When I was in Sapa, a fellow traveller was reading the bucket list section on this blog. She asked if I had achieved number 7 yet – Do some that you really don’t want to do, but that you’ll never get the chance to do again.
I hadn’t even thought about it at that point. Wasn’t the hardcore mud trekking we did that day in Sapa enough?
She recommended Canyoning in Dalat – Abseiling down a waterfall and free-falling from a few metres up when the rope ends. Eek! But after Hoi An and feeling like I hadn’t really achieved much, I was ready and Dalat was where my gut was telling me to go.
Now for anyone who knows me will know I like a good challenge. But this is usually winning an argument, tight marketing deadlines, bets or haggling but I am terrible at anything physical and adrenaline definitely isn’t a craving.
On 24th November I arrived in Dalat and I was immediately amazed at how modern the city it was in comparison to everywhere else I’d seen in Vietnam. It felt very European and the houses were all brightly coloured – apparently it was built by a French Colony which explains a lot about the architecture and the random structure resembling the Eiffel Tower. I immediately felt safe and loved it here! And arriving in the daylight for once, finally, was a big bonus.
My home for the next two nights was at the Wolfpack Hostel (because of the top online reviews and great name) where everyone is greeted with free tea, coffee and bananas. Dinner also only costs just over £2 and the whole hostel shares it all together. The owners were very lovely and beds had a big thick mattress!
Following check in myself and three new friends set off to find the first tourist attraction in Lonely Planet – The Crazy House. First new buddy was Andrew who I insulted on the bus from Nha Trang into Dalat presuming he was Russain. He’s from Boston and was spending only one week in Vietnam – which is insane considering I spent the same amount of time in Hoi An! Bou from Holland who arrived by motorbike the same time as we arrived and Owen from Ireland.
The Crazy House funnily enough was exactly that… but still cool to see.
Then went to the Chocolate Café, again another highly recommended place which is actually a restaurant and not a café. After ordering a meat feast pizza…but imagine my horror when it was covered in my worst nightmare, onions. I’m not ready to face that food phobia challenge just yet (or possibly ever).
After we spent the afternoon talking about music and the guys had a jam in a music shop and after dinner at the hostel we seeked out a live music venue. We went to an intimate bar called Beepub, gifted with BOGOF beer vouchers from Wolfpack Hostel. It was rock night which pretty much means power ballads, but it was brilliant, I haven’t seen any live shows since Glastonbury and so this was definitely my kind of venue. Plus all the bar staff were super smiley so it had a really welcoming vibe.
Our attention was immediately captured by the super talented lead guitarist – his English name was Mike (we really could not pronounce his Vietnamese name) and he was only 18 and a humble little sweetheart and we also met his talented singer girlfriend, Oahn. Bou and Andrew got chatting to him and struck a deal to perform ‘Zombie’ the next night at 11pm… they might have had a few too many beers when they made this deal.
So the next day, was the day. We paid just $25 for a full day of canyoning which included multiple abseiling, waterfall slides, swimming, trekking and free fall jumps – pretty much all the things I tend to avoid because I’m not very physically fit and hate the feeling of suicide!!!! I genuinely was not looking forward to anything but the bus journey back once it was over.
After a brief training the first abseil it was 18 metres high next to a waterfall that led into water. This was it, I was ready. After I expressed a lot whining, swearing, too many ‘oh my gods’ and ‘I’m going to die’ comments the way down, as soon as I touched the water and let myself fall I felt amazing… Then I found out that there was 3 more abseils and this was NOT the waterfall abseil.
So as we routed through waters, another abseil, mud and shrubbery, the second biggest challenge was going head first backwards down a waterfall canyon (really? Who came up with that?) But I did it without complaint. Then we arrived and believe it or not the 25 metre waterfall abseil was the most enjoyable, I feel safe in the water and the feeling of just letting go of the rope 4 metres up was petrifying but something I’d never get a chance to do again.
Now the ultimate challenge, something far more terrifying than abseiling. A free fall jump off a cliff 7 metres high or a run and jump 11 metre high fall… When I was in China there was an option to do similar jumps to this and what did I do? A Chinese cooking class instead and I had no regrets. This is just one of those experiences I don’t think looks fun at all. So when I arrived at this jump luckily there was an opinion to skip everything and walk down. Good!! But as I headed in that direction, I stopped myself and I turned round and I became that girl at the edge of a cliff looking down in pure dread after everyone had already jumped and were now looking up, watching and waiting… No pressure then!
But that didn’t encourage me. There I stood mortified for the next 10 minutes whilst Lee, the instructor was shouting all kinds of stuff to get me down – “Don’t be Lazy, be crazy, 1,2,3 GOOO, don’t be scared your whole life” and then the crowd of about 25 people below started chanting “ANNE! ANNE! ANNE! ANNE!!!” (Argh!) I had to tell everyone and the instructor to be quiet – if I was going to do it, I was doing it for me and nothing else was going to motivate me more.
The big cheers of everyone as I came up in the water and the high fives from strangers made it such an incredible moment that I’ll never forget. And if that wasn’t enough the bruise on my but is going to last a couple weeks I’m sure. Number 7 complete.
That evening it was the boys turn to do something scary, perform in a Vietnamese band with no practice. After the long day Bou bailed (we hate you Bou) and Andrew performed amazingly. It was such a fun day and probably my favourite day in the two months I’ve travelled so far.
Dalat will always hold these special memories for me..