Sarah at the Datanla Falls about 7 km outside Dalat
The second thing you notice is the change of scenery. It’s green, as in Jolly Green Giant green, everywhere. As you take the 25 km journey from the airport to the city, or should I say town as its population is less than 200 000, the scenery changes from rural, ramshackle abodes with pale green, checkered patches of various vegetables in the yard (you know the kind – with the scrawny chickens scratching in the dust), to imposing and fragrant dark green pine forests bold enough to impose themselves right up to the edge of the windy road as you ascend up to Dalat.
A view of the city from the cable car building
The town itself felt like a Vietnamese version of a Mediterranean coastal town, with the same cliff-built houses and coffee-shops, with locals lazing around on street corners and sporting the same narrow, winding road effect. Dalat's also the home of the beret-wearing, goatee-sporting "bohemian" types. We never did forget where we are though, as the omnipresent, neon-lit “Eiffel Tower” made us feel right at home.
View of the town square with Cho Dalat (Dalat Market on the left)
That damn "Eiffel Tower" is like a "Where's Waldo?" - it pops up everywhere!
The communications tower wasn’t the only Vietnamese kitch, which we’ve all grown to love, on offer: You can rent swan-shaped paddle boats for a spin on the lake, there are neon-lit clubs and coffee-shops, including the Ngoc Lan Eyesore Hotel which mysteriously dominates in the background of all photos, no matter which angle you take them from! Horse-and-carriage rides around the lake, walks in the wilting flower garden (maybe it was just the wrong season), jostling and elbowing other tourists for a spot to pose in front of one of the numerous waterfalls dotting the region – or even taking the “coasterbob” rollercoaster down the hill to the Datanla Falls. You name it, Dalat’s got it in abundance, except we didn’t see any pink, ceramic flamingoes…
A view from a swan
I'm not ashamed to say I loved it immensely, kitsch and all, and not just cause I got to spend it with my kickass girlfriend. The people are damn hospitable. Check out the Dreams Hotel on Pham Dinh Phung Street to see what I mean. The owner, Mrs Dung, has received rave reviews and they’re all justified. The rooms aren’t much to look at, but the accommodating and forthcoming nature of the staff (as well as the killer breakfast with Marmite and Vegemite – a rarity in Vietnam) more than made up for it.
At the Tiger Falls
The people, the weather, the beautiful scenery, (and all the other little weird things like the ghost restaurant we ate at on the Sunday) added up to a pretty damn good weekend and I think Sarah loved her birthday as much as I did.
The cable car that takes you over a 2.3 km expanse of green foliage to a reservoir and Buddhist monastry
A view of Xuan Huong Lake by night