We were in Dalat for one night. We enjoyed our time there but a couple of things happened that shaped our experience there.
Before I explain what and how let me first tell you about the city.
It is known as the romantic city. Popular with Vietnamese honeymooners, set up in the mountains and surrounded by lush countryside it has a pleasant year-round temperature of around 24c and seemed like the perfect counterbalance to the Russian heavy party resort of Nha Trang we’d just left.
We got the bus and the stunning journey there took around 4 hours carving our way through the lowland rice paddies then steadily climbing up into the mountains until we reached some 2000m above sea level.
When we got there we found an alpine town in the middle of Vietnam. European style chalets dot the landscape, there’s a mini Eiffel and even a ski-style cable car.
Dalat really is a nice place and definitely somewhere we’d recommend anyone visit when here. It’s home to The Crazy House, a hotel come architectural landmark which many describe as Gaudi on acid. I actually think its more Disneyland than Gaudi but its interesting nonetheless.
It’s built by Đặng Việt Nga (I’ve copied and pasted this from Wikipedia), the daughter of Vietnam’s former leader Trường Chinh (and again). It is pretty weird, I’m not going to lie. You can actually stay in the hotel but have to put up with tourists walking round from 8am and share a bedroom with this guy.
The place should be finished by 2020 although there doesn’t seem to be a plan and it keeps missing deadlines. Maybe it’ll never be finished. I kind of think that’s the point.
Anyway, the rest of Dalat is pretty cool and the cable car I mentioned had some stunning views.
So why was it so intense?
Well to kick things off a few doors down from our hotel was a very popular restaurant selling cat and dog meat, and it was absolutely heaving most times we walked past. The signs advertising the restaurant and the façade itself utilised overly cute images of highly desirable breeds. Obviously this must resonate with people and signify quality of the restaurant, the meat and the taste.
It was filthy and it stunk. Now, we shouldn’t be one who judge and we’d like to think we can put up with this despite not wanting to be around it.
But in the morning when we’d checked out of our hotel and began our Easy Rider Tour (more on that in a later post), we went past the restaurant for the last time. Outside was a young guy with a fire going.
The fire was in an old metal tin drum. In it was one dog, legs in the air fully alight. Next, on the road another dog lay on fire. The burning, the stench of burnt hair and flesh in the air was shocking.
It was really was horrible to witness and we were pleased to get out of there.
Now the second part of the story is quite difficult to describe without trivialising it. We only stayed one night in Dalat before our motorbike tour. That night we went out for dinner. As we walked down the main, very busy road into town we found a girl, mid 20s, lying in the road, bikes and cars driving around her.
She looked as if she was sleeping but would respond to us when we asked if she was OK. She was clearly conscious but not at all coherent. We weren’t sure if she had taken anything and as she didn’t respond we picked her up and carried her out of the road and onto the pavement.
She wouldn’t talk to us and after 5 minutes of trying to overcome the language barrier we reluctantly decided to walk on. As we walked we kept our eye on her and saw that she got up, walked straight back into the road and began to walk against the traffic with no regard to her own safety. It started to become clear this girl wasn’t OK and it looked like she was trying to kill herself.
She crossed over, and walked along the road without being hit (I really don’t know how) and then onto the pavement. We were on a bridge and could see her plan was to jump off it. I tried to run across the road but the traffic was too dense.
She climbed over the railing until she was fully over and was about to let go. Luckily, a man and his son were walking past on her side of the road. Just as she was about to jump he caught her and pulled her back over.
We got over to them and I grabbed her and held on. She was trying to get free and get back over the railings. The man that had caught her didn’t want his young son exposed to this and immediately left Julie and I holding onto the girl.
She spoke no English, was in tears and was determined to jump. As the situation went on we flagged down some locals to help us. A couple of young girls (probably aged 16 or so?) stopped and really helped to calm the girl down and talk to her.
Anyway, this went on for a long time with lots of people doing nothing and Julie and I trying to call the police. We were joined by around 20 locals all talking to each other, the girls and then pointing at us. It was difficult not knowing what was going on and difficult not to get frustrated at what seemed like a lot of talking and little action.
I think we probably had to hold her down for about an hour before the police arrived and we were able to leave.
The police were pretty keen for us to leave and made that very clear. They seemed uncomfortable at having foreigners caught up in this situation. They were however polite and thanked us for looking after the girl, shaking our hands.
We have no idea what had happened to her. No idea of the cause and no idea what has happened since.
We just hope she’s all right.