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Janaline's World Journey “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”

The Romantic city of DALAT in Vietnam!!

VIETNAM | Tuesday, 26 May 2009 | Views [5586]

I spent 3 days in September up in the mountains at Dalat in Vietnam with 2 of my friends…. it was great!!

Dalat lies in the central highlands and is surrounded with lakes, waterfalls, forests and beautiful gardens. The weather in September is lovely; it’s cool but a bit chilly at night. Dalat is known as the romantic city in Vietnam and is a favourite honeymoon spot and filled with kitsch love things. The swan love paddleboats on the lake can testify to this. It’s also filled with artists who set up home here and even has a miniature replica of the Eiffel tower.

 The three of us headed off on a local night bus from Saigon to Dalat. We arrived very early the morning and headed off to the local market for a stroll before the cafes opened. The market was filled with fresh fruit and fish and meat and filled with buyers. I can’t say it was very clean; so far Vietnam is definitely one of the dirtiest places that I have ever seen. Meat is cut on the paving or an open table and have flies bussing all over it. The fish is so fresh some of them are still alive in big bowls of water, and the woman are still washing dirt off the vegetables they are unpacking.

 After getting some pho for breakfast and waking up with a sweet ice coffee we booked into our hotel and rented a couple of motorbikes. That went quite quickly as you can usually rent a motorbike at your hotel. We stayed at Dai Loi hotel, run by a very friendly couple. The room was huge with a high ceiling and cool tile floors with a balcony overlooking the forest.

 

We headed off to the Valley of love. It is definitely a tacky place with a carnival atmosphere. There are paddleboats and canoes for hire for a tour of the lake and has a fantastic view over the whole valley. We expected more flowers in the garden but it was filled with statues of giraffes and heart filled swings for loved ones to take some pictures in. 

 Our next stop for the day was Dalat flower gardens where we got lost between the hydrangeas, fuchsias and orchids. Certainly one of the best gardens I’ve come across in Vietnam. There were a couple of monkeys in cages and horses pulling flower filled carts but it was not as kitsch and heart filled as the rest of Dalat.

 Late that first afternoon we headed to Xuan Huong Lake where you can find paddle boats that looks like a swans. We hired a two-seater bicycle and the three of us rode it around the lake. It took us a while to get the peddling right, especially with a passenger sitting at the back. The most difficult part about a tandem bike is the turning; I don’t know how people make it look so easy. We had a couple of falls and only close to the end we got the hang of steering, turning and staying in the road.

 

Early the next morning we got on our motorbikes and hit the road to the Lake of Sighs. The drive took us through the mountains, between the pine forests, small streams and waterfalls on the way.

According to a legend that I was told a young couple met here and fell in love. They sought their parent’s permission to marry. Unfortunately Vietnam was at war with China and the young man was called to arms and left without telling the young lady. She sent word for him to meet her at the lake, and when he didn’t some she was so sad that she threw herself into the lake. Thereafter it was known as the lake of sighs.

 Before lunch we reached Tiger falls, with a huge ceramic tiger statue nearby. The falls themselves are in a quiet pine forest and very peaceful. We grabbed a bite to eat at the little restaurant overlooking the river before we ventured out on one of the many hiking trails that lead down to the river.

 Our last stop of the day was LangBiang Mountain. I have learnt that anything is possible in Vietnam. At the bottom of the mountain you can pay for a ride or photo with a “zebra”, yes they have a white horse with painted black stripes and convincing people it’s a zebra!!

We left the motorcycles at the bottom of the mountain and took a jeep to the top. The view over the valley and other mountains from the top is breathtaking. There are ladies selling lovely material and handmade fabrics from the local villages and of course another horse. You can dress up in cowboy gear complete with a gun and have photos taken while on the horse. I you look past all the kitsch touristy bits you can enjoy the amazing scenery and just forget about civilization for a moment.

 The highlight of my weekend was a visit to the Crazy House!! It’s a guesthouse slash café slash art gallery and looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland. It looks like the Vietnamese version of Gaudi that you can find in Barcelona. The place is filled with caves, giant spider webs out of fairy lights and wire and even concrete tree trunks. It has a concrete giraffe with a tearoom inside and even a nude female statue (very rare in Vietnam).  Each room has a different theme and can be rented for a night. Some of them even look like a cave on the inside and one has red velvet walls with a mirror above the bed.

 

 

The gallery designer, Mrs Dang Nga looks like a 1960’s hippie crossed with a French woman and she is just as crazy as her Crazy House. Her colleague opened a café named Café 100 roofs and is a must after a visit to the Crazy House. The café is built like a labyrinth that you can explore with little nooks hidden away everywhere where you can relax and enjoy their fabulous hot chocolate. The walls are covered in a mosaic of pots and paintings and sculpting and even the ceilings look like artwork.

 The long weekend was just too short and we headed of home not doing everything on our lists but having had a great time!!

Tags: dalat, janaline smalman, travel, vietnam

 

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