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Published: March 11th 2010
When one thinks of Vietnam, Dalat's landscapes would not be something that comes to mind. Set 2000 meters up in the Central Highlands, Dalat has unique scenery and much cooler weather than anywhere else in the south. Pine trees replace palms, everyone seems to wear jackets (although still too hot for that I think), and architecturally is a fusion between Vietnamese and French cultures. In fact you could say it resembles more a town in the French mountains than a town in southern Vietnam. During the French colonial days, the colonists went to these hills to escape the heat. The town has always been known as a place of learning as well, with universities and colleges abound, students could study without sweltering.
I arrived and checked into a pretty nice hotel room considering the price, and then set off with a map in hand to walk the city. In terms of scenery I have to say this is one of the top places I've been to so far. Flowers and pine trees are everywhere, as well as parks and gardens throughout the town. I walked to the town center, saw the main market and several monuments. People were friendly and
many wanted to know where I was from. Not many foreigners here although there are a lot of Vietnamese tourists here, that come on short holidays for a change of scenery. This is a very popular destination for honeymooners as well.
Dalat used to have a small lake at its center but while I was there the entire thing was drained for reasons unknown. Maybe they were cleaning it up or resizing or something. I past the university and the golf course, and checked out the flower park. All sorts of flora were here, many unique to Dalat's temperate climate. Much produce grown here is also unique and can't be found anywhere else in the country. I took lots of snaps of plant life, much of the setup was very impressive. I then moved on to walk the other side of town and see the historic village of Dalat with very nice architecture. Upon returning to my area of town near the center I realized that despite my map, the darkness had already descended and I spent almost an hour trying to find my room again. I asked many locals, many of which seemed confused by my questions. The
town is structured with random curved roads throughout making it difficult to find a specific place. Luckily Vietnam has a Latin based written language making it simple enough to at least read the street signs. Being lost at this hour did give me an opportune time to explore more of the town in a different light, literally. I then took the rest of the night easy.
For breakfast the following day I went to the Peace Cafe, good local food at better prices and near my room. I then took a decent walk up a hill to the cable car, which delighted with gorgeous scenery and a short ride later and over another hill, a large lake. Upon arriving a temple within a park awaited to be explored. From there I descended to the lake and the walked for a while along its shore. I doubled back and then, after stopping at a open vendor for a banh mi sandwich, continued and walked in the other direction. I saw a newly wed couple having pictures done along the lake, checked out some weird looking building along the way and then took off again for the cable car back to
A few hours before leaving Dalat the next morning I checked out the crazy house. This twisted piece of architecture was designed by the daughter of a former president of Vietnam, in fact it was her who sold me the ticket for the entrance fee. Archways and steps deviated in every which way, there was a dark and eerie feel to the place. Certain animal statues were in several rooms, all having dark, demonic eyes. It was the twilight zone.
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