|With a little more cash we got a little more time out of the day to visit the surrounding country side using the Easy Riders again. The word of the day was coffee.
Our first stop was a site that was used by the Americans as an out post for their airport. This was one of the sites attacked during the "Tet Offensive" as can be seen by the building not being there any more, all that remained was a husk. They used this husk to then mortar the airport.
As we moved on, we got a feel for what these early engagements were all about, including several stops pointing out the affects of the herbicides used by US forces (mainly Agent Orange). There were vast areas of hillside which was split into two halves, the ongoing jungle of Vietnam and the barren - treeless areas. The comparisons were highly visible.
After this the theme quickly turned back to the main topic - coffee. The barren land which could be used to some extent again, is now mainly used for growing coffee. Over the last 5 years, Chinas demand for coffee sky rocketed and Vietnam (especially Dalat) quickly milked it. The small green bush could be seen everywhere for miles and miles, interrupted only by greenhouses full of flowers.
Amoungst all this we also saw people making bamboo baskets, metal work shops and areas where the coffee was dried in the sun. Biggest of all was when we pulled up at a silk factory. The process was simple enough, you have all this furry pods (bamboo baskets full from floor to above head height) which you dunk in hot water and attach the thread to mass and watch it unravel from the cocoon. This process also spins it so it can then be used straight for weaving. The interesting part is they said the larvae eat the dead larvae collected from the weaving process (which are dried out using a fire made from coffee shells), so nothing is wasted. Raw silk cloth is actually quite rough and it a process of rubbing that gets the smoother feeling you get from silk.
Afterwards we also visited a waterfall (we both got very soaked), the Christian pagoda (a monk who changed religion half way through making it because he liked meat too much), more coffee and a half an hour wait in a small road side shop as the weather poured down on us (all the frogs and worms came out to say "Hi!".
Finally we saw what the guide described as "a minority village". 5 years ago, they probably were, cooking on wood fires, eating what they had grown, no care of the outside world until the world wanted coffee. After the boom, they have prospered into having all the money to buy what some people in the city cannot. The old all seemed to stick to more traditional ways, where as the young wanted all the luxuries of modern life. We saw nice looking house next to old wooden shacks, of which both had satellite dishes sticking out of the top. What a crazy world.