems and the flight was delayed to around 8 besides. We were tired and kinda cranky by the time we landed in Da Lat so the hotel came as a most pleasant surprise. I can appreciate and even really enjoy sleek modern hotels but I adore the “Heritage” places – they certainly appeal to the romantic in me. In this case I suspect that the excellent wine list I glanced at will add delightfully to the ambiance.
Saigon is a bustling, vibrant modern city with more scooters and motorcycles than I have ever seen in my life. It is also a very young city, population wise and I suspect that will apply to the country as a whole – the vast majority of people we have seen seem to be under 40 and everyone has babies in tow. Makes for “lively” flights! Our guide Tam was explaining some of the differences in dress and behaviour between people from the south and the north. Saigon is the economic engine and Hanoi is the government seat, the one is more “modern and relaxed” while the latter is more conservative. Still, I really enjoyed seeing a lot of the women still wearing the traditional Ao Dai – a long panelled tunic over trousers
Friday we toured the Cu Chi tunnels which are just about 40 km. from the city. There are approximately 250 km of these tunnels and while it has become very touristy indeed, if you manage to get past all that the exhibits and dioramas are quite affecting. Regardless of the politics involved, or anyones’ opinions thereon – the Vietcong endured incredible hardships and developed an ingenious underground architecture over a 20/25 year period to achieve their goals. The surreal and bizarre aspect of the tour i have to say, is the live round shooting range where anyone can shoot off a couple of rounds from an AK47, a Kalashnikov, or Jeep mounted heavy caliber something or other. My interest in weapons while lively is entirely academic – I had no interest in getting into that particular trench! Needless to say it is a great money maker and probably uses up an awful lot of old ammunition. Although doesn’t ammunition have an expiry date or something?