We booked another Open Bus ticket back to Ho Chi Minh city from Ha Noi telling the travel agent we only wanted to stop and stay over in Da Lat. This would involve 2 nights in a row on the sleeper bus. We picked up the bus in Ha Noi Tuesday night at 7pm sleeping through the night arriving in Hoi An the next morning. We would have a 5 hour layover before catching the next night bus to Nha Trang transferring to another bus for 4 hours up to Da Lat. Apparently the agent in Ha Noi didn’t contact the bus office in Hoi An so when we arrived and tried to confirm our tickets, the next bus was already full!!! We weren’t too happy about that as we’d now not have the option of staying in Da Lat a second night if we liked or the option of staying with Tuyet’s family in Vung Tao longer. We quickly had to book another hotel in Da Lat for the following night (eating the cost of the already booked hotel the next night in Da Lat) AND book a hotel for that night in Hoi An. All in all there certainly aren’t worse places to be stuck a night. We loved Hoi An and enjoyed biking around the old town again and even exploring one the islets across the bridge for a bit.
The next night we caught the bus at 6pm to Nha Trang transferring to a smaller van to Da Lat the next morning. Da Lat is way up in the mountains of south central Vietnam. The ride was difficult on those of us who can suffer from motion sickness. 🙂 We finally arrived around noon and quickly grabbed our jackets! Da Lat is blessed with very mild weather. It was about 70 and raining. We were not used to that after almost 2 months of 90+ and humid. Da Lat is where the French colonials vacationed to get away from the heat. It is where Vietnamese go for their honeymoons.
Da Lat is very pleasant, small, and quaint. We had a good time spending a night there walking around that afternoon and even taking a paddle boat ride in the lake. The market and all the food was amazing. We really enjoyed just walking from stall to stall and trying all the food.
The next morning we caught a 7:30am bus for Ho Chi Minh city via Mui Ne on the beach; van down the mountain to Mui Ne then sleeper bus to HCMC. The stated arrival time in HCMC was 3pm. One thing we have learned during our travels in SE Asia is that the departure time means “this is the time you should begin to wait for your train or bus”. The arrival time is purely there to fill the spot on the printed schedule in lieu of it being blank. I think only about 3 times in our travels have we arrived less then 30 minutes later than stated. So if you plan on using the trains or busses to get around SE Asia on your travels, keep that in mind. What you may believe to be a 4 hour journey can easily end up being 6, 7, or 8 hours +. So don’t plan anything else for the same day you plan on traveling. 🙂
We finally made it to HCMC at 8pm that night… 12 1/2 hours later…. 5 hours late. 🙂 We checked into our hotel and grabbed a quick dinner down a little alley near the hotel. The next morning we slept in, checked out, then walked to the tallest building in HCMC; the 68 floor Bitexco Financial Building. We had learned that instead of paying $10 per person to go up to the observation deck on the 49th floor, go into the main entrance and ask to go to the cafe on the 50th floor. They let you up for free and you can get a drink for about $6 per person instead. There’s also a restaurant on floor 51 and a bar open at night on floor 52.
After soaking in the view and 2 drinks, we went back to the alley by our hotel for lunch then waiting for Tuyet’s uncle to pick us up. Down at the family digs, we treated all the kids to a showing of Jurassic World at the local theater. Then we came home for cake for Tia’s birthday. 🙂 She was very happy to have a mini birthday party with her second cousins.
It’s been a month and three weeks since we left LA and traveled through Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It has been quite an experience. Now it’s time to say goodbye to Asia. Tomorrow, Monday June 22nd we fly to Prague in the Czech Republic. HELLO EUROPE!
See you there.