What’s in Dalat?
The question of what is in Dalat was asked a few times already during this trip. I can honestly say: nothing. Or to be fair: nothing special. Of course, during my travels I experience so many amazing moments, that the standard got pretty high.
Dalat is to the north from Saigon, in the central highlands, between the “mountains”. It is a small French town, or hill station as they called it, with the Xuan Huong Lake right in the middle of downtown. Compared to the southern areas, it has a cool climate, temperature drops every night. Many travelers arrive because of the promise of beautiful nature here, but they find themselves in a vast agricultural area between greenhouses and plantations.
After dawn, I walked a lot to discover the city, admired the really pretty French colonial villas. Then, I took the cable car and headed to the Truc Lam monastery, from where I walked down to the Tuyen Lam lake, a classic example of how Vietnamese can’t figure out how to maximize their income of tourism while not destroying the very thing, that generates the income.
I also visited the palace of the last Vietnamese king, which reminded me to a rural French villa in very good condition. Black and white photos on the walls of the imperial family and the last years of the kingdom are especially interesting.
Crazy House is one of the local sites to check out. The architect, Dang Viet Nga is considered as the local Gaudi. Authorities were really against the construction and she couldn’t get any support, so she is financing the project by herself. As the money slowly ran out, she started up a hotel in the parts of the building that was already ready to add some extra money to the funding.
The next day I rented a bike and rode on the super windy roads to the two waterfalls that are said to be the most beautiful in the area, stopping at some pagodas or buddha statues. The waterfalls are pretty, but they did not give me a wow moment, especially after my last year’s experience in Laos and European canyons. The second day, however, brought a little unexpected adventure: I should’ve had left the last waterwall just 15 minutes earlier to avoid the rain that caught me just before reaching Dalat. I thought I’d stop somewhere and wait until it goes away, but it’s good that I didn’t do it because it went on and on for 4-5 hours. Of course, my raincoat awaited me in my room while I was soaked, I didn’t see a thing through my glasses, and tried to get home in rush hours. It was for sure a memorable experience.
The reason why I almost stayed for an extra night and I really loved my stay, is the super company and the lovely people I met.
My hostel was just great. A small western island in the Viet chaos. A London-based barista guy, Nick and his partner, Briana, launched a lovely place offering private rooms, a cute little five-bed room, western breakfast and divine coffee. The place is actually their home, spiced up with a coffee roaster some rescued dogs and cats, and some super friendly volunteers. We had a good talk about coffee culture and how two foreigners start a business in the -said to be- communist, but actually wild capitalist Vietnam.
At the accommodation I met the Swiss Angelika and the Greek Dimitri who volunteered there. Both are vegans and now they are training the kitchen staff to surprise the guests with more delicious vegan food every day. Dimitris is a personal trainer and has incredible knowledge on nutrition and Angelika is a yoga teacher. They are just figuring out where to open their own place, which combines the knowledge of both of them, and can be a place for trainings and yoga retreats. If this will be in Europe, I will visit them for sure.
I met Tessa (another yoga teacher) and Nick who sold all of their belongings and started a one-year honeymoon around the world. They are on the road for half a year. Although they are still in the Czech Republic on their blog (https://www.thehoneyyear.com), but I’m sure we will soon be able to read their Vietnamese adventures as well.
All in all I spent two days in Dalat, but it was enough for me. I left with a smile on my face.
- Cable Car: 80.000 VND (3,5 USD)
- King’s Palace entrance fee: 40.000 VND (1,7 USD)
- Elephant Waterfall entrance fee: 20.000 VND (0,8 USD) – there’s free parking nearby
- Pangour Waterfall entrance fee: 20.000 VND (0,8 USD)
- Parking at Pangour Waterfall: 5.000 VND (0,2 USD) – you can park for free 500 meter before the entrance gate.
- Crazy House entrance fee: 50.000 VND (2,2 USD)