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Vietnam - Da Lat

The climb to Da Lat was the hardest part of the entire trip. Da Lat is in the Central Highlands region, and is in fact the only part of the highlands we got to see. Our original itinerary had us going into the highlands a couple of days sooner but we had to change due to government travel restrictions because of problems in the area. Of course, since we had to grind away up steep hills for hours to get there, it stands to reason that we ended up in the mountains, and I liked the country very much. The town of Da Lat itself was nothing special, but the country around it was very nice biking.
This pagoda, known as the "Chinese Temple" was built in the 50s, and is currently being rebuilt or expanded. It has some interesting architecture, much more blatantly Chinese than the typical pagoda.
Here's the best part of this temple. If you look carefully at the small area just below the Buddha here, you'll see it's entirely made up of beer bottles. They also have a big 20 foot (7 meter) long dragon that's entirely made up of beer bottles and cement. Now that's definitely the way to make a temple.
This is a sugar factory we stopped by on our last day of cycling. I enjoyed it because it reminded me so much of my younger days at the sawmill. The equipment is more low tech than what I used as a kid, but it made me a bit nostalgic all the same.
Here you see the last of the drying process, which consists of laying it out in the sun. This factory has the custom deluxe drying system. As we went down the road, I passed lots of places where people were drying tapioca roots and other agricultural products on the side of the highway.
Etienne goaded me into taking a hit off of this pipe for a photo. Now before you get all excited, that's tobacco. It's not that kind of pipe.

Photo Courtesy Et Tienne

Before you scroll down, take a look at this nice waterfall. You walk down a set of stairs off on your right for a total of about 10 stories. Up the left side, there's a trail that goes along behind that waterfall, and back out. Now I'll show you the most retarded thing I saw during the entire stay. We have a nice waterfall like this, so what did they do but.... a stinking elevator next to it, so the whiny-assed lazy tourists wouldn't have to walk all the way back up. To add insult to injury, they naturally charge a fee to use it, and they blocked off the old route so you couldn't go back up behind the waterfall. You have to either take the elevator or retrace your steps. You can probably guess which one I did.
This is kind of cool. It's a water pump made entirely of bamboo. It's hard to see the motion, but there are slats to catch the stream, and along the way bamboo tubes dip down into the water, carry it up to the top, and dump it into a bamboo pipe.
This was a fairly common occurrence on Highway 1, but not as common as you've probably been lead to believe. I ran into herds like this less than 10 times in the whole trip.
I saw lots of variants of this kind of truck in Vietnam. The engine in the front is a one or two cylinder engine that appears to be made locally. You see them all over the place in both motor vehicles and boats. This little gizmo is obviously cobbled together from a bunch of spare parts, and a most of the vehicles I saw were like that. You get a bunch of old junk, buy this general purpose industrial engine and you're good to go. I saw quite a few that were pretty inventive along the way. The Vietnamese people are very good at making something that does the job out of apparently worthless components.

Engines like this engine are also very frequently used to replace big engines in trucks. It's quite common to see one of these mounted on the front of a truck in an engine compartment with room for something four times it's size. Of course, the truck ain't all that fast when they get done, but it keeps going.

The Vietnamese are masters of keeping old equipment running. I saw lots of trucks along the way that I definitely remember from the sawmill days of my childhood. I can remember one truck that I could definitely identify as a 1960 Dodge. It looked like one of the newest and nicest trucks on the road.

I didn't take this one, but my friend Norma sent it to me and I couldn't quite resist adding it. It's captioned Truck Made In Vietnam.
The Vietnamese move lots of stuff with bicycles. Sometimes it's a standard bicycle, and sometimes it's a bit tougher. This one is made mostly of rebar, and is used to haul rattan around to a rattan factory. That's Leah, our Vietnamese guide in the red jacket.

During both the French and American wars, the Vietnamese moved an astounding amount of war material using bicycles. The defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu was accomplished in large part by the Vietnamese ability to move heavy artillery into hills the French though impassable. The artillery was moved by brute force, and the ammo was brought up by bicycle.