THE COOL DESTINATION IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
DALAT is a popular destination for well-to-do Vietnamese and foreigners. It is actually the honeymoon capital of Vietnam. Located a the southern edge of the Central Highlands of Vietnam , the city is 1500 meters (1 mile) above sea level and is 305 kilometers (about 190 miles) from Saigon. The name originates from the hill tribe people in this region. The name translates “Stream of the Lat people”. This locale is also famous for its many waterfalls and lakes, one of which is Ho Xuan Huong (Xuan Huong Lake). The city borders the lake and its park like surroundings. Xuan Huong is not a true lake; it was formed as a result of dam built on a branch Camly River in the 1930s.
Prenn Falls, a popular local destination, is located at the foot of Prenn pass and is about 10 km from the city. Visitors to the fall can visit the various habitat of the animals in this region. Be sure to set time aside to Visit Prenn Falls and/or several of the other waterfalls nearby.
This area will also introduce you to Montanyard or hill tribes. Originally wanderers, they have settled in their own communities with government encouragement. Probably the most famous of these is the Chicken Village southwest of Dalat. You will pass near it if you come from Saigon. A day tour will normally include this community and a chance to see the traditional use of looms to make scarves and small table cloths as well as other colorful souvenirs.
The colonial architecture is decidedly French with some Alpine influences. Some of these buildings date back to the 1900s. Hang Viet Nga is the designer/owner of the Hang Nga Guest House, better known as the Crazy House is an exception to this influence. Every visitor has a different description for this concrete monstrosity – check it out. There is an admission fee. By the way, Hang Viet Nha is the daughter of a very high ranking member of the Communist Party in Vietnam.
The central market has an open promenade crammed with everything a citizen of the 3rd world would need and NOT need. The vibrant colors of the local flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables are awesome.
The Dalat Palace is home to the country’s first championship golf course, it also offers tennis, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Don’t let the exclusiveness of the Dalat Palace and the other luxury hotels in town dissuade you from visiting the great town. Tourist hotels can be had for less than $10 a night. There are a couple of bakeries that offer French style pastries that (even though I’m a diabetic) I look forward to enjoying. The restaurants are equally enticing for those who enjoy a proper meal – traditional Vietnamese and European cuisines are presented.
Waterfall on the Ho
Chi Minh Trail
A trip north on the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Highway 14) will lead you to Buon Me Thuot, and Pleiku; where you can turn east and drop down to Qui Nhon on the coast. If you continue north you will pass Kon Tum and Dakto on your way to Danang. This modern road follows the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail of wartime Vietnam. The mountain scenery is awesome anytime of day, but more so with the morning mists shrouding the nearby peaks. This area has recently become a destination of rock climbers. The Highlands are a pleasant change from the humidity and heat of the Vietnamese Lowlands and the hustle of Saigon. Put it on your itinerary.
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