Dalat

Dalat is very much a niche tourism town, open to some of the more adventurous travelers, or the Indo chic romantics, seeking world class golf.

Dalat, also Da Lat (Đà Lạt), located in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam, was originally the playground of the French who built villas in the clear mountain air to escape the heat and humidity of the coast and of Saigon, officially known as Ho Chi Minh City.

Dalat

Dalat City

Dalat looks like a cross between Vietnam and the French Alps. Many of its hotels and houses are built in a European/ French style. The city spreads across a series of pine-covered hills, with a small lake in the center and surrounded by a man made lake and higher peaks, making for some lovely scenery quite different from the rest of Vietnam. Temperatures are pleasantly warm by day, and quite cool at night, down to perhaps 10 degrees Celsius.


Dalat is very much a niche tourism town, open to some of the more adventurous travelers, or the Indo chic romantics, seeking world class golf. There is a steady flow during some parts of the year of tourist from all walks of life and places, small hotels, cafe’s lining its streets and plenty of small shops offering anything from orchids to knitwear. The vast majority of visitors are Vietnamese, although plenty of Americans and Europeans find their way, in their search for this utopian Dalat, a Life style resort destination, either on short package tours, or research and soul searching, drawn by the scenery, vivid blue skies, fresh air, flower-filled parks, and local culinary treats. Dalat is a favorite destination for company weekend outings, family get-aways, and honeymooners. Most guidebooks for overseas visitors describe Dalat as a tourist town with a colorful approach to tourism. Dalat is a very pleasant stop, on a north-south tour (or vice versa), or a pleasant outing from the heat of Saigon. For overseas visitors, it offers mostly a chance to cool down, observe the Vietnamese at play, view a bit of the French legacy, the Indochine legend and its momentous glories and the architecture untouched by the Vietnam conflict left behind,a unique place to enjoy the atmosphere of a unique country and its people.

Dalat – The largest and by far the most ‘touristed’ town in the Central Highlands, Dalat is the capital of Lam Dong province. The bracing, cool mountain climate that Dalat enjoys at an altitude of 1,500m (4,920ft), its large open spaces, picturesque waterfalls, colonial architecture and incredibly fresh produce provide respite for those wishing to escape the heat and humidity of Ho Chi Minh City and the lowlands of southern Vietnam. Annual temperatures range between a comfortable 16°C (61°F) and 24°C (75°F), making the city Vietnam’s most popular fair-weather retreat – and its top honeymoon destination. It is easy to see why the French were so enamoured of Dalat during the colonial days and why it was the favourite getaway for the last emperor, Bao Dai. During the American war, the city remained a haven of peace, and as a result, Dalat’s beautiful colonial architecture has been preserved as nowhere else in Vietnam. It is a wonderful city to explore on foot. Although largely assimilated now, local ethnic minorities can still be seen walking to the market in quasi-traditional dress, with baskets and large jars hanging on their backs.

 

Places to visit in Central Dalat

Central Market in Dalat

Dalat

Dalat market

Dalat’s Central Market (Cho Da Lat) is one of the largest in the country, set in the deep hollow of a hillside and surrounded by rows of cafés and shops selling wine and candied fruit. The food is the highlight here. The second floor of the middle building is devoted entirely to food stalls. The ground floor of the market offers a peek into the great diversity of produce grown in the surrounding region: tomatoes, avocados, asparagus, strawberries and just about any other fruit you can think of, as well as flowers in abundance.

 

Summer Palace of Bao Dai  in Dalat

Dalat

Summer Palace of Bao Dai

Tucked away under pine trees at Trieu Viet Vuong Street – Dalat is the Summer Palace of Bao Dai (Biet Dien Quoc Truong). This Art Deco-influenced abode of Vietnam’s last emperor was built between 1933 and 1938. Also referred to as Dinh III, it is actually one of three palaces (the others being Dinh I and Dinh II, neither of which is currently open to the public) belonging to Bao Dai in Dalat. It’s said that all three are connected by tunnels so that the emperor could secretly visit his mistresses in each one. Although guides will say that the furnishings and artefacts in the house were used by Bao Dai, it is a well-known fact that many of his belongings were carted away in the early years. Outside the mansion, a carnival-like atmosphere prevails, with souvenir vendors, pony rides and Disney characters. To appreciate the villa better, visit it right after it opens in the morning, or just before lunch.

 

Lam Dong Museum in Dalat

Dalat

Lam Dong Museum

On Hung Vuong Street is the Lam Dong Museum (Bao Tang Lam Dong), an excellent museum that has been recognised by the United Nations for its extensive collection of musical gongs used by the local K’ho, Ma and Churu minorities. Other exhibits include an impressive taxidermy collection of local wildlife; ancient relics from the Champa empire excavated near Cat Tien National Park, with others from recent excavations throughout the province; and full-sized Ma and K’ho tribal longhouses, decorated with musical instruments, weapons and common household items.

 

What to see around Dalat

Dalat Cable Car in Dalat

Dalat

Dalat Cable Car

The Dalat Cable Car (Cap Treo Da Lat) is located about 3km (2 miles) south of town. The cable-car ride extends over 2km (1¼ miles) and offers lovely panoramas of villages and mountain forests, all the way to the Bamboo Forest Meditation Centre (Thien Vien Truc Lam). This Zen-style Buddhist monastery was built in 1993 and has about 100 monks and 80 nuns in residence. The temple is said to benefit from perfect feng-shui placement, with Pin Haat Mountain (Nui Pin Haat) behind and Quang Trung Reservoir (Ho Tuyen Lam) below. Beneath the monastery is a picnic area with tables and chairs that overlooks the tranquil reservoir. The artificial lake was created in 1980 and is now a recreational area with rowing-boats and canoes for hire.

 

Tiger Falls in Dalat

Dalat

Tiger Falls

Tiger Falls (Thac Hang Cop) is the grandest waterfall in the Dalat area, and thankfully the least visited or developed, largely because of the long drive down a poor road and a further walk down a very steep hill. The falls are an ideal outing for nature lovers who wish to indulge in some adventure trekking, following the stream as it crashes among the boulders in the rainforest canyon below. Tiger Falls is 14km (9 miles) east of Dalat, past Trai Mat village, where there is a signposted turning on the left.


Langbiang Mountain in Dalat

Dalat

Langbiang Mountain

The 12km (7-mile) drive from Dalat to Langbiang Mountain (Nui Lang Bian) passes through quaint Lat Village, inhabited by K’ho, Lat and Ma minorities. The villagers make a meagre living from the squash, tobacco, coffee, tea and cotton that they grow on the hillsides. Visitors can explore Langbian Mountain’s hiking trails on their own, but hiring a guide offers more options. There are breathtaking vistas of the countryside, and the surrounding pine forests are said to harbour a few surviving bears, deers, leopards and boars.

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