Da Lat City – The city of flowers
From my first full day in Vietnam I had heard about Da Lat City from a local university student named Minh Binh Tinh and added it to my list of places to visit. Honestly, its the best way to learn about where to go in a new country and not surprisingly ended up being my favourite destination.
January 30th, I arrived in Da Lat City by day bus in the late afternoon. Thanks to a new acquaintance named Chris, from France, I already had a place to stay called “Alan Hostel”. The road up presented breath-taking views of lush green mountains and rice field scenery. The beauty was only equalled in potency by the simultaneous nausea from six hours of speeding through narrow windy roads. Eat some ginger before would have helped!
A great deal at 125,000 VND per night with free breakfast and a communal dinner every night at 6pm. They were so booked up, I ended up staying in one of the staff bedrooms with a good guy named Liam, from London. It was a little unorthodox but totally worth it for the hostel comradery that stemmed from the evening meal and drinks we shared together with both guests and staff. I booked my motorbike rental on my fourth day at the hostel and had no problems despite my questionable driving skills.
Da Lat City
My first two days in Da Lat were spent relaxing, writing and walking through town. This beautiful city in the mountains was a nice comfortable temperature with superbly kind citizens. Outside the main market and a couple blocks from the lake, I paid local prices and received a warm friendly welcome.
On the way towards the city, I noticed all the green houses in the valleys of the surrounding mountains. Da Lat is famous for growing flowers, they even have two giant glass flower buildings adjacent to the central lake. Under the lotus was a mall with fast food and a supermarket. These green houses, operational all year, also supply vegetables and fruit! For 15,000 VND I had a great fruit, ice cream and coconut dessert right upon my arrival, it was almost too good to be true. Then I ate a delicious rice and chicken porridge dish for a mere 10,000 VND that filled me up between my free breakfast and diner. The city is known for its rice based pizza that I saw being prepared in a local restaurant.
I never felt so genuinely welcome into a local restaurant as I did in Da Lat, it is my favourite stop in Vietnam because it understands what I want as a tourist: Fair prices, beautiful scenery, delicious food, friendly locals and peaceful strolls through town free of loud sidewalk sellers.
This house that began construction in 1990 is hilarious and funky. For the 40,000 VND entrance fee, it was worth a visit. The house is actually a large estate with many buildings including themed hotel rooms, a cafe, a gift shop and a restaurant, bar and maybe even an aquarium presently under construction.
The owner and architect is a 75 year old Vietnamese woman who studied architecture in Moskow. Her vision was to create a house that reminded visitors about our important relationship with nature. Ironically the entire place, despite resembling nature, is made out of concrete. But hey, at least she is trying to spread awareness about environmental conservation.
There is a lovely picture of the architect and her late husband over the e reception dinning room, along with bulletin boards of news articles on the house since its initial construction. What must have first seemed like a weird wacky project by a strange old lady, is now a cool tourist attraction really worth checking out!
100 Roofs Bar
A similar story to the crazy house, this five floor plus multi terrace bar is a maze of tunnels and hidden passageways. This place opened in the late 80s and has been a little secret even since! I couldn’t it on Google maps or any travel books. The owner, an elderly Vietnamese man, who spoke French, designed the entire place on paper before putting himself to the task. In the brief conversation I had with him, he explained how it was important that his creation reflected the traditional Vietnamese landscape and that his building materials such as the wood furniture and bamboo fixtures and railings were locally sourced.
Together with other guests, we played ‘Do you have the bottle (of rum)?’ Until 1:30am… A while past closing time, it was a good time!
Chua Linh Son Podoga
This peaceful temple lies down the street from most of the major hostels. During my first quiet day spent exploring the city, I took a solid 30mins to drop by the temple and meditate. Unlike the major temples, this one was almost empty of tourists. Sitting on the mats of the empty temple, tranquillity took over and the stress and wear of travel melted away.
Waterfalls and Countryside
The big attraction to Da Lat is the abundance of nearby waterfalls that lay scattered around the countryside. Hire a motorbike ‘easy rider’ for a chauffeured tour or rent one yourself and attempt to navigate your way through the countryside! I chose the latter, accompanied by my sister Tonya and her partner Jake. Each bike costs roughly $5.50 USD for the day plus a full tank of gas for another $2.10
We visited Pengour Waterfall and Elephant Waterfall roughly 50kms and 30kms outside the city. Pengour has two to three levels of falls and a great gorge for swimming! The upper level of the falls was hard to reach, requiring a sure foot, however the view of the surroundings was superb!
Elephant Falls were impressive, still flowing strong even in the dry season. Climb behind the water or up one of the giant rock pillars scattered on the riverbed for a cool viewing point. The waterfalls were $0.50 & $1.00 respectively, bringing the days total to a big $9.20.
For the more daring traveller, there are waterfall repelling day tours available for $25-$30 per person. The tour includes four waterfall repels, the highest being 25m tall, and one free jump into a deep pool.
I loved Da Lat City. It’s a destination definetly worth seeing when visiting Vietnam.