Vietnam & Cambodia Trip – Stop Five – Dalat, Vietnam
We had a VERY early flight on the 10th, leaving Hoi An while it was still dark, and driving back North to the Da Nang airport. Interestingly the airport was the Da Nang Air Base, a U.S. base during the war. Our flight took us South to the mountain city of Dalat. During the French rule of Vietnam the city was a retreat for military officials wanting to get away from the heat. It still is a popular vacation destination due to its cool climate year round. It is also known for its flower industry and there are flowers all over the city with many of the markets only open leading up to the Tet holiday.
From the airport we went to the restaurant associated with the hotel for breakfast then started touring the city while we waited to check in. Our guide took us to the cable car station where we rode across the pine forest to the Truc Lam Monastery. We were able to walk around some of the temples and gardens in the Zen Buddhist Monastery which is an active monastery. Our guide told us that his mother is now a nun at this monastery and we saw many monks walking around the complex. It was a beautiful and peaceful place to wander around with the flowers in bloom.
From the monastery we went back to the hotel to check in and freshen up before finishing our tour of the city. We stopped briefly at the Dalat Railway Station. Art Deco in style, built by the French. It no longer serves as a transportation hub; now it offers tourists rides on the historical steam engine. Since a lot of steam is needed to run it, it only operates during the high season, thus it was not running while we were there. From the train station we drove quite a while to the Linh Phuoc Pagoda. This is one of the most interesting looking pagoda’s I have ever seen. It is decorated with collected glass and pottery pieces, most of the dragon scales are made from beer bottles.
The complex includes a seven tiered bell tower. It is tradition to make a wish and then ring the bell three times, so Chris and I made our wish and rang the bell. In the basement of the tower is a hall of statues and a tunnel depicting hell. It was slightly scary and very odd. In fact there were a few other tourists there that waited to walk through the tunnel with us because they were afraid to go in alone.
We finished our touring by walking along the road were there were large French style houses, many currently being used as hotels, and Orchid stalls set up for the Tet holiday. We saw many people purchasing flowers to ship to their family homes in other parts of Vietnam for the approaching holiday. It was interesting to see how the plants were carefully packed.
At evening we left the hotel and walked down to the Dalat Street Market in search of dinner. All the restaurants we had found online were closed either for good or for the evening. Hungry and tired to walking we decided to give the local fast food place, Lotteria, a try. Many of the locals were stopping in and we saw lots of people eating the ice cream. While we are not typically fast food people – I do enjoy trying it out in other countries. Unfortunately the meal did not agree with Chris and the next morning we stayed in.
When we did adventure out of the hotel it was to walk the several blocks to the Hằng Nga guesthouse. The Crazy House as it is known was built by a local architect from Dalat and in fact is a hotel with guest rooms. It is hard to describe the buildings design. Definitely organic, it is animal shapes mixed with plant structures and narrow passage ways connecting rooms. It was tricky to climb some of the stairways that were more like ladders and slightly claustrophobic. Construction continued while we were there and we could see the wire structures which would later be covered in concrete. While we were there we did not see any sign of guests staying in the building but there were lots of other tourists wandering around.
After checking out as many of the corners and passageways as we could we headed back to the hotel. Along the way we saw some teenagers dancing in front of their school and other activities which appeared to be part of the everyday in Dalat. Chris was still not feeling great so I went back to the restaurant across from the hotel to eat and he went back to bed, hoping to feel better for moving on the next morning.
Chris’ Comments: Dalat was a blur. I got quite, quite sick during our full day there and it ruined the plans we had for that day. A few skipped meals, a lot of time in bed, and an antibiotic helped me limit the impact to 24 hours. Other than that, I remember Dalat for a tourist-destination-in-a-mountain-town-at-low-season with the cool, dry, and sunny weather that makes for fantastic pictures. In fact I took one of my favorite pictures on the trip there. Somehow I managed tiltshift without actually using one or trying. Oh, and I was surprised at how many Russians there were in contrast to none in the other parts of Vietnam. I wish we could have done more, but I was happy I was only out of commission for one day.
Truc Lam Temple
Dalat Railway Station
Linh Son Pagoda
Streets of Dalat
Le Cafe de la Poste – We went to the restaurant main because it was affiliated with our hotel. The breakfast buffet had a pretty large selection, if not remarkable. I did have lunch here and ordered a club sandwich. It included fried egg and chicken breast pieces to my surprise. A bonus is that this was the closest place to the hotel to buy a large bottle of water.
Lotteria – A fast food restaurant in the center of Dalat. We saw several of these in other cities as well but during our stay here we were enticed inside by the ice cream. Ultimately it was fast food and I enjoyed the ice cream (think Dairy Queen Blizzard) we suspect that the food did not sit too well with Chris so I cannot say I would recommend trying it.
Note to our readers:
If you are interested many of the photographs are captioned, just select the individual images to open them in a new window. Also, we were surprised how large the country was for a small country. I have put together a Travel Map with the places we visited to give an idea of how we managed to cover a good portion of the country during our trip.