Da Lat


Known as ‘Le Petit Paris’ by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Da Lat is quite different from anywhere else you’ll visit in Vietnam and still a luxury retreat for city dwellers and tourists tired out from all the noise and rush. In Da Lat you can play golf on one of the finest courses in Indochina, visit beautiful temples, and enjoy the town's honeymoon atmosphere with delightful tourist sights.

Things to do in Dalat:

  • Stroll around the Xuan Huong Lake (or better yet, a trip around the lakes by paddle boats). 
  • Enjoy a game of golf at the oldest and most grand course in Vietnam. 
  • Do bicycling tour around the city, to the lake, the market, the tower, the gardens and wherever you want. Double-bicycles (for couples) are also available. 
  • Ride a horse in the park. 
  • Admire the waterfalls around town. 
  • Take your time in Love Valley, the most romantic place in Vietnam. Visit Bao Dai's summer Palace, Truc Lam Thien Vien (by cables). 
  • Da Lat is also becoming one of the homes for Vietnam's outdoor adventure activities, including trekking to the nearby minority villages, cycling, rock climbing and rappelling.

 

Where to go in Dalat:

Bao Dai Palace Completed in 1938, this monument is dedicated to Bao Dai, Vietnam's last King, with a place of rest and respite with his family. It has never been restored and, indeed, looks veritably untouched since the King's ousting and hasty exile. You'll be asked to go in stockinged feet or wear loose shoe covers, which makes it fun for sliding around the home's 26 rooms, including Bao Dai's office and the bedrooms of the royal family. You can still see the grease stains on Bao Dai's hammock pillow and the ancient steam bath in which he soaked. The explanations are in English, and most concern Bao Dai's family. There are three other Bao Dai palaces in town, the Sofitel Da Lat Palace Hotel among them, but this is the most choice.

Da Lat Market is the top stroll-through destination in Da Lat. Huge, crowded, and stuffed with produce of all varieties, here you can see all the local specialties. Some of the vendors will be happy to give you a sample of some local wine or a few candied strawberries. The top floor of the market now houses a high-end embroidery studio, and shops catering to tourists are on the rise, but mostly what's for sale are good local wines, preserves, and produce. Just outside the market, a number of vendors sell anything from sweetened soy milk to affordable dinners. The place is busy night and day.

Da Lat Railway Station Built in 1943, the Da Lat station offers an atmospheric slice of Da Lat's colonial history. You can see an authentic old wood-burning steamer train on the tracks to the rear, and stroll around inside looking at the iron-grilled ticket windows, which are now empty. The steamer train no longer runs and is replaced by a newer Japanese train that makes a trip to Trai Mat Street and the Linh Phuoc Pagoda.

Lake of Sights Legend has it that a 15-year-old girl named Thuy drowned herself after her boyfriend of the same age, Tam, fell in love with another. Her gravestone still exists on the side of the lake, marked with the incense and flowers left by other similarly heartbroken souls. The place is crammed with honeymooners in paddle boats and motorboats.

Lam Ty Ni Pagoda The temple itself is nothing special, though the immaculate garden in the back is nice; the attraction here is Mr. Thuc's large studio. Thuc, a Vietnamese Zen practitioner, seems to be painting, drawing, and scribbling his way to Nirvana. It's an interesting visit offering unique glimpse into the inner sanctum of a true eccentric.

Lat Village of the Co Ho minority people is usually part of the all-day tours in the hills around Da Lat. There is an enormous cement statue of a chicken at the entry to town which is attached to different versions of the legend. The Co Ho people are very used to the many foreign visitors who come here every day and the sellers are not pushy and you are free to walk about this rustic little town at your own pace.

Linh Phuoc Pagoda is another example of one of Vietnam's fantasyland glass-and-ceramic mosaic structures. Refurbished in 1996, this modern temple features a huge golden Buddha in the main hall, and three floors of walls and ceilings painted with fanciful murals. Go to the top floor for the eye-boggling Bodhisattva room and views of the surrounding countryside. In the garden to the right, there is a 3m-high dragon climbing in and out of a small lake. You'll find very cool little nooks and crannies to explore.

Prenn Falls The falls are actually quite impressive, especially after a good rain. You can ride a rattle-trap little cable car over them if you're brave or follow a stone path behind the falling water. Other falls in the area include the GougahFalls, some 40km south of Da Lat, as well as Pongour Falls, 55km south.

The French Quarter The whole town has the look and feel of a French replica, but on the ridge-running Tran Hung Dao road, never miss out the derelict shells of the many French colonial summer homes once populated and popular; it's where the connected and successful came to escape the Saigon roasting heat in summer. The road itself, one you'll take to many of the sights outside of town, offers panoramic views.

Thien Vuong Pagoda built by the local Chinese population, this pagoda is remarkable for its serene setting among the hills of Da Lat and the very friendly nuns who inhabit it. It does have three awe-inspiring sandalwood Buddhist statues that have been dated to the 16th century. Each statue is 4m high and weighs 1 1/2 tons.

Truc Lam Zen Monastery Unlike many other temples and most pagodas in Vietnam, you'll be wandering amid meditation halls and classrooms that are utilitarian, not museum pieces though it's packed with tourists at certain times of the day. You'll get to see monks at work and have an informative glimpse into the daily rhythms of temple life. The complex was completed in 1994 with the aim of giving new life to the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect, a uniquely Vietnamese form of Zen founded during the Tran dynasty (1225-1400). The shrine, the main building, is notable mainly for its simple structure and peaceful air. The scenery around the monastery, with views of the nearby man-made lake, Tuyen Lam Lake, and surrounding mountains, is breathtaking.

Valley of Love is scenic headquarters in Da Lat and a popular stopover for honeymooners. There are a few nice walking paths among the rolling hills and quaint little lakes, and everyone enjoys the antics of Vietnamese honeymooners zipping around on motorboats and posing for pictures.

Xuan Huong Lake The centerpiece of Da Lat was created from a dam project that was finished in 1923, demolished by a storm in 1932, and reconstructed and rebuilt in 1935. You can rent windsurfing boards and swan-shape paddle boats.

 

How to get to Dalat:

Flights: Vietnam Airlines runs daily flights between Da Lat and Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Da Lat's Lien Khuong Airport is 30km south of town. A taxi from the airport to the city is $3 and takes about 30 minutes.

Buses: Da Lat is the first stop on the open bus tickets from Ho Chi Minh City. Buses from both north and south first stop at Phan Rang, an old Cham temple site, where the road turns inland for the hills of Da Lat. The ride to Da Lat from the coast is winding and spectacular.

Cars/Motorbikes: Take the brand new highway through the mountains via hired transport in a minivan or car. From Da Lat, the trip is approximately 4-5 hours to Nha Trang and slightly longer to Ho Chi Minh City.

The city of Eternal Spring, Da Lat’s temperature ranges between 15 and 24 degree Celsius. The dry season runs from December to March and the wet season from April to November. Generally speaking, the city is mercifully blessed with cool weather all the year round which makes it a perfect destination for honeymooners and couples.


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