Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A trip to Dalat

Dalat is a city that is like nothing else I've seen so far in my short time in Vietnam. I've only been here for 8 months, and to be honest with you, I've mostly been confined to Saigon. However, on the few occasions that I've frequented other parts I can't say that I've been completely impressed or blown away by any part that I've visited....well that was until Dalat.

Rumour has it that during the Vietnam War (American War as it's called here) there was an agreement between all sides that Dalat be left out of the conflict. Word is that the Generals and various officers on both sides had houses, getaways, cottages (or whatever you want to call their lodgings) when they weren't intent on blowing each other to bits. Therefore Dalat has kept many of its French influences and beauty. When I say beauty, particularly when compared to Ho Chi Minh, I really mean it.

Lets start from the beginning. Not so much on a whim, but something that's between a whim and an actual plan, my housemate and I decided to drive to Dalat on our motorbikes. If you've watched Top Gear Vietnam, you will now know that the roads aren't exactly what we've come to expect in the U.K. Anyways, we set out on our 450km journey. Like most travellers, we decided to leave early to avoid the traffic, and true to our word and plan, we actually set out before 6 a.m. The first part of the drive was really easy (apart from the usual tossers that are so frequent on the Vietnamese roads) and not far outside HCMC we turned left (the only turn for the entire journey!) and here the road trip became interesting!

In the distance, we could see mountains and trees and even green stuff which I've been informed is called grass! The sky was perfect and blue, decorated with a few clouds. Sounds good doesn't it. And it was :-) That is until we reached the mountains! Now, I'd never driven on a mountain road before, and apparently they are neither straight, nor safe. That being said the sites were spectacular and ones that I ordinarily would've enjoyed. However, the heavens opened, visibility was next to none and crazy bus drivers deciding that overtaking round blind corners on nothing more than skinny country lanes only added to the excitement. The rain was also coming at an angle which lead me to believe that it was actually an attack on my eyes so I had to wear sunglasses, which wouldn't have been a problem if I could see more than, let's say, 10 metres in front of me!

Needless to say when we stopped for lunch we were both soaked to the skin, but I had the one saving grace....a Thermos with hot tea! Or so I thought. Yep you guessed it (or maybe not) I forgot to boil the kettle, so the tea was stone cold....great.....on to Dalat....11 hours after leaving the house

First finding the hotel. This was easy! A quick call to our friend, a text message with the address and some helpful locals and we found the house shortly after making the final assent into Dalat. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that this town is approximately 1495 metres above see level, our poor bikes! Anyhows, we're here and after a shower and change of clothes.....warmth! After my first post, you may be surprised to hear that I was actually cold! I was too! For some reason, I failed to register that Dalat was indeed a mountain city/town or whatever you want to call it, and that at altitude things are generally a bit colder. That coupled with the rain that we had encountered and the fact that I was a drowned rat by this point meant I was freezing. However, mustn't complain as I must admit, I like the cold!

I could go on with a blow by blow account, which would both be self-indulgent and a waste of time, so that's exactly what I'm going to do....nah only kidding. What I will do is give you 5 reasons to visit Dalat should you ever visit this part of the world.....

1) Waterfalls - I had never seen a waterfall before. Whilst they are certainly not the biggest in the world I found them to be a source of wonder and amazement. I've always respected water and found it to be a good place to think. Not only were they incredible to view, the sheer power of the fall is quite something.

2) The cable car - Again another first for me. There's something about being suspended from a cable God knows how many metres from safety which makes you feel just that little bit vulnerable! However, the views of the mountains, valleys and scenery was staggering, and this was at a time when visibility was particularly poor! The mind races to think about what I would've been able to see had it been clear, but no doubt I'll be back so fingers crossed!

3) Random fun - Original I know but I think it sounded better than miscellaneous! At the various attractions you can go on small roller coasters, ride an elephant or ostrich, throw spears and do some archery. Whilst it's not quite as good as it first sounds, it's still a lot of fun and I haven't found the same level of fun in HCMC yet.

(That's not a flattering picture!!)

4) The noise (or should I say lack of it) - Dalat is remarkably quiet. The drivers don't honk their horns unnecessarily, people aren't constantly going through your street trying to sell you things and you can find places to relax and collect your thoughts very easily! It's such a change to HCMC where it's impossible to get away from the sound of traffic.

5) It's just nice - Period.

Dalat is the perfect tonic for HCMC. It's like a piece of home in Vietnam. I didn't mention it, but it feels like Europe which is I guess why I enjoyed being there! The weather is similar to home, the buildings are interesting to look at (not the straight lined, built in a hurry buildings of Saigon) and the pace of life is relaxed and peaceful. In my whole 2 days there, I managed to do more and had more fun than I have had accumulated in HCMC. Unfortunately Dalat is only a small city and there are no opportunities to teach English there! However, I do think that if I were to live there it could be a boring place to live. That being said, I'm happy to think of Dalat as a corner of happiness and bliss that I can't wait to return to!


  1. Good post. I need to join you guys next time. Pictures are nice.

  2. You probably liked it because of its French influence - personally I've always been very influenced by the French...