VB and I awoke to our last day of our biking trip and were excited by what else we would see today as we had a pretty full schedule ahead. Hung and Lam were ready to collect us from the hotel and off we were to our first destination Datanla which was kinda like an amusement park with touristy gardens and small waterfalls within it. We rode on a type of rollercoaster type of ride where you were driving the cart - instructions on the braking system in Vietnamese when we had no knowledge of the local language was amusing - luckily the Hung and Lam translated to us.
Our next stop was to the very scenic Dai Ninh lake which we had been told was loosely translated by the locals to be Paradise lake. There were some beautiful views here and it was very peaceful with a few temples also built by the lake which was frequented by the locals.
This was quite pretty and we saw some very unique flowers hanging off the vines - we hadn't been able to identify them, but they looked quite bizarre. We then went off to visit the famous Crazy House where a local architect who studied abroad decided to unleash her creativity onto a project with this free-form art house. It's almost cartoon like in character, and it was pretty funny wandering through it. However, we felt a little bit at home when we found the room with the kanagaroo in it :-)
Following this, we headed off to a local coffee plantation where we checked out the coffee beans and saw how these were harvested. Hung and Lam then started telling us about the special weasel coffee where the local rodents consume the coffee beans and then expel them.
Some poor bugger then goes around collecting the coffee beans, and then cleans them up, and then they are ground into what is apparently supposed to be very fragrant coffee. Sounds very bizarre - so I decided that I wanted to try it, and if we came across it during our trip, but alas we didn't - so this is still on my list of things to do the next time around. We also stopped by a mushroom plantation which was also quite strange to see - all different shapes and sizes hanging from the roof of darkened rooms.
And our last site to see before heading to Dalat airport and return back to Ho Chi Minh, was the much heralded Elephant Falls.
Dalat city with some beautiful French architecture buildings
VB and I noted that the public safety amongst the tourist sites was pretty much non-existent. Safety fencing, carved out steps/paths etc were replaced instead by very old and frail looking "caution" signs and thankfully we were being escorted by Hung and Lam to assist us down the very steep, muddy and slippery face of the mountain to get to a perfect vantage point to hear and feel the rush of the Elephant Falls. We did pass a couple of other foreign tourists who must had unfortunately fallen on their way down to the rocks edge as their pants were covered in yellow/tan dirt and mud which looked quite unattractive. Luckily, VB and I managed to clamer down the rocks without incident and we did feel that the view was worth the clumsy trek down the rock face.
En route to Dalat airport we did a final stop at a local village hut to see how rice paper was being made and dried out. Seems like the locals can become quite creative to work out how to generate an income.
So now we had come to the end of our Easy Rider trip and Hung and Dalat were dropping us at Dalat airport and were going to see us off. As we arrived there, Hung noticed that one of the travellers also arriving at the airport was a local celebrity who was apparently quite famous in the music circles in Vietnam, and she, Silk Black, was pulling up in a taxi and also checking in for a flight. VB and I were orgainising our belongings from the bikes with the help of Lam, whilst Hung wandered off to say hello to Silk Black. Minutes later, Hung arrives back with Silk Black, beaming with a grin from ear to ear.
He introduces Silk Black to us both, and as it turns out, Silk Black speaks a little bit of English. She was very welcoming and seemed excited to hear that we were from Australia and we find out that she grew up in the Highlands area and is a contemporary singer.
We find out that she is on the same flight as us going to Ho Chi Minh and we decide to all grab a coffee together whilst we wait for our flight. At this point in time, as VB and I had absolutely no idea who Silk Black was, we found it mildly amusing that Hung seemed to be quite taken aback by the fact that she was talking to all of us. When we asked what type of music she sang, Hung was saying that he was a big fan and somehow Silk started singing what must have been one of her favourite songs, and Hung joined in - here we had a duet happening right in front of us.
It was really quite remarkable. At this point, we did see several people looking over at us - people working at the airport and some travellers - and a number of them appeared to look and look back at us. Then, as we walked over to the coffee shop, a couple of the staff at the airport came up to Silk to say hello and even to obtain autographs on a napkin! At this point in time, VB and I decided that she really must be famous!
When we were chatting, Silk told us that she was going to Ho Chi Minh to be on TV later that evening - yes - on New Years Eve. She asked us what we had planned, and we were planning to meet back up with our host friend Anne, later that evening for drinks and a bit of a NYE countdown at a local nightclub.
So she invited us to go along to the taping of the TV show that she was appearing on - which happened to be Vietnam Idol! They were down to the last three contestants and it would be very exciting etc. We exchanged phone numbers and Silk arranged for her assistant to organise tickets for us to collect that evening at the hall where the show was being filmed. VB and I were pretty excited now and we chatted happily about our evening ahead to watching Idol (although we spoke no word of Vietnamese between us!) and then joining Anne for drinks later in the evening. At this point in time, we were then beseiged by loads more autograph/photo hunters to which Silk very generously and patiently obliged - VB and I were mildly amused that we had absolutely no idea who this person really was.
....ignorance is bliss! As we were boarding the plane, I was asked to video tape a lady and her little girl saying hello to Silk - so it seems she was quite well known over in Dalat!
We said our goodbyes to Hung and Lam and we were sad to leave our motorbike buddies who had given us such a memorable trip. Who knows - maybe one day we will be back for another trip. Our flight back to Ho Chi Minh was farily quick and before we knew it - we were back in the world of nice fluffy pillows and comfy beds. We parted ways with Silk who was eagerly encouraging us to get to the hall where the TV show was being filmed quickly so we could meet with her before the show. We got back to our hotel to hot running water, baths, fluffy bathrobes and beautiful comfy beds.
Ate a very quick meal in our room and got changed into our NYE party outfits and headed off to Vietnam Idol. As Silk had predicted, her assistant was waiting out the front of the hall with our tickets and escorted us into our seats. The vibe was pretty cool - but we had absolutely no idea what was going on. But we found it remarkable that all the same music, same format of having three judges, pre-performance interviews etc was the same in Vietnam as it was in Australia and the US. It was just a novelty that it was all in Vietnamese. We watched the show and perfromances and were pretty impressed by it. After the show, we jumped into a taxi and headed to the nightclub where we danced our way into 2009 in the company of loads of other Vietnamese locals as well as visting tourists.