Bao Dai's Summer Palace
Got up at 8am and headed over to breakfast where I had an omelette, a baguette, a banana and an orange cordial. Very nice. At 9am dropped off my washing to get done then joined everyone on the bus, headed for Bao Dai's Summer Palace. It was sad to see the Xuan Huong Lake, normally so beautiful, all drained and dry so construction work could be undertaken. The palace was built in 1933. Bao Dai was the 13th and last King of Vietnam; he handed over to the communist Ho Chi Minh. The palace was modern for its time and had a very Western feel as most of the family was educated in France. No squat toilets for them. The gardens had some lovely flowers growing; Y's favourite were the huge pale blue hydrangeas. Next stop was Hang Nga Crazy House, a surreal, Gaudi-esque architectural creation by Mrs Dang Viet Nga, who was the ticket seller today still, aged over 60 now.
She has a PhD in architecture from Moscow and has been building the place since 1990. The whole place resembled a giant tree with branches coming off every which way leading to different rooms named after animals including the kangaroo room! Next stop was the Cremaillere Railway Station, which has been largely closed since 1964 due to Viet Cong attacks, except for a small 8km section that has been open since 1997; unfortunately not running today however due to lack of passengers. It was pretty to take photos around nonetheless. We headed back to the the central market then and Y showed us the veggie section; very colourful, beautiful and nice-smelling, before she left us and the the rest of us headed to lunch at Artista Cafe on Le Dai Hanh where I had crispy fried noodles with veggies, and a delicious iced chocolate.
Headed to the Dalat flower gardens then (admission 10,000D) which was established in 1966. They had all kinds of beautiful flowers growing there including hydrangeas, azaleas, roses, marigolds, and my favourite - orchids, which were housed in a big greenhouse type structure on the top of a hill to the right inside the entrance. There were beautiful orchids of all sizes and colours, tiny delicate pale ones to huge brash loud-coloured ones. The flower festival was back in Feb and I'm sure the whole place would have looked a lot nice then. Then decided to head the long way back to town by going around the rest of the lake - 7km total. It was a very long hot tiring walk in the blazing sun and I got quite sunburnt. We passed by a lot of construction sites including one for the Richlands Museum (history, culture etc) which I think will be good when it opens.
Y and her favourite flower - hydrangea
We stopped at the Mai restaurant for an icecream on the way back to the hotel, then spent the next few hours just kicking back, showering, and applying aloe vera to my sunburn. Met up with everyone at 7pm and as K was sick of Vietnamese food (she was by day 2...) we decided to head to V Cafe (recommended by LP) which was nearby on a street parallel to our hotel. The menu had a good mix of Asian and international cuisine and the place had a nice ambience to it with soft blues/jazz music playing. I opted for the quesadillas, as did K, and a pineapple juice. I really enjoyed my meal. Headed straight back to the hotel with M after that, and to bed.