Aaah, the cool mountain air. After a rather hellish but mercifully short bus ride, I arrived in Da Lat yesterday to a merciful gust of fresh and cool wind. The sweat from the combination of vinyl seats and the fact that the buses turn off the air conditioning when climbing and the route to Da Lat is 50% climbing, finally dissipated into the dry, cool air and put a huge smile on my face. After almost 24 hours, I’m still happy with the cool air a balm to my still sunburned back. It’s kind of a neat pattern, and I call it the "no significant other" burn. Essentially anything I couldn’t reach by myself is burnt to a crisp. What is really a bummer is that I can’t reach it to put anything on the burn to make it feel better. Oh well, so goes the life of single hedonistic beach bums.
My room is the first in Vietnam with a view other than the neighboring building, and I must say it is pleasant to wake up and see this great expanse of sky in front of me. Certainly makes reading and relaxing in my room seem more of a pleasure instead of a punishment. The swallow seems to be the city bird here, and it’s wonderful watching them swoop in mass right outside my balcony at dusk and dawn. They must keep the mosquito population down!
I was met at the bus by a member of the "Easy Riders," a bunch of guys that learned English before or during the war and now offer their services as guides in the Da Lat area. Mr. Lu took me to my choice of hotels and then sat me down to figure out if he could get more business from me. Well, you know me and motorcycles. He didn’t have to work very hard to get my business. Tomorrow we’ll head out for a four day three night tour of the Central Highlands by motorcycle, and though he wasn’t pleased, I did manage to convince him that I wanted my own. So one last chance to get off the tourist path and enjoy Vietnam without the Western food and other backpackers. However, that also means that I probably won’t have access to the internet until my last night in Saigon.
As a footnote, I actually met my first American woman traveling alone. The very day after I commented to my UN friends that Americans just are not quite as adventurous as the boat load of English, Australian, and mainland European travelers that think nothing of coming here for three months between high school and university or for summer breaks. There’s probably a link between the American risk-averse culture and this phenomena, but that’s for more educated folks to figure out. So thanks, Delia, for representing the adventuresome side of our nation.