My adoration of Dalat was instant. As soon as our car recklessly overtook motorcycles on bends you couldn’t see around on an uphill mountain road I felt like I’d found my Minca of Vietnam.
Dalat is a village nestled into the hills of Southeast Vietnam. It has a French Colonial history that contributes to its picturesque appearance. The city is busy but not overwhelming, organized around a river and surrounded by lush jungle and farmland. It didn’t hurt that we were staying in a gorgeous French Colonial villa from the 1920’s, one of the most casually beautiful places I’ve ever stayed.
Our first day in Dalat was flat out awesome. Mer and I went on an Easy Rider mortorcycle tour of the countryside with fantastic guides Thanh and Leo. On the back of a motorcycle cruising along winding mountian roads with nothing but open landscape around us I felt my mouth curve into a huge smile. This was pure joy.
We spent all day roaming the countryside, stopping to see: one of the flower plantations, Dalat’s main export; a coffee farm that specializes in weasel coffee (the weasel eats the bean, which is then retrieved from its feces and turned into extremely strong and expensive coffee, which of course we tried and were subsequently wired for the next few hours) and hand-loomed silk crafts; the Elephant Falls, where I scaled down a treacherous, wet, rocky path to get underneath them; a Buddhist temple built only 10 years ago, since this area used to be predominantly Catholic due to its French history; a silk factory, where we saw and were fascinated by the entire process from worm to silk yarn; some incredibly delicious local pho bo; a taste of rice wine, both pure and fermented with snake (I preferred the snake version, it was surprisingly sweet); and the Crazy House, which was indeed crazy, insane really, and totally impractical, as well as unsafe – it was a construction zone with no rails and narrow high staircases.
Obviously we covered a lot but it was all great to see and by the end of the day I felt like we really got a feel for the area around Dalat. When we returned we toasted to the awesome day – yo! – while we watched the video Leo put together.
The next day Lois, Mer and I did a city-focused tour with Thanh, full of history, the beautiful Truc Lac temple, and some riverside chillin’ time. The rainy weather couldn’t hold us back from seeing more of what Dalat had to offer (rain was a trend for us, we had a rainy day in each of the 3 locations we went in Vietnam). We celebrated a fantastic stay in Dalat that evening with wine tasting at the hotel in one of the best locations I’ve ever seen: an attic wine cellar. We even made friends with the hotel manager who did the tasting with us, all sharing a bottle of wine when we were done. I really missed wine. It was all so good.
Dalat is definitely a highlight of my time in Vietnam. The town is charming, the country beautiful, and the people friendly. I’ve recommended it to everyone going to Vietnam. It also helped further solidify that I am a mountains person. Beaches are nice but I’ll take a motorcycle ride around the mountains any day.