A cosy hill town, in Lam dong province, in central Vietnam, about an hour long flight from Ho Chi Minh city.
Though located in a typically hot tropical country, residents of Dalat enjoy a temperate year round climate, being a hill station. The ride from the airport towards Dalat is refreshingly green through a verdant valley surrounded by lush green hills.
We reached Dalat in late evening, another 40 minute drive from the airport. Approaching the city, it’s clear, that there’s abundance of electricity, as the town is lit up like Christmas time.. with predominantly floral patterns, no wonder called the city of flowers, or city of eternal spring!
The town is centred around a scenic, man-made lake, originally constructed by the french, who developed the town as their summer retreat. Hence, the architectural design of most of the old as well as new constructions is very french or say European with attics and bay windows!
At any time, the well maintained, promenade is dotted by locals and tourists, walking by the lake, jogging, dog-walking, fishing or just lazing.
In the mornings, it’s easy to spot wedding photographers making their clients pose against the picturesque backdrop. In the Evening, the lake is dotted with boat-riders. Numerous small gardens have been developed around the lake, to enjoy the scenic beauty and a spectacular golf course!
Things to do:
1. Number one for me would be sauntering or just lounging by the lake.
It’s blissful. Maybe get some fishing gear or borrow from a local, set a picnic with sangria, and make it a perfect day, à la, Lou reed.
If walking is a task, try the uber cool buggies, straight out of Cindrella.
2. Da Lat flower garden.
Though one can soak in the site of omnipresent blooms everywhere in the city, the flower garden, on the lake-side is dedicated to the floral bounty and one can saunter for hours appreciating the dramatic landscaped gardens.
Do avoid the weekends for any kind of sight seeing, as this is a very popular weekend destination, domestically, with hordes of tourist buses descending every weekend.
3. The waterfalls.
With so much rain, the countryside is bound to abound with waterfalls, and frankly who can resist the awe-inspiring, spectacle of water cascading down with such might. There are many waterfalls, but the most impressive and least crowded is Pongour falls.
This a broad, multi-step or Tiered fall, surrounded by rocky beds, perfect to get under and get soaked. Being an hours drive from the city ensures that most tourist buses avoid the long trip.
Abound in all of south east Asia, so of course in Vietnam, a predominantly Buddhist country.
There are the scenic ones with access from cable cars (Truc lam pagoda) and the middle of city ones with vividly brilliant facade, like Lang phuoc pagoda. Visit one or many, and if you’re lucky to visit on a quiet day, or quieter hour, enjoy the tranquillity on the offer.
5. Da lat market
There’s the all day market and the night market, the road-side and the covered market, selling vibrant souvenirs, the embroidered art, clothes, flowers and fruits.
6. Street food
Try the Vietnamese pizza, the peanut or soy milk, the grilled sea-food or skewered veggies!
But do sit on the tiny stools, set on the road-side, to enjoy the goods, feeling, at home!
If you’re not averse to sweet, try the Ca phe sua da (traditional vietnamese iced coffee served with condensed milk), sitting by the street, popping roasted sunflower seeds, as accompaniment.
7. What to get back, or not to miss!
Markets are full of souvenirs, but Embroidery Art is very specific to Vietnam and is stunning. XQ house has some stunning, hand embroidered pieces, though very steeply priced. The local Da lat market on the other hand has reasonably priced options, maybe machine embroidered, but still beautiful.
The Nón lá, or the Conical hat! its not only unique to South -east Asia, is part of the national dress of Vietnam and is very functional for protection against sun and rain! And makes for an ideal Souvenir!
Tea & Coffee! The Artichoke Tea is very popular here with a whole lot of health benefits!
Though most coffee exported is Robusta, the Civet Coffee (similar in terms of enzymatic process to Kopi Luwak) is gaining momentum.
Nuts and Seeds!Cashews, walnuts, and the quint-essential Sunflower seeds are high quality and less pricier than many parts of the world.
Being a city of flowers, Flower seeds are a perfect souvenir for a horticultural enthusiasts, to bring back home, and remember Da Lat by!
Tam biêt, which is goodbye in Vietnamese.