Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dalat is For Lovers

So what does a mountain resort for Vietnamese newlyweds look like? Well, I'll tell you. It's got a man-made lake with swan-shaped paddle-boats, a theme park named the Valley of Love filled with pirated Disney characters contorted into heart shapes, a large Buddha with a neon halo, a "crazy house" that looks like it was designed by a manic Gaudi and a bunch of motorcycle guys named the Easy Riders hawking wonderful motorcycle tours of the central highlands. So, you may wonder which of these options did we investigate? Sadly, the motorcycle trip was a bit spendy, but the Valley of Love and the Crazy House were priced just right.

In order to make a day of the above mentioned sites, we rented bikes and attempted to follow a poorly rendered map up and down some pretty steep hills. Eventually, we found the Valley of Love, which the locals call "the Valley of Shops" and paid our 80cents admission. To say that the place is a tad tacky would be under-selling the experience. Muzaked versions of love songs are piped everywhere in the park, there are paths around a second man made lake with tons of photo-ops for newly engaged couples as well as picnic huts with lockable doors. You read that right. The Valley of Love has private "picnic" huts. From sweet to seedy in a few steps. After a few hours of strolling around and avoiding both the shops and the huts, we decided to check out the Crazy House.

The house itself was designed by a Moscow-educated architect who is the daughter of Vietnam's former President, Truong Chinh. While it is still (and maybe forever) under construction, what exists now is series of cave-like rooms connected by staircases that seem extruded from some cement machine. Each of the rooms (which are rent-able) has an animal theme. For instance, one room has a giant kangaroo with glowing read eyes whose pouch doubles as a stove. Here is where words fail. There is little in the world more fanciful and terrifying than a red-eyed roo with fire in its pouch. I think that the pictures of the place are the closest we can get to conveying the gestalt of the place.

After the long day of bike-riding, we were on our way back to our guesthouse when we ran into one of the Easy Riders named Peter who tried his best earlier in the day to sell us on a tour. Since we were going to be leaving the next day and were therefore unsaleable, Peter's marketing personality dropped and he invited us to hang out with his friends and have a beer. We spent the next few hours learning Vietnamese useful and not-so-useful phrases and talking about history, politics and the differences between America and Vietnam, and between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. One resounding lesson (apart from the fascinating discussion of post-war Vietnam) that we took away from the experience courtesy of Peter's friend Bin was that if you are buying a gift for your your Vietnamese friend, do not buy a $120 pair of shoes in the States. He probably already has them and they cost him $8 here.



Kimberly said...

Oh my, Dalat sounds awesome! (Honestly not sure if I'm being sarcastic or not.) Sorry that I missed it.

tikiemily said...

Is it redundant to say a manic Gaudi?

Also, thanks for what is sure to be a roo nightmare tonight!

Amy said...

I've been keeping up with your travels and have loved your blogs. Keep up the good work. We're all still here in CO, raising kids and doing all the ordinary things. Keep safe and enjoy.

leora said...

That seems so romantic. I'm so jealous. But I've got pudding.