Wednesday, Jan. 6th (Da Lat Day 5)

  • Woke up to our alarm at 7:15am and went down to the lobby to get ready for our canyoning trip.
  • Put together our day pack and had a delicious omelette breakfast with fresh Da Lat strawberry shake before meeting our tour guide and jumping into our tour bus.
  • We paid a little bit extra for a private tour for two reasons: first, it’s my birthday (whoo!) and I wanted to do something a bit special, and second, we had heard that on the larger tours there was a lot of waiting time as each person takes their turn one by one.
  • We put together a group of 5 (Camilla from Netherlands, Oisin from Ireland, and Nate from Australia, plus me and Cory) and paid $35 per person.  Regular tour groups are 10-15 people and cost $25-30 per person depending on how and where you book.
  • Arrived at the trail head and immediately started hiking down a steep decline with gnarled roots and giant pine trees everywhere.  The sun was shining and our group was all smiles.
  • Stopped for a quick run through of the equipment and brief abseiling practice on a rope anchored to a bare tree trunk.
  • Jumped straight into the fire after that with a 15 meter abseil down a sheer cliff wall into a small stream.
  • With soaking shoes we continued hiking through the forest to a mini waterfall that had formed into a natural water slide.  We took turns sliding down the slick rock into the pool below, head first on our backs, which is apparently the safest way.
  • Another short hike later and we arrived at a 25 meter waterfall cascading along a 45 degree cliff face before free falling into a pool below.  Our guide set up the ropes and we took turns abseiling down the waterfall in nothing but our socks (for better grip apparently).
  • Next stop was a clearing for cliff jumping.  The guide told us that the two cliff platforms were 7 and 11 meters tall respectively, but they are closer to 5 and 7 at best.  In any case, the highest platform was definitely sketchy as we had to clear 2 meters of rock outcrop in order to hit the water.  None of our group had any problems though, and Cory and I took several jumps each, including a final jump in a group of 3 with our guide.
  • The last abseil of the day was down a waterfall called “the washing machine.”  Once over the cliff edge the rock gives way and you are lowered directly into the torrent of falling water.  It spins you around and holds you down for a few seconds in a narrow pool before spitting you out towards the rocky shore.
  • Our final stop before heading back to the hostel was a small clearing where we had a great DIY Banh Mi (Vietnamese sandwich) lunch with watermelon, mango, and pineapple for dessert.
  • Back at the hostel Cory took a nap while I helped one of the staff roll pork spring rolls for dinner.
  • Dinner was the usual raucous family affair with ~20 fellow backpackers at a communal table, all eating to our heart’s content.
  • The hostel surprised me with a delicious chocolate birthday cake and I shared it with our end of the table that had taken to drinking and playing Jenga after dinner was cleared.
  • Shortly after, we left for one of the most unique bars I have ever been to in my life: 100 Roofs Cafe.
  • The building really must be experienced (and I do mean experienced) to be believed.  The design is a mad mix of Dr. Seuss, Alice in Wonderland, and Salvador Dali.  Narrow, winding, uneven staircases connect 10+ floors opening into small sitting rooms, secret caverns, and what appear to be museum exhibitions.  Everywhere faces are carved into the walls, railings, and frames while artifacts like bird cages, masks, maps, vases, and mirrors line the corridors and passageways.
  • As if that weren’t enough, the bar has a special game that guests play.  You buy a bottle of home made rum for 150K VND ($7) to split among a small group of 3-6 people.  Then one group member takes the bottle and hides in the maze while the rest of the group forms a search party to seek out the bottle.  Once found, the whole group takes a shot of rum and a new group member takes a turn hiding with the bottle.
  • We played this game on and off throughout the rest of the night and made it back to the hostel by 1am for a sound sleep.
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