It’s December 23rd, and I’m sat on a bus from Da Lat, to Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) before flying home tomorrow. It’s been so hot here in Da Lat the last 4 days that I have been sun burnt, a very funny thing for me at this time of year! These last 9 days have certainly offered plenty of entertainment, emotion and true Vietnamese hospitality, that It will make my departure tomorrow even more sad than it would have been just a week ago.
I had to finish up at the wonderful Hospital C rehabilitation department, with a presentation of what I have tried to do, and to complete an application for funding to return next year. In between the report writing, there was ‘end of day’ dance lessons in salsa for the staff, lunchtime drinking, and on the last day the department looked more like a restaurant with tables full of food as a ‘thanks to myself and Virginia (American physiotherapist). This week also saw a second invitation to one of my colleagues homes for lunch with his family – not for any special reason, just to be nice. Perhaps I should have not been surprised to find mountains of tasty food, and the entire family (in-laws included) there waiting. Whilst the food was being prepared my colleague, who also happens to be a great singer, dancer and handyman, helped me to make some more equipment for the hospital –an all action lunch!
I took my USB with the 2 photos I wanted to print to the photo shop and in this little shop I saw 2 guys sat at quite old looking computers making the tiniest detailed changes to people’s photographs. If you see almost any photograph on display here in Vietnam, be it wedding photos, family portraits, or even just ordinary pictures with friends, everybody looks perfect... i mean, no spots, no wrinkles, not dark patches, NOTHING!!! The guy almost fainted when I told him i just wanted him to print my pictures, without him making any changes... The look on the guy’s face suggested that the idea that I wanted a less than perfect looking picture seemed like I had just asked this guy to give up rice and noodles for a month! Still, he eventually gave in and printed my pictures as I requested. This all took about 1 minute!!! Un-bloody-believable! I payed just 6,000 dong (20pence) for this service, and as I drove away I could see the guy returning to a more time consuming task of making a rather unfortunate looking woman (who had just entered the shop), look like Miss Vietnam, on all of her 100 holiday pictures!
The last four days of my time here in Vietnam have been spent in the beautiful ‘honeymoon’ destination of Da Lat. I could talk all day about this beautiful place, with names of tourist places including, ‘Dreaming Hill’ and my personal favourite the ‘Valley of Love’. The nearby Lanbiang mountain, the flower garden, and Prenn waterfalls - with its three pagoda’s in the hillside are also must see places to visit. This weekend just happened to be one almighty festival with songs, dances, flower stalls and all manner of exhibitions going on, just to add to the fun! The hotel I stayed in also deserves a mention for being so nice, and empty! I had a different breakfast every morning, not at my request, but simply because they served what they happened to have in stock! The place was a little walk (20mins) from the town centre, but a perfect location to avoid the tourist trade! With bicycles available for rent (but mostly tandem bikes) I would have to recommend hiring a motorcycle as the traffic is light and all the places of interest become easily accessible! This place as the pictures show, is well worth a visit, and a great way for me to end my time in Vietnam!
So onto the ‘big smoke’ of Saigon and a dinner with four of my friends from Hoi An, John, Michelle, Eri and Vy, another stroke of luck with us all being in Saigon by chance! Here are some picures from my last night in Vietnam, the Xmas lights of Saigon. (with my Japanese friend - Eri)
I hope you have all enjoyed reading this blog! I’ve enjoyed writing it, and remembering the quite bizarre life I have led here over the past 8 months!