After moving hotels for the third time (it’s a long story, but basically Da Lat is really popular with Vietnamese tourists this time of year and you should always book your hotel in advance!), we walked into town to catch a bus to Thac Voy, or the Elephant Falls.
Most of the guides we’d read said to take a taxi, or book a tour – but being budget travellers, we were hunting for the elusive local bus that would get us there for under a dollar each. After asking around, we came to a very promising bus station in the centre of town. Mint green and bright pink buses waited to pick up passengers, their destinations written in Vietnamese on the side. We asked the bus attendant to make sure it was the right one, and off we went!
The Elephant Falls are a ways out of town, and it took about 45 minutes by bus through winding mountain roads. We saw rows and rows of greenhouses alongside the street, a massive disarray of metal and clear plastic flapping in the wind. Da Lat is known for its flowers, and this is where they are grown. The bus pulled over at our destination, where we hopped off and walked about 100 meters to Thac Voy.
The waterfall itself is pretty huge. And wet. I wasn’t sure if it was raining or if it was just heavy spray from the waterfall! Looking down, all you see is brown water descending into a cloud of mist. It was almost magical, but unfortunately somebody had routed a sewage pipe to the edge of the waterfall and it smelled absolutely horrible. After only a few moments of looking, we made our way down to the bottom to escape the stench.
The way down was treacherous. There are sort-of stairs, but they’re very slippery due to the mist, and you’re mostly just balancing along the rocks. They have put a handrail along much of it, but I could see a lot of people struggling. I thought it was kind of fun and adventurous though! At the bottom, it was even more wet. There’s a viewing platform, but I didn’t see too much from under my umbrella! We also took the path that went behind the waterfall, which was awesome. You can sort of see behind the curtain of water crashing down – no pictures though, since the spray might have damaged the camera.
Overall, the waterfall was cool! Next up was a silk factory, that luckily was located just up the street. After buying some delicious spring rolls (8 for 20,000 dong!), we made our way there. What made this silk factory different from all the ones we’ve already seen is the level of automation. Artisans Angkor and Ock Pop Tock really focused on using traditional methods, most of which are manual and incredibly time-consuming. Here, they weren’t shy to use heavy machinery to get the job done faster. Where one person with a foot pedal would be winding up silk onto spools, here a loudly whirring machine gets it done in a fraction of the time. We walked around the factory, watching women operate machines that unwind the cocoons and spin them into silk.
One of my favourite parts was when a guy on a scooter came in with a huge empty box on the back. Another man was at this giant cone-shaped machine that seemed to separate silkworms from their leftover cocoon after being spun. These silkworms was what the first guy was after – he bought over 100 kg of them, hauling them out on his scooter! It’s great that nothing goes to waste, although I’m not so sure how thrilled I’d be about those landing on my dinner table..
We left the silk factory after poking around for a while, and saw our bus drive by. Without us.
We ended up having to wait almost an hour for the next one.. at least it was time well spent, trying to get a stray dog to love us by luring it with leftover meat scraps. I still wouldn’t have done it any other way, though – such is life when you’re on a budget!