A Long Sleep in a Small Hotel

Expanded Excerpts from my Little Blue Book

Crossing into Vietnam from Cambodia was a drawn out, boring process. The guidebook had warned of extensive baggage searches, which fortunately was not the case. We were warned not to take photos though. After well over an hour in hot and sticky tin shacks, we met got onto the minibus bound for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

No Description
Scooters dominate the streets of Saigon, and when the rain comes down in sheets, ponchos shelter multiple riders.

The weather was rainy and hot, and I had started to feel somewhat sick. I was exhausted, but fortunately, I was able to hand all the decision making regarding a place to sleep in Saigon to Jessica and Marcus, a cool Canadian couple that I met on the bus. The decision was tortuous indeed, and after going to two different hotels which seemed to us to be far too friendly, then being shunted across the road to another hotel we decided to get some food before finding somewhere to stay. I'd only had breakfast and a packet of coconut crackers all day and was weak with hunger. Fortunately for us we found a restaurant with a cool hotel just across the road.

No Description
The Allez Boo restaurant in Saigon, one of the more humorous consequences of a French colonial past.

The rain almost stopped once that night. The weather forecast said that Saigon would remain rainy for the rest of the week and Dalat would be dry, so I decided not to stay in Saigon. We went out for a beer, but I headed home almost immediately, feeling sick. I bought my ticket to Dalat wrote some postcards home then went to bed.

I woke to a bright sunny morning, but got on the bus nonetheless. It was almost empty, and I was able to stretch out and sleep for most of the trip to Dalat. By the time we reached Dalat I was well and truly sick. I just had the energy to struggle off the bus and into a hotel room where I collapsed on the bed and slept restlessly for 18 hours. Restlessly because I had to get out of bed every hour or so to visit the toilet. I saw the doctor the next day and was diagnosed with food poisoning. He gave me black pills, white pills and yellow pills to take.

No Description
The highland city of Dalat, with its replica Eiffel Tower, was built almost from scratch by the French and has a very European feel to it.

I barely left the hotel that day, but the next day I finally had the strength to go walkabout in Dalat. The place is the major tourist destination for Vietnamese people and the top spot for honeymooners. It was built by the French and the cool weather of the place was wonderful. The city declared neutrality during the Vietnam war and so survived unscathed.

No Description
The cliche that happens to be true: It seems that all the old women in Vienam wear yellow conical hats.

Walking around I met a motorcycle guide named Buddha, and arranged for him to take me on a short tour the next day.

No Description
A woman sells sweet potatoes on the street in Dalat.

I was still feeling weak, and so was only able to be out for a couple of hours before heading back to the hotel. The hotel staff were wonderful. They looked after me, bringing me tea and making healthy food for me - a rice and onion porridge that tasted somewhat bland, but which I was able to digest. I went to bed feeling exhausted, and I was going through books and batteries for my CD player at a frightening rate.

No Description
What would be thrown out in the West is repaired in Vietnam: A man goes about his work restoring rice cookers to their former glory.

I woke the next morning at 5:30am to the sound of a bugle playing some kind of military 'get out of bed' music, then there was a lot of loud orchestral music at about 6:30. A confusing way to wake up to be sure. I left the hotel to check my email and saw a long procession of cars and vans decorated with flowers. They were all following a truck that had been wrapped in yellow cloth and ornately decorated with wreaths and flags.

No Description
I never did find out what was going on here, but it seems likely that it may have been a funeral.

I met with my guide at about 10am, and we went off to Paradise Lake, a large reservoir and damn. Buddha told me that this is the place that couples decide to get married, or if they are married, they decide how many children they will have.

No Description
Ga Sun, a member of the Ga Ha minority hill tribe weaves silk to make a tablecloth.

I walked for about a mile, stopping at a stall where a member of an ethnic minority hill tribe was weaving a silk tablecloth. I bought a beautiful silk blanket from her, and then sat on the hill looking down at the lake for an hour or so. I realised that I had no more energy, and got Buddha to take me back to the hotel. When he started aggressively negotiating with me for the next day's touring, I decided I really didn't want him as a guide. He dropped me off at the hotel, where I crashed in bed for a couple more hours sleep.

No Description
A small shrine in Dalat.

After a nap I went into town again and bought a coat. Riding on the back of a motorcycle made me realise that it was pretty cold up in the mountains. Dalat is 1500 meters above sea level. I negotiated with a driver named Lee who seemed a much nicer person, if a little less photogenic and a little more expensive. As the evening came to a close I went for another quick walk around the town. In the school across from the hotel there was a large group of children and teenagers practicing martial arts, both unarmed and using wooden swords and staves. I watched for a while then headed back to the hotel and to a much needed bed.

No Description
A crowd sits in a cafe watching television late at night