The legend that weaves around the mountains, describes one of these tragic stories that are so popular in Asia, and could have been written by Shakespeare himself:
The beautiful Ho Biang was a daughter of the Chil people. One day she ventured into the forest to collect fruit for her village, as she got attacked by a pack of wild wolves. The wolves chased her up a tree and were waiting until sunset, if the girl would eventually come down.
The hunter K'Lang fro the Lat people was on his way home, as he encountered the pack and chased them away with his spear and loud shouts. K'Lang and Ho Biang fell in love, but their people had an ancient blood feud with each other, so a proper wedding was impossible.
But the lovers would not separate. They left their people and fled into the mountains. They built a house on the mountain, which we nowadays know as Langbiang.
But one day, Ho Biang fell sick, and K'Lang's knowledge about herbal medicine was not sufficient. He decided to return and ask the wise woman of his village for help. Ho Biang felt the danger and followed him in secrecy.
As the men of the Lat village saw the renegade, they attacked him with their hunting crossbows, but Ho Biang appeared and shielded her man with her own body.
Thus, she died.
K'Lang's sorrow was so great, that from his tears sprang the Golden River, before he took his own life. Ho Biang's father eventually came to the insight, that this blood feud had no purpose. He united the people of the Lat and Chil, who were known as K'Ho then, and allowed to marry each other.
You approach the mountain, which lies about 12 km away from Da Lat by motorbike or bus. However, you have to leave the motorbike behind at the parking lot and pay an entrance fee of 20.000đ per nose.
In Asia, many mountains are sealed off and you can only enter the area if you pay the entrance fee. As we park our motorbike, some young mothers and old women of the Lat people appear, selling colourful purses, bags and pouches. You can also pose on horses, which for some reason are painted as zebras.
One woman, older than Methuselah, who offers embroidered pouches and shows a wide grin which reveals her last tooth, thankfully takes my empty water bottle to redeem the deposit. As my Queen parked the motorbike and discussed the track with the gate guard, we set out on the street to the Langbiang peak.
The guard said, there are two peaks. One with a radar station, where they sell ice cream in a villa is what he strongly recommends. The second peak "just" offers forest and landscape. We pick "just" landscape. One of the girls who works with the zebra horses says, in about an hour we will reach the peak. If we are fast.
After 30 to 40 minutes, we reach a ticket station and a small foot path forks off to the right. The station is not manned, but three guys with Spanish accent tell us, the ascent is steep and difficult - and will take one and a half hour from here.
Well, steep and difficult is a matter of interpretation, and as a Noric I am not too interested in such words. If it gets too difficult, we can always turn around.
But one and a half hour I believe them, because they look quite fit and probably climb at the same speed as we do.
It's half past four and the sun will set at six. We don't want to stumble down the Langbiang in the dark, so we follow the path for a few minutes before we turn back. At the gate we buy some water and my Queen is talking with one of the old Lat women, who tells her the sad story of her people.
The one-toothed grandma patiently waits for our water bottle again.
A beautiful sunset shines upon out journey home, and halfway we stop at a roadside kitchen, where a cheerful woman and her son offer grilled rice paper.
People are sitting around the clay fireplace and warm their cold hands alternatively on the fire and small glasses of hot tea with ginger. Hot tea you get in Da Lat with every meal, be it in a luxurious café or a roadside fireplace.
The rice paper is very tasty and grilled with chopped spring onions, an egg and spices.
Usually they put on this horrible Cholimex chilli sauce, but we refuse. Instead we take plenty of tamarind sauce and supplement our meal with two partially-brooded eggs, which I eat meanwhile without looking twice.
Nonetheless, the street s full of tables and it's hard to find space to sit.
This is one of the differences in Vietnam, that still is somewhat alien to me. The Vietnamese tend to accept unfriendly vendors, at least if there is no alternative around.
In Europe, this shop would be empty. I have to say, meanwhile this is rubbing off on me as well, and I am not sure if I am happy with it...
The bean milk at Grumpy Milk however is excellent and around 6 or 7000đ. The cake they sell as well is cold and I am used to better cakes from our Saigonese cake stall. But you dip them anyway, so it's okay. The first day we buy the cakes here, the second day at another shop in the next street, and then we drink our bean milk without cakes at all.
The next morning, we start towards the mountain in the morning dew... No wait, coffee first. The first coffee we drink at Windmills matcha café, one of these stylish places we must try every time we see one.
The cheap matcha powder with the chemical taste, they can keep and dust on their own heads with it. Seriously.
The second coffee we take at one of the tiny street side kitchens around the corner. It's okayish, not the best and not the worst. But the lady who runs it, apparently hopes for commissions from some tour sellers. She keeps swaggering about how dangerous the mountain is for a lone couple. We might get beaten, robbed and raped...
Yes, of course! On a mountain full of pathfinders, tour guides and show-cowboys, each one of them feeding their family with guiding tourists. They would destroy their livelihood with behaviour like that? I don't think so.
We buy some water and two banana cakes, before we tackle Langbiang again. Pay 40.000đ entrance fee (2 pax) and walk up the street. At the hut where the footpath forks off, there still are no pathfinders, they probably are sleeping or something. No fires are burning yet, the air is clean and hiking feels just wonderful.
Other hikers are here as well, and in about 2 hours from the parking lot, we reach the peak. The ascent is not much more difficult than the Gaisberg in my hometown, and up we meet Germans, French and more. As it is in Austria, people you meet on the mountain are usually friendly.
On the way back down, the phone grumbles and the Queen's cousin invites us for dinner. She and her family live here and they also borrowed us the motorbike we use to ride around.
We happily accept.
At the pathfinder station we file a complaint, because a group of Vietnamese teenagers made a campfire and left behind a pile of rubbish in the forest. The guy seems glad about the report, because the pathfinders are Lat and live off tourism.
The environmental awareness in Vietnam is very low. Well, there are sporadic actions to raise awareness, usually initiated by teenagers or students, but similar to Hong Kong, where students gather signatures against shark fin soup - it is hard to stand up against the cumulative ignorance of the masses.
We return home and after a hot shower, we venture towards our hotpot.
This is the one you can access by Jeep from the parking lot at the foot of the mountain. There is an old radar station, a memorial for K'Lang and Ho Biang, as well as souvenir shops and a restaurant offering eclectic meats like crocodile or ostrich. According to reviews, it's not a Michelin-Star kind of place, but quite okay.
We have not been there, so if yo are curious about it, check it out yourself.
Phu Quoc Water Sports Holidays on a tropical island would be odd without the opportunity to do sports. Water sports. Here is a selection of stuff that you can try on Phu Quoc.
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