This is an extract of my adventures in Dalat, Vietnam, as part of a school expedition, back in the summer of 2014.
It was Day 9 of the expedition and we sourced transport from Buon Ma Thuot to Dalat and Nom, our guide from our previous trek, recommended and helped us book accommodation at a hotel in Dalat. When we arrived there, we saw a huge lake filled with swan pedalos and we asked our expedition guide if we could ride on them during our 2 nights in Dalat. Our expedition guide, being the ‘fun police’ of the expedition declined our suggestion due to the risks and hazards and said: “you can only watch the fun”. He was very fun indeed.
We then reached the M Hotel (not its real name), we were welcomed by the owners there and made it to our rooms. At the entrance, I noticed a sign that specified that a price for a room was 100,000 Vietnamese Dong ($5 USD) and a price for a ‘VIP Massage’ was 200,000 Vietnamese dong ($10 USD). This was weird to see that a ‘VIP Massage’ was twice as much for a room, but we get to see the reason on why later.
After our team meeting, we had to choose menu options in advance for a restaurant the food team picked. From looking at the menu, I picked “Eels with Spicy” – a fitting name for a fitting name indeed. There were also other interesting menu options such as “French Fires” which we believed it was supposed to be french fries. Next to the M Hotel was the restaurant we went to in the evening. It was small and we managed to fill up the whole restaurant as we were a group of 22. As a result, the orders took very long and unfortunately I was the last one to get served. I eventually got my “Eels with Spicy” and a complementary bowl of rice for the delay.
From taking one bite of the eels, I felt the intensity of the spices right away. It was extremely spicy and was difficult to eat as my friends were watching me since they were finished. They were also waiting for me because it is polite to leave once everyone has finished eating. I had to try and resist making too many reactions too as it was quite embarrassing being watched as I eat. I also remember a teammate telling me not to rush but I had to in order to finish it quickly. Eels are also very bony, so I found difficulty picking the bones out of my mouth too without making a scene. For short-term relief of the spiciness, I drank lots and lots of water but was warned by another friend that it will make it worse. I ignored it. Worst decision ever.
A few minutes later, I finished my meal, stood up, and felt extremely light-headed, woozy, giddy and whatever other synonyms you could think of. I tried to make my way back to the hotel on my own but couldn’t and my friend lent me his shoulder to put my arm around for a bit of support. We then our way to a sofa in the corridor between the rooms and from this point I can only remember fragments of what happened.
As I sat next to a few of my friends, I was talking nonsense and they were asking if I was okay. We then had our team debrief and had to come up with the best highlight and worst highlight of the trip so far to say to the rest of the team. I think I mentioned something about elephants and long houses and that was about it. Apparently, I was talking funny from some people and shortly after in my room, I was approached by my expedition leader who asked me lots of questions on how I feel and ordered me to drink a liter of water to flush whatever I had out of my system. He then called over my roommates who helped set up my mosquito net and get ready for bed. Lots of teammates entered my room at various times to see how I am doing and ever since that night for the remainder of the expedition I was nicknamed “Eels”.
In the morning, I felt absolutely fine. Got showered and dressed before my roommates were even up and knocked at another room where the other group of boys was at. Although I couldn’t remember everything that had happened the night before, the guys were explaining to me on how I acted and looked as if I was influenced by some sort of ‘substance’. I was at their door and shortly after my expedition was behind me and asked how I was doing and I replied with that I am feeling much better. After having our team breakfast, rumors were spreading amongst the team about strange noises coming from the level above our floor at the hotel. We ignored it at first and carried on with our day exploring the churches and temples in the area.
Later in the evening, we went to another restaurant with was fancier than the one we been to before. I wanted to be a bit less adventurous this time round so I went with a very nice chicken curry for the main and deep fried ice cream for the dessert. And I had to say, it was delicious! The waitress later explained how they made the deep fried ice cream and they do this by coating a scoop of ice cream in coconut and batter and then deep frying it.
After we finished and went back to our hotel, things began to get more interesting. I couldn’t remember what the atmosphere of the hotel was like the night before, for reasons which you now know, but I was able to experience the atmosphere this time round: At the entrance, there were a large group of men hanging behind the counter acting intimately. We gave a polite nod and made our way to the staircase. When walking up the stairs, we came across bright pink neon lights on the floor upstairs of the floor we were staying at. There were also young men and women walking up and down of those stairs to and from of the floor of bright pink neon lights. As these people passed, we kept our heads down to keep out of trouble as we were not sure what was going on. Our expedition leader then subtly told us guys to not go wandering off up the stairs and said it in a jokingly way. Now I thought something was seriously dodgy and my roommates and I were innocently thinking what the hell it could have been.
The next morning, the girls in our group reported on hearing more strange noises and even stranger this time to our expedition leader and we all had a good idea of what it is. As a result, our expedition leader told us to cancel the remaining bookings and to leave the hotel and book another hotel in the town.
You guys can probably guess what this hotel was from the clues: Signs for VIP Massages more expensive than rooms, large groups of young men, bright pink neon lights on the floor upstairs and strange noises during the night.
If you still don’t know, we stayed at a brothel that was masquerading as a hotel. A shocking discovery indeed and it is something you don’t see every day.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this story; these two nights is something I will never forget and these experiences can only happen if you’re spontaneous when it comes to adventure and you’re always willing to try out new things. Staying over at a brothel and being under the influence of eels isn’t something I’d put on my bucket list, but it does make for a good story.
I’ll be summiting a mountain this weekend, so do look forward to my write-up on it soon.
Until next time,