Tuesday, August 21, 2007

If you come from Dalat, are you “Dalatian”?

I felt a bit like Duncan MacLeod from Highlander as we descended to Lien Khang Airport, minus Queen’s epic “Princes of the Universe”, Christopher Lambert’s cheesy haircut and killer sword (so I guess I felt very little like Duncan MacLeod in fact). The only thing in common was actually the aspect of “highlands”, the term with which one could describe Dalat’s surroundings.

View of the countryside

See, Sarah and I flew up to Dalat in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region, about 300 km from HCM City (and only 45 minutes by plane), to celebrate her birthday last weekend. The first thing we noticed was the cool weather, a distinct difference from the sweltering humidity of Saigon. Even while cruising mountain passes in search of the next waterfall, the temperature was never uncomfortably cold – just nippy enough to put a spring in your step.

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


Anonymous said...

Hi there

Interesting to see other SA boys and gals in Vietnam. I visit it quiet a bit as my family in law lives there. I am currently in Cape Town.

Dalat is a nice city. try renting one of those tandem bicycles by the lake and go for s nice cycle through the streets at night. It is not so hair raising as HCMC traffic so you can actually enjoy it.

A couple of other place you might want to go see if Phu Yen province's capital town Tuy Hoa. The food there is great and it is my adopted (in laws) home town.

If you feel like more of a tropical experience try Nha Trang. Also very enjoyable. Anyway it is good to note that other SA people are enjoying this wonderfull country.


henno said...

Thanks for the comment Neil. Yeah, I forgot about the tandem bicycles - another bit of Dalat's "kitsch".

Will definitely look into Tuy Hoa. We went to Dalat just after Jungle Beach (check the previous post) and it was pretty nice. Good mineral mud baths...

Anonymous said...


Yeah the mineral mudbaths are great. I went to one in the Nha Trang area and another in the Lon Hai beach area. I liked the second one more as there was not so many foreign tourists. Man you are lucky to work there.

I wish I could find a job there. My wife is still living in Saigon but will be joinning me shortly. We are planning to open a restaurant there one day... hopefully. Oh yeah did you go to the flower street celebrations during tet this year? It was a awesome really enjoyed the Tet festivals in Viet Nam.

Reading your blog makes me want to fly there right now. Anyway back to the grind stone.

Neil/Minh (my Vietnamese name) :P

michelle said...

Nooooo way, man. Jy's terug!
Cool, is sooper bly ek het drie minute gewag vir ons internet om jou site te laai.
Screw Facebook - ek kan weer oor Vietnam lees ;)
bly dit gaan goed, Henno.

James said...

Ek echo die woorde van sista Michelle. Great to have you back motha Hen. Ek het geskrik toe ek check jy tune "upload pics tomorrow" en toe is' et so. Sho brotha, keep well.

Godknows said...

Nice post. dalat is sucha beautiful place and Vietnamese usually go for their FIRST honeymoon :)

henno said...

Hey guys, thanks for the comments - I probably won't post as regularly anymore but I'm determined not to let this blog sink further into the quagmire of obscurity in which it already finds itself, so keep checking up on me.

Godknows: FIRST honeymoon?! :)

abecedario said...

great photos. Compliments

Anonymous said...

Hey Broer,

Nice photos and views. We will be in Dalat in January, where my wife hopes to establish a second home (mijn mefrow vaan Can Tho gekompt). I've never seen the town, and only stopped by the airfield for a refueling stop in 1969. As for Nha Trang (near where I spent my first five months at Dien Khanh), it is still the best beach town in Vietnam. Though there are better beaches, such as Mui Ne, these latter don't have much night life unless you bring it yourself. You can stay at Guest House #30 for about five dollars a night, and they can set you up with an all day cruise of the bay for $6.00 a day, to include lunch, fruit snack, and Dalat mulberry wijn. Also, GH #30 is close to Rainbow divers, Crazy Kims, and all the other tourist spots.