Tuesday, May 10, 2011
(PICTURE: Huyen and our tour guide/ticket seller inside the hydroelectric dam.)
Huyen had heard about a hydroelectric dam 30K outside of Pleiku that was open to tourists. When we finished at the army base, we threw our bags (and laundry) into a room at a Nha Tro (cheaper than a Nha Nghi!) and drove out to the dam. When we arrived, something was slightly amiss -- we were the only tourists there! We strolled up to the front gate where there were four people. Two of the people were security guards and two were apparently ticket sellers. One of the ticket sellers asked me for my passport and then examined it for a solid five minutes. The guys told us that if we wanted to see the dam, we had to pay an entrance fee ($2) and also hire a taxi ($12.50) to take us out to the dam since we weren't allowed to drive our motorbike there. We agreed and the ticket guy called up a taxi. When the taxi arrived, the ticket seller jumped in the car and said he was gonna personally give us a tour since he wasn't too busy.
The car pulled through the front gate and immediately drove across the giant dam. The ticket seller sat shotgun and told us that we could ask him any questions about the place. My first question was, "How many people work here?" The answer was, "That's a secret." So much for any question!
The taxi drove about 6km to the entrance of a tunnel into the mountain. We got dropped off and began to walk through the tunnel:
(PICTURE: Huyen and I in the middle of the tunnel.)
As we neared the end of the tunnel, I saw a very unusual sign in Vietnam -- a no smoking sign. The ticket seller told us not to smoke...and less than ten seconds later, we saw the only worker in the tunnel smoking! The guy seemed equally surprised to see us in the tunnel as we did to see him puffing on a cigarette.
The tour guide then showed us the turbines and told us a lot about the dam:
(PICTURE: Huyen and me in front of the first turbine.)
This dam is the second largest hydroelectric dam in Vietnam. However, there's another under construction that will put this one at #3 in the near future. He showed us the pipes and explained the process of how hydroelectricity works. Just like in high school science, I was lost.
At the end of the tour, having seen nobody else, I asked the ticket seller how many tourists come every year. He thought to himself for a few seconds and said, "About 40,000." I'm not sure if this was a little bit of an exaggeration or if the weekends are super busy!
Being inside of a dam was very very cool. The whole time I got the feeling that I was somewhere I wasn't supposed to be. Although I also had a feeling I was like James Bond, discovering some sinister plot inside of a mountain.
Right when we were about to leave, the tour guide told us to go visit an ethnic village not far from the dam. We took him up on his suggestion...and that's when the day really got weird...