We were up with a pretty early alarm, checked out (by handing the keys to the lovely pool cleaner, who didn't understand a word of English) and strapped our bags on for the walk along the road to the Sinh Tourist office for our bus. Thankfully, the bus wasn't anywhere near full so we were able to spread out a little in hopes of maybe getting a nap. For once the bus actually left not just on time but early! It was a pretty bumpy ride so all hopes of a nap were dashed but we both had plenty podcasts downloaded to keep us going. 4 hours later, we arrived in to Đà Lạt on time and happily walked in the cool mountain air to our hotel, the Roy Dala Hotel.
Despite being two hours early, we were able to get checked in and headed straight for our room. Having had a packet of crackers for breakfast we were both beginning to get peckish so Craig did a bit of searching online and found Lien Hoa Bakery just along the road. Hoping for some nice fresh Banh Mi for lunch, we were instead greeted with what can only be described as a greasy spoon. We had a pen and bit of paper thrown down in front of us with our table number. Taking the hint, we wrote down our order (in Vietnamese, beautifully copied), before the paper was snatched away and we were finally presented with some fairly greasy food. We ate what we could before paying and leaving as quickly as we could. Only realising once we had left that nobody had actually spoken to us for the entire duration we were there which, we reckon, is actually pretty impressive.
After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to get the guidebook out to plan what we wanted to do for the next few days, this pretty much took most of the afternoon. A quick dinner and a fairly early night followed.
The next morning we were up early to head to the Kings Palace. Being 4km uphill, we opted to get a taxi there and walk back! We arrived before all the tour buses, which is always a bonus, and enjoyed wandering the grounds before exploring the actual palace. We didn't find the palace to be overly grand however, this didn't stop them insisting that you wear slippers (over your shoes!) to protect the flooring! The palace was built in 1940 and originally belonged to a French businessman until 1949 when it was bought by King Bao Dai and used as a headquarters and workplace for his officials. In 1956, the Ngo Dinh Dynasty used the palace as a residence for the president. It is now used as a tourist attraction.
Feeling the need for a coffee we headed to the Palace's coffee shop only to discover we were too early so we left the Palace and made our way to 24Hr Coffee (not closed!) for a pitstop. Refuelled, we headed to Đà Lạt Train Station, built in 1938 it is notable for its Art Deco influences (we agreed that it wasn't a patch on Napier in New Zealand). The real highlight for us both was the trains that we were able to explore - when people weren't using them for their instagram photoshoots of course!
After having our fill of trains we walked back to the hotel, taking our life into our own hands every time we crossed the road, which did include Craig nearly getting knocked down by a Hyundai i10 (although Craig insists that the car would have come off worse). We got freshened up and headed out for lunch just as the heavens opened! Abandoning our plans we jumped into the closest restaurant where we both had the Vietnamese beefsteak. After lunch, we had a very quiet afternoon whilst the rain poured outside until we ventured out for dinner at Bella Cellar.
The next morning we enjoyed a slow start before venturing out a coffee at the newly opened Cactus Coffee - we can definitely confirm that Vietnamese coffee is worth the hype!
After our coffee we headed to Xuan Huong Lake to enjoy the 7km circuit. We enjoyed it so much that we nearly walked around twice however, we were beginning to get a little peckish (and Craig a little sun-burnt) so we instead opted to find somewhere for lunch.
As we were wandering the streets we were summoned by a young Vietnamese family into a cafe who offered us free Vegan food, something they do every Sunday! They want to show people how tasty Vegan food can be and how much better for the environment it is (the jury is still out on this claim, and the irony definitely wasn't lost on us that it was served to us in polystyrene containers, inside a plastic bag). The food was good (although cold) but we insisted on giving them something for their generosity before heading back to the hotel.
Unfortunately once we were back at the hotel Katy started to feel pretty poorly and it wasn't long before we discovered she had food poisoning so the rest of the evening and the next day were pretty much a write off for us.
Feeling mostly recovered by dinner time the next day we headed out for the Đà Lạt Happy Tours food tour. We had an interesting selection of food stuffs. Starting off with Bánh Can, a fish sauce based soup, served with rice and egg yolk "cakes" - it was far tastier than it sounds, honest! This was Katy's favourite dish of the tour!
Next we had foetal quail eggs. Yes, they were as gross as they sound! We only had one each and that was more than enough. Thankfully given Katy's still slightly delicate state, our guide didn't fess up as to what they were until she had eaten hers! Thankfully we were also given a hot Soya Milk to wash this down with which, was a very odd flavour. As with most things here, far too much sugar had been added so it just tasted like the milk you have left over after a bowl of Frosties!
Next stop was the far tastier, a Đà Lạt pizza. Egg batter is cooked on top of rice paper over a charcoal stove and then toppings are added. Ours had cheese, bacon, sausage and spring onion. It wasn't at all what we were expecting when our guide mentioned pizza but it was absolutely delicious!
After our pizza it was time for pudding, avocado ice cream, although it was more like a scoop of coconut sorbet in some liquified avocado. Not quite what we were expecting however was the definite highlight of the evening for Craig.
The penultimate stop was to a street that had been converted into a cafe, with plastic seats and tables taking over the road, where we tried a mug of hot corn milk and hot peanut milk. They were very 'soupy' and even the guide didn't think it was a good sample of the breed!
We then finished with a fresh spring roll that was filled with shrimp, lettuce, egg, chilli sauce, turnip, carrot and cabbage. A little spicy for Katy but Craig enjoyed it (not enough to finish Katy's though)!
We were so glad we had decided to do the food tour and we tried so many things we would never have thought to try otherwise. Not all were good but we definitely found some gems. Post tour and pretty knackered we headed back to the hotel to get our bags packed and have an early night.
The next morning we had breakfast, checked out and got a Grab to the airport. Unfortunately, our flight was meant to leave at 14:10 however we didn't actually leave until 19:30 which meant the majority of our day was wasted sitting around a very small airport! Thankfully security was extremely lax and we could wander back out of the gate to get food, land side!
We were thrilled to arrive at our hotel in Hội An at 22:00 and quickly crashed out, after Craig had eaten a chicken Banh Mi for dinner!