Zigzagging Across Asia (Pt. 7)
My flight from Hanoi to Pleiku was cancelled, and I got changed to another flight about 2hrs later. This wasn’t ideal, but it gave me a chance to witness the sunset on the plane – which was amazing.
The later flight also meant I landed in Pleiku in the early evening, just after 8pm. The airport was a really small one, and mine was the only plane. Disembarking the flight, was just walking down the stairs, and walking across the tarmac to the exit.
I felt a little strange, that even at 8pm, the streets from the airport, out to the main street was pretty deserted. I was considering walking back to the airport and getting a taxi. But the few houses that I passed, had some friendly faces who all smiled, waved and said hello. This made me feel a little better, so I just kept on walking.
HD Gia Lai Coffee
About 1km along the quiet street, I came out to the main road, which also was relatively quiet. I did come across 3 girls, and I asked them if there was a cafe nearby, and they pointed me to the direction of one. There were heading there too, so it was easy to just follow them. It was a nice little cafe, with quite a few people. I ordered a cappuccino, and had my first taste of coffee in the Vietnam highlands.
When I finished and went to pay, the cashier said the 3 girls had already paid for my drink, and they had already left. This was a pleasant surprise, cos apart from asking them where the cafe was, I never did interact with them in any other way.
The Stay Apartment
After the coffee, I tried walking the rest of the way to my apartment. Although only about 6km away, with bags, I did start to get tired and when I saw a passing taxi (a rare site), I flagged it and took it the rest of the way.
The Stay Apartment was above a bar, and next to a billiard hall, so although the street were quiet, the apartment wasn’t. The apartment was recently build, so everything felt nice and clean.
Since it had been a long day of travel, I just took a shower, and had an early night.
The next day, I woke at 6am. Being the highlands, it was a really cool weather, and this morning was pretty foggy. All the shops were closed, and the streets were deserted – giving it a “Silent Hills” feel.
I felt well rested, and decided to go for a walk around. I could slowly see the city waking up, with more traffic and people about.
Ngã Ba Phù Đổng
As I continued walking towards the city centre, I passed a large round-a-bout that had a very nicely decorated centre.
HD Gia Lai Coffee
As I continue walking towards the city centre, more shops started opening, and I finally found a cafe to have my much-needed morning coffee. This time I realised just how good coffee in the central highlands were, and I was tempted to get some beans and send it back home.
After spending an hour at the cafe, I continued walking around the streets of Pleiku. A few streets away, I came across a food stall that had photos and prices on their banner – which made me felt comfortable to order something.
In the morning though, the only dish available to order was Bo Ne, which turned out to be the perfect thing to eat on a day full of walking about.
Thanh Thuy Coffee
After breakfast, and talking to the kids for a bit (who were learning English), I continued walking up the main street, looking at the shops. It was getting close to noon now, and it was starting to get a little hot. So I decided to stop buy a large cafe, that spanned across a few floors.
This was a more expensive cafe (comparatively), but I had a much bigger selection of coffee to choose from. It was a comfortable place to re-energise before I continue walking around.
Karaoke Paradise & Cà Phê Cuội
Continuing my walk, I turned away from the main street, and came across some pretty interesting sights. Karaoke is definitely popular in Vietnam, and you occasionally come across some really fancy ones – standalone buildings, with rich decorations.
Another nice things I often see are cafes with a very natural-themed decor. The “mini-treescape” type artifacts are one of my favourites.
Khu Du Lịch Hồ Diên Hồng
Further down the small street, I came across a nice little pond, that had places to fish, and sit with your friends/family to get away from it all.
Khách Sạn Thiên Đường Xanh
Just next to the pond, was another pond, that had a hotel and a restaurant. I can imagine this would be a nice weekend getaway for families living around the city.
What really interested me, was the pair of peacocks next to the restaurant entrance – including an albino one. It was in a decent sized aviary, and they seemed quite well looked after.
From here, I started heading back to the apartment. I always seem to find the most quiet and deserted streets wherever I go. I just seem to naturally find the way towards them & through them.
Even during the day, seeing a place completely empty of people always feels unfamiliar. Adding on some buildings that look to have been abandoned, adds to this discomfort. Perhaps it’s just our mind’s natural defence kicking in, thinking that if people are not there, we should not be there too. And abandoned buildings gives the impression of “no-people” for a long period of time.
Managed to get through the quiet streets, and took about an hour to walk back to the apartment. Just before heading up though, I decided to stop for a blueberry smoothie at a cafe close by. This felt really well deserved.
After resting the rest of the afternoon in my room, I stepped back out early evening, to walk up another street. Came across a street-side bbq place, where you just picked what dishes you wanted and they cooked it for you. I wasn’t 100% sure of what meats I had chosen. The Pepsi was also given to me without actually ordering it. But it was still nice and reasonably priced.
After dinner, I took a short walk to the night market. It had been raining, and the streets were pretty wet. It also meant not too many people out and about that night. After a quick look around the market, I started heading back to the apartment.
The next morning started off as another cold, wet and foggy day. After all the walking I did the day before, I didn’t feel too energetic this morning. I guess also knowing that shops won’t be open yet, made me feel like there wouldn’t be anything to see either.
TheFRESHCoffee and a New Best Friend
I was still in desperate need for my morning coffee, so I decided to just try some of the smaller alleys around the apartment. By chance, I came across a nice little cafe quite close to the apartment, and it was open early! This became one of my favourite cafes to start my mornings and chill in the evenings.
Another great thing about the cafe, was the adorable dog that was there. He became my best friend. Although the first day, he first came to check me out, then decided I was neither a threat, nor very interesting to hang around with. But there is always something about watching a dog walking around being happy, that makes me feel cheerful.
While having my morning cappuccino, and I asked the staff where is a good place to get a decent rice meal, and she told me the name of a street. Thought I’d take a walk to there later that day.
After a nice cup of coffee in the morning, I went to have Banh Mi from a road side stall. This, along with the coffee, woke me up sufficiently for a quick walk around some new streets.
It really amuses me how sometimes you can walk up an unassuming street, and out of nowhere, have a large shopping mall. Although about 2 floors were taken up by a language centre. But the best part, there was a KFC! So it wasn’t hard to decide to get some for lunch, and from there, took a taxi back to the apartment for an afternoon break.
Quảng trường Đại Đoàn kết
After an afternoon break, I again headed out to walk towards the street that was meant to have a decent rice dish. This time, I came across the large parade square – there is always one in every city I’ve visited in Vietnam. It was really nice, with many people about in the evenings, in different groups. Some were doing exercise and some were just walking around the square with their families. There is also a few cafes across the street where you can just relax and have a drink, and watch the sunsetting behind the large statue of Ho Chi Minh.
After spending some time people-watching at the parade square, I went across to get some dinner from a road-side seller. I was charged 50,000vnd for it – which I felt was comparatively overpriced.
I’ve come to notice that it is often quite easy to tell when someone is overcharging you, because there is a certain pause they have just before they tell you how much it is. Their eyes also seem to have this “looking at you, but not actually seeing you” kind of feel. It’s like they are focussed on thinking how much they think they can get away with.
After dinner, was to walk back to the apartment by a different road, across a canal, and by a street that had a lot of beer/food places. I stopped along the way to have a smoothie. Although I felt a little cheated with the amount of actual drink I got, between the ice and smaller glass size.
The bar at the ground floor of the apartment seemed quite busy this night, although only a Thursday.
Today, I needed a simple day. Felt quite tired with all the walking, and just needed a quiet day. However, the guys are the bar recommended me to try a certain dish that was famous. So after my morning coffee, I decided I should at least try the dish, and took a quick walk back to the area close to the parade square, and tried it for lunch. It was quite a nice dish, and I really wish I knew what is was called or where it was now.
After lunch, I just headed back to the apartment, to start packing, and mentally preparing for the journey to the next destination.
After packing, I decided to have a quiet evening back at TheFRESHCoffee and my new friend. This time he sat with me.. and after a while, his friend came by to hang out too. It was quite a nice evening. Cool, relaxing and felt “wanted”.
While chilling here, I did have a rather unsettling thought – what if my journey now, isn’t about finding something new, but me running away from something. This got me thinking hard about what it is I left behind, that I might be avoiding. The most common reason for me, is responsibility. Maybe if I was back home, I would be forced to look at my life and direction, or be forced to make decisions that would change my life more permanently. Whereas when I’m travelling, my decisions only affect my current stage. This thought actually bothers me a lot, even till today, and nope, I still don’t know what is the truth.
This write up was done a year after the journey, and photos were not taken to support a blog. So certain details may be missed/forgotten.