shuttled early out of Nha Trang three hours south to the turnoff
for Dalat. Minh played a Christmas carol tape and it was funny to
think it was Christmas Eve as we drove into Vietnam's low desert
area. The sun was bright and it was satisfying to see everyone lathering
on sunscreen. After a brief stop at Po Nagar Cham ruins and photos
of the cactus fields we saddled up and filed down the road for what
would be an all-day truly epic ride.
miles up the road past poor rice villages, a few inhabited by Vietnam's
Cham population, lies the Ngoan Muc Pass that snakes for ten long
miles up onto the Central Highlands Plateau. For those who had not
had enough by then, there would be another five mile climb after
that to reach Dalat.
sweltering heat felt good as the sweat rolled off. The lighter traffic
on this side road was an extra bonus. Horst was soon gone, as was
Jim -- flying up the pass and leaving the rest of us to push one
leg at a time. By the top of Ngoan Muc, clouds had rolled in and
the weather cooled a lot. A few of us opted for the van having already
spent several hours in the saddle. Barbara determinedly pedaled
onto our rendezvous with bus, finishing the hardest ride of her
most of the group went on and finished the ride in semi-darkness.
David spent 8 hours in the saddle - the longest, and hardest ride
he had ever done. We celebrated an epic riding day and Christmas
Eve with beers, hot pot soup and rice wine Tim and Barbara had picked
next day we explored Dalat under sunny skies in T-Shirts, rolling
past the ubiquitous villas, pine forests, strawberry and coffee
fields to the Valley of Love - a popular destination of Saigon tourists.
evening we had a delcious Christmas meal in the city center where
Santa took the form of Debbi and David who doled out presents to
the group, including a can of Texas Spam to Ichibod who had earlier
claimed there was no finer training food.
here for more Dalat photos]
has been described as both the "petite Paris" and as the
"Disneyland" of Vietnam. No matter what yeor opinion,
Dalat is definitely Vietnam's most intriguing city. A former French
Hillstation, Dalat was built up with hundreds of villas as an escape
from Saigon's heat but was also a popular hunting destination.
we approached the Po Nagar Cham ruins near Phan Rang, Tim was inspired
to perform some Tai Chi. It was that kind of day for all of us.
working on road detail near Phan Rang ham it up during a break. Hot?
Their helmets were also for sale as souvineers.
half way up the pass. Nuts, sodas, bananas and sticky rice to fuel
tired legs as Barbara contemplates the climb ahead.
and David wind thier way up ten mile Ngoan Muc Pass into the Central
Highlands. The day would be much longer with David arriving in Dalat
over four hours later.
pine forests cover the red earth hills around Dalat -- if not for
the hundreds of French villas and maze of boulevards it could be
explores Hang Nga's treehouse, called the "crazy house"
by locals, it is a maze of passages, wacky statues and caged animals.
It also serves as a guesthouse with theme rooms.
has a very large Catholic population, some of whom are shown here
celebrating Mass on Christmas day.
Lam Ti Ni Pagoda in Dalat is home to a sole monk who has become the
richest man in the city by selling his paintings.
Thuc displays one work out of the thousands that hang from his temple/studio