Da Lat – a city the French built at the top of a mountain.
Da Lat is known in Vietnam as a few things. Honeymoon Capital. Tourist destination (for locals and everyone else). The Vietnamese Swiss Alps. For real. The French built this city as a transplanted version of the Swiss Alps they would vacation at in the summer. As a result, the city has a combination of Vietnamese, Swiss, and French charm. The picture below really sums up everything you need to know about how those three come together.
The skyline of the city is dotted with various pastel colors, villas on the sides of the mountain, …and it’s fair share of not so great looking houses. The fact of the matter is this – while Vietnam is nice and has a lot of scenery, it also has more than its fair share of poverty or people who do not “have much.” The interesting thing though, is that they have everything they need.
The majority of the people of Vietnam work with their hands and live an entrepreneurial life. Nearly everyone has a farm, or at the very least raises some sort of plant or animal. Food comes not only from the market – which is someone else’s farm byproduct – but from raising and slaughtering your own chickens, cows, pigs, or anything else. Riding through dozens of these small farming villages I’m constantly amazed by the contrast of two things. The initial thoughts of, “these people have nothing” are immediately followed by “these people have everything they need.” I find myself shying away from taking pictures of these scenes because I can’t figure out if I’m trying to document how “different” their lives are, or if it’s acceptable because in some way I’m in awe of the lifestyles they lead. These villages are lined with faces that tell the stories of thousands of days of hard work in unrelenting heat. The homes they live in are sometimes made of brick (and you can see that someone literally purchased wheelbarrows full of bricks and cement mix), or a combination of wood and what I can only describe as a tin roof for siding …and roofing too naturally. Yet at the same time – it’s an incredible sight to see that these families have everything they need and work together to support the community they’ve built. Rural Vietnam is the kind of place where nobody cares about North Korea, The Olympics, Tiger Woods at The Masters, or anything really – besides has it rained and will we make it through another season.
In some of the pictures below you can see the clear contrast between the homes just in Da Lat. I’m hoping that I’ll find the time (as if I don’t have all of it) to take some pictures of the rural side of Vietnam on my next bike trip that don’t come off as ‘pointing and staring’.
Similarly, I’ve found that my concept of time on the motorcycle is strange. My personality dictates that the obvious point of riding is to get from A to B as safely and quickly as possible – as if I have some sort of deadline I don’t know about. I strangely find myself shying away from doing things that would make it take any longer than it needs to. I keep telling myself that the journey from A to B IS the point, not getting to B. So far it’s not sinking in.
Below are a few of the pictures I’ve added to the photos section.