We were working our way down Vietnam by train. The trains are a very reasonable way to travel and easy to book once you've worked out the various classes - hard seat, hard seat with aircon, soft seat, soft seat with aircon etc.
We had decided to head off to Dalat in the mountains - the only way there is really by bus. We caught one of the dire open tour buses. They are crowded, stop every 5 minutes to pick up every waif and stray that the driver knows and are hardly ever air conditioned, despite what the tourist offices say. So sure enough, on our open tour bus to Dalat from Nha Trang, our 5 hour journey became a 6 hour journey but as long as you don't mind this and expect it, then all is fine.
Our Hotel were as good as their word. We'd booked them by email and sure enough there was someone from the hotel there to pick us up and in fact we were being whisked away to our hotel before many of the people had even collected their luggage. We had chosen the Dreams Hotel (email - firstname.lastname@example.org). It was great value for money, clean and close to town.
After an initial mooch around Dalat, we ate in the restaurant across the road - HNL Famille restaurant, great food and very friendly staff.
We'd come to Dalat to see a different side to Vietnam and to get some adrenaline pumping round our bodies again. Dalat is certainly different - its unlike any other place in Vietnam. Its way up in the Central Highlands but it caters for all types of tourist, from backpackers to plush hotels. Its also a favourite haunt of Vietnamese artists but its certainly the jewel in the mountains.
We booked our 2 days of adrenaline pumping action with Phat Tire Ventures (http://www.phattireventures.com). This is a good, reliable outfit with keen locals itching to show you a good time. But the guides are also thoroughly trained and red cross certified and they can all speak English, French and some Japanese. They offer various tours ranging from a gentle cycle around the outskirts of town to a full on, ass-kicking downhill ride of 120km to Mui Nhe Beach. We opted for a 2 day tour, consisting of canyoning followed by a day of mountain biking.
Our first day started with a gentle abseil down a dry cliff to some water below. The day just got better and better. This was followed by a gentle abseil on some dripping rocks, this was quickly followed up by some serious waterfalls to abseil down - very wet and fantastic fun! Our guides were always finding something new to thrill us with.
The picture below is one of us abseiling down into the "Washing Machine" - and in case your wondering, yes the rope was a little short and yes we just dropped off the end of the line straight into this flurry of a waterfall. The current is such that you just pop out the other end, but great fun, especially as you go down, no one at the top can see you and realises that rope is short (deliberately so). Great fun, a real buzz!
We had a "rest" at a smaller waterfall but our guides found a way that we could keep moving, even on gentle watefalls - they'd discovered a slide within the waterfall, that with some gentle coaxing, your body could be persuaded to take the right direction down the shoot into the water below - see video below.
The 2nd day was equally as good, with great downhills and some punishing uphills on our mountain bikes. The scenery was amazing and we loved every minute of both days - Ace!
We can highly recommend the guys at Phat Tire Ventures (PTV), they keep good quality kit, both for canyoning and mountain biking, they are all an extremely professional bunch but who make sure that you have a great time, whatever tour you decide to do. So if your going to Dalat, the best way to see more of the mountains is with these guys. Do it!