Emerging unscathed from the Massage Hotel, we breakfasted and cracked on. Luckily it was a much shorter day today since I don’t think my, erm, lumbar region would have taken another 240kms…
First stop was the Daklak Museum, charting the historical significance of the local area and some of its rural customs. Whilst much of the museum was multilingual and well designed, there was the odd exhibit which really was just ‘old stuff for the sake of it’.
And of course, it also included the obligatory series of documents regarding important local Communist Party meetings in 1968 attended by…etc. Worth seeing though, and some of the exhibits about tribal sacrifice of cows were quite interesting, but gruesome.
Back out on the road, via a cup of ice coffee by the museum, and once more into the countryside to see rice noodles being produced by the side of the (Quiet) road. Lots of food depends on rice here, and it was fascinating to see yet another rice product being locally, and simply, produced.
Not far from there we reached the national park, containing the spectacular Dray Sap waterfall and the pleasant Gia Long pools beneath it. Formed from volcanic activity, these really are out in the jungle and the walk down to the pools is somewhat challenging in flip flops. Well worth it though, for the cooling dip at the bottom. My feet didn’t enjoy it though, 5 days on and the sole of my foot is just healing from the sharp slippery rocks!
It was lovely to see so much nature and wildlife though, including clouds of friendly butterflies…
And then it was time to walk up to the waterfall. Well worth the trek through the butterfly-filled jungle.
Dried off and refreshed, we continued along the country roads, encountering all sorts of traffic, until dropping in at a brick factory using local clay. Quite interesting to see, in an extremely geeky sense.
And then, Quang’s words rang true again- Finding another superb fried chicken and rice joint on the highway Naturally, swamped by large trucks outside. I do like a bit of “com ga” (Rice chicken). There are always a few chillies on the side or some unusual sauces to give it a bit of zing, though I have now learnt NOT to take a bite out of the lethal bullet chillies that are served up!
Leaving the highway again and we’re back out into farming Nirvana. I thought back to my discussion with Tony in Hanoi about Vietnam’s low GDP not being a fair indication of the country’s true worth and i’d really agree. The land is so good here, and so much can be grown, that Vietnam does not really need to export or import significant quantities of anything other than fuel. The countryside appears to be thriving, and every square inch seems to grow something. It’s an uplifting place to be.
En route down a local road we passed a group of schoolchildren and a lad of about 10-12 stupidly threw something in front of us. Quang expertly avoided it and then turned back to find the lad, who had legged it… We did find him, and in the look of fear in his eyes I saw myself as a 12 year old, having done something stupid on a bike (generally) and about to receive a bollocking! Quang was very good and just asked him repeatedly what his parents and teachers would think. With the crowd of classmates now assembled watching this bollocking I think it had the desired effect…
Our home for the night was a somewhat basic guesthouse beside the highway. Quang’s parents-in-law lived nearby and he had offered that instead of staying in a hotel near Lak lake we could stay there instead and enjoy a family meal. Of course we can!
So, changed into my new best shirt and we set off for the short ride, picking up some beers for me and the rest of the family en route.
I was so glad I came. The food was varied and brilliant, and despite nobody apart from Quang speaking more than a couple of words of English the evening was a really enjoyable one. They learnt lots of new things such as the fact that Westerners can’t really sit on the floor very well (Alright, just me maybe!) and that we are crap at making spring rolls on the go.
A somewhat intense part was keeping up with the toasting, and bearing in mind the social rules that go with it, Quang really helped me here and by the end of the night I think I’d almost cracked it. They were nonetheless very friendly and welcoming throughout.
Basically, age is a central part of social standing here, which is why a lot of Vietnamese people will ask your age on first meeting. This also applies to the business of toasting… The relative height of your glass against the “toastee’s” indicates your standing. I think I nearly cracked it, managing to get my glass lower than the father-in-law’s at the end.
Also, items should be received from elders with both hands to indicate respect… Again, I managed this towards the end when Quang’s father-in-law brought out a glass of local liqueur, the first but not last time I’d try this amazing stuff!
It’s brewed from various stuff including ‘mountain mushrooms’ and you’d expect it to be firewater- But you’d be mistaken. It’s genuinely like single malt whisky in terms of taste and smoothness. Incredible.
So, after navigating the evening’s social customs the younger guys and I went to a local coffee shop to finish the evening. I bitterly regretted my strong Vietnamese coffee staring sleeplessly at the ceiling several hours later!
Staring at the ceiling I started to ponder the cause of the slight ringing in my ears. Not the numerous beers, surely? Mushrooms, mountain mushrooms… Bugger.