Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dalat digs

A couple of weeks ago Retire 2 Thailand was calling for alternative retirement locations and fond memories of Da Lat, Vietnam came to mind. Then more recently American Vietnamese was blogging about university student housing in HCMC (Saigon) and of course I had to add my two bobs worth about our experience with the same, but in Da Lat
Earlier this year we caught up with an old, young friend, Dung, in the picturesque mountain city of Da Lat (a MUST SEE).
I would have to say that Da Lat is on my very short list of favourite cities. It is located in Lam Dong province and much of it's French beginnings are still very evident. The township, which surrounds a central man made lake, is encompassed by sprawling hilly farms. The climate is a refreshing cool to cold.
Looking down on Da Lat city
Ms Dung had been tracking our whereabouts and checking on our well being by email/messenger since we had arrived in Vietnam. She is a real darling, still working hard and now engaged to be married. We met for dinner twice, at restaurants, but not at her home. Stray in his subtle as a brickness asks, more than once..."Can we come to your place for dinner?"

Dung replies, "yes, no, maybe...but my place is ssssoooooooo small!"  and politely changes the direction of the conversation.

Stray thinks this is some sort of excuse for her domestic inadequacies and jokes, "Why...can't you cook?"

Dung reiterates the fact that her place is REALLY SMALL. We say, we don't care, and we really don', we are cordially invited to dinner.

Stray and I take in a day of sight seeing. That evening Dung texts us her address, which isn't her actual address, but just a prominent landmark on the street, which any taxi driver will recognise. A primary school I think. We arrive, pay the driver and get out. The streets were well lit and abuzz with young people....hundreds and hundreds of them, eating, drinking, walking, talking, buying, selling. We were definitely in a student zone.

Dung and friends find us and lead us down dark allies, into nooks and crannies, up stairs and around corners. All the while we are receiving odd stares and smiles as we pass by the locals, who must be wondering what the hell we are doing there. We arrive at one of many doorways of the two or three storey building and are invited in. It was crowded with all eight of us conjesting the entrance. I waited for our next move, to be ushered into an adjoining room....except there wasn't one. That was it...the end of the through road.

At this moment, I feel like bursting into tears...I know she said 'small', but this was a bit of a shock, to me. Stray reassures me later, in private, "'s perfectly adequate", but the Mum in me doesn't believe him I want to stuff her into my luggage and smuggle her back home. 

This was off campus student accommodation, a room of about 2.5 square metres. Basically its like a upper double bed bunk, which not only holds the bed, but a possible TV or computer, clothes and any other worldly possessions.

The upper bed forms the roof/ceiling of a closed in bathroom (the internal white door to the right, in the video) and an open cooking area, not much bigger than a crack in the wall, to the left. Just inside the front door is space for a tiny teeny table and matching chairs. This particular room was occupied by Dung's (two) male student friends.

Taken from the other side of the room ;)
Dung's place was the same, but newer and painted in modern colours.

The kids had organised a steamboat dinner. We huddled around the doll house size table and dunked assorted ingredients into a bubbling pot of soup balanced precariously on a gas burner in the centre of our spread.

This is a short video of that night, taken from outside on the balcony. Never mind Stray's poor Vietnamese or the kid's obvious lack of understanding about 'washing/cleaning up'...because, evidently all can be solved with a small mandarin.

Squishy surrounds aside, this was one of the best nights of my life!


tom yam said... Best Blogger Tips

Don't they say less is more? It's exactly experiences like this that give meaning to travel to other countries and cultures.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips I pack up our belongings I am wishing I had adapted the 'less is more' approach, many years ago.

And yes, I totally agree that these instances really make for treasured memories and remind me what's really important in life.

PS. Can hardly wait until your next transit installment!