Truong, receptionist at the hotel, showed me some tour options in answer to my questions about what to see in Delat. I decided to go on the Tour 3 which would include a tour of a flower farm, coffee plantation, silkworm farm and silk factory, Linh Ahn Pagoda with a huge laughing Buddha, cricket farm where we could taste them, drive through some ethnic villagers, old cogway rail station, and the "Crazy House". The cost for this all day tour would be 160,000 dong---about $7.50.
After I had signed up, I had stopped at a cafe that had news articles that described the fabulous tours available with the "Easy Riders" which were motorcycle guides who provided a unique insiders experience with the local people as you rode on the back of their motorcycles to unique places and experience what locals experience. I thought maybe I should have done that tour instead.
Apparently I was the only one to sign up with this particular tour so they quickly handed me off to another tour bus full of Vietnamese tourists. This bus was much newer and cleaner than the original bus and the tour guide was very friendly as well. He introduced me to the others who happened to be an extended family group that had gathered for a reunion.
Although they were all Vietnamese, they had all emmigrated to Germany, France, and Australia and came together here for a couple of weeks to visit their mother who had remained in Vietnam. They were all women and two of them could speak some English.
As we drove to the various sights, Minh, from Australia, told me that all of the continuous jabber was from her mother and sisters who were telling their mother stories about how their different family members were doing. This would go on during the entire tour.
As we turned into the first attraction of the flower gardens, I was immediatley struck by seeing a typical air traffic control tower that was rusting away. Since my last job was with the FAA, I knew that this was a level 1 air traffic control tower like we have in the US. This was confirmed by my tour guide that said during the "American War" this was an airstrip set up by the Americans. We then turned on to the weed covered airstrip complete with the landing threshold strips and continued to the end of the strip where we would find our flower garden. I like how this airfield has transformed into a beautiful flower garden.
All of these gardens are enclosed in the plastic greenhouses which reduce the bugs and control the light and humidity. The acres of flowers just take your breath away. There were lilys, false roses, sweet williams and roses. The false roses were sold for about $10 USD per kilo in all colors.
Our next stop amid miles of coffee plantations, we stopped to look at the two type of coffees grown here Robust, and Aribica. In addition, they demonstrated the weasel coffee by showing us the weasel poop that was filled by the coffee beans after the weasels had eaten the outside fruit of the coffee bean.
I selected a cup of the weasel coffee and the ladies sat down and had a variety of coffee choices. After about an hour, our tour guide told me the ladies were really just enjoying sitting and talking whild they sipped the remains of their drinks. I think the women would have stayed there talking another hour before wanting to leave.
Our next stop was at the cricket farm where we would have our lunch----or so the guide told us. Apparently these cricket yield about $10 per kilo at many of the Vietnamese restaurants. We were able to sample these critters that had been deep fried with garlic with an opportunity to dip them in some hot sauce. We all dug in and ate these crickets except for one sister. She must have left when she was yeally young not to like these crickets.
The silkworm farm and factory were our next destination. Looking at this factory, I find it amazing that we have so much silk available for all of the clothing for sale. There is so much work involved in raising and harvesting silkworms that result in silk fabrics. I preferred eating the crickets over the roasted silkworm larvae.
Upon returning, we heated for lunch and agreed to do a family style lunch for 80,000 dongs---about $4. We had lots of interesting selections: carmelized beef, pork or dog tail, river greens, pickeled eggplant, bamboo shoots, cilantro, rice, soup, spring rolls, and green tea. All of the women at my table kept pushing me to take more food so I wanted to be polite so I got stuffed.
We then returned on the muddy road under construction to Delat where we stopped at the old Rail Station that use to have a cog rail system because the grade was so steep. It was there that I ran into the Chinese couple who I first met in Danang and again on the train to Nha Trang. They were going to take the scenic train down to the next village and return. They said that they had been treated well despite the conflict between China and Vietnam over an offshore island.
The extend family group was too pooped to check out our last stop at the "Crazy House" and instead returned to thier hotel. I was dropped off to tour this intriguing site. This is one wierd site for sure.
What a great day of touring. Shortly after I returned, the deluge began while I had a beer and dinner at a nearby restaurant that features the joy of using the Easy Riders to get an insider tour of the Delat area. As it turned out, at every place we stopped at that I have described above, the same group of Easy Rider Motorcycle guides with their customers showed up.
My earlier concern that I had not signed up with a tour with the Easy Riders was now eliminated. I saw the same things, went to the same places, interacted with the same locals as the Easy Riders did plus I enjoyed the company with an extended Vietnamese family that had come together from all parts of the world to be with each other in this beautiful part of Vietnam.