Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cremaillere Railway Station

The Cremaillere Railway Station
The station was a quaint building off the edge of the Xuan Huong Lake. Although it is now considered a tourist attraction for its train-ride to nowhere, the ticket office seemed busy. Vietnamese travellers were also taking the train-ride to nowhere. But there were also tickets for Hanoi offering stops at towns along the way.

The old locomotive, which seems to have been made in Japan in 1938, made a suitable background for another family shot.

But it was this clunky locomotive that would drive our train to nowhere. It took several minutes to turn this locomotive around and later we found out it was just for us. We, the foreigners, had paid three-times the price of the locals and so we were privileged to have the carriage all to ourselves (we had no choice but to pay three-times the price cos the signs said so, but this came up to S$7 per person in any case)

Datanla Falls

The Cable Car station was not far from our next pit stop. The Datanla Falls! The simple entrance belied a more exciting journey down to the waterfall. We didn't realise there were so many modes of transport down to the waters. The most exciting was of course the car ride down. For those faint of heart, you can choose to control the speed of your vehicle and yes, children can be strapped in with an adult although we saw some rather large sized children who looked middle-aged rather than teenaged riding along with other adults!!

You could also take the normal mode of transportation - just walk down - a short 15 minute, in the cool air through a peaceful forest of trees. But we did not meet the promised wildlife of squirrels and birds unless the nattering chicks (Vietnamese young girls) and wandering salesmen count as wildlife.

Alternatively, you could take a pretty pony down. To be honest, we saw this horse at the journey's end and i think he was more for show (and making more dollars from a photo opportunity) than for a comfortable ride.

The Water Fall
After taking an easy stroll down, we spotted our intrepid travellers who had survived the free fall with their mini-buggy. Sunning themsleves on a rock, they then had to make the journey across the car terminal past the immense waterfall to meet us.

Here you can see the great immensity of the waterfall. If you look carefully you will also catch in the shadows a row of 'Pochahontas' - girls dressed up like Red Indians. And what the picture doesn't show you is the long queue of fellas behind this waiting to get their shot taken on the bridge. The place was crowded with picnicing Vietnamese and wandering tourists.

After a short rest, it dawned on us that we had to make that LOONG and painful journey back up.

Some of us were smart, and opted for the super car ride up instead! However, they took at least 20 minutes longer to get back up because of the long queues of returning visitors who had finished their picnic at the water fall!

The Cable Car ride

Robin Hill

It was just 10 minutes away from the hotel before we reached Robin Hill. Here we caught a ride up the Cable Car for about USD$3 a person for a return ticket. The 2km journey takes all of 10 minutes and brings you close to vegetable patches at some points then rises high to give you a scenic view of Dalat's "forest" (seemed like planted trees) and arable land.

We do recommend that you come after 9.30am as there's a crowd that gathers at opening time and it takes you an extra half hour of queueing to get into a cable car. The crowd seems to dissolve after 10 am. We also would not recommend that five adults and two children get into a cable car, although they didn't stop us. For one, we noticed we exceeded the weight limit for the cable car, and secondly, we scrapped some fir trees on the way down.

At journey's end is the Truc Lam Pagoda. Though a modern building, it reflects classical Asian features in its design. It includes large bells, mini pagodas and a beautiful flower garden.

It proved a good photo opportunit for chaps with flowers. Silas proved quite a poser, retaining his masculine looks despite holding a tiny yellow bud!

We were reminded of other hairier family members when we spotted this golden temple dog (some sort of relation to the Golden Retriever?) at the pagoda

The view of Lake Tuyen Lam, with majestic mountains in the background, greeted us beyond the woody-smelling fir-trees.
But it was quite a long walk down from the cable car station.

Hotel and meals


We lodged at the nice Novotel which has a rustic lift which sometimes was caught between floors. The rooms were fully booked however, cos of an international golf match. Which accounted for why the best golf course in Asia was fully booked and why the lift was sometimes caught between floors (heavy golf bags added too much weight)

We did try out how the neighbouring 5-star Sofitel felt like. The chairs at least were comfortable.

For a moment we understood the feeling of owning a mansion in the sky!

The trusty rooster Church stood out in the new morning sun, in all its pink splendour.


But most of us were too caught up with meal events to notice the scenery nearby.

The first evening we received a flaming Vietnamese dish that almost cooked Ruth. We realised it wasn't a typical Vietnamese meal when the chef came to take the hotpot off the table and promptly placed it on the floor. The meal ended well with only the fish nicely cooked.

Some of us were a little grumpy in the morning and took a while to get our breakfast down.