Cooling off in Delightful Dalat.
It is somewhat ironic to hear people in The United States, Europe, and England talking about the heat and looking for ways to cool off. And here I am in Vietnam about to write about going to Dalat to cool off from the hot weather of Ho Chi Minh City.
Dalat is a beautiful city that is well loved by both locals and tourists alike. Dalat or ‘Da Lat” as the Vietnamese say is the city of flowers, the city of love, and strikingly beautiful. But above all else, it has a lovely moderate temperature because it is situated In Lâm Đồng Province in southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
It is centered around a lake and golf course and surrounded by hills, pine forests, lakes, and waterfalls. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its distinctive temperate climate, Đà Lạt was developed as a resort by the French in the early 1900s, and many reminders of its colonial heritage remain.
Đà Lạt was chosen as a site for a city for the same reason it remains popular today. It is a cool alternative to a hot Vietnam climate. The population of full time residents in 2022 reached 321,000 with 300 of those being ex-pats. Add into that a yearly influx of tourists at around the 1,172,000 (In 2017 which has probably dropped because of the pandemic) and you have a busy little town.
The Dalat Climate.
As stated, one of the main reasons Da Lat is so popular with natives and non-natives alike.is the temperate climate. A favorite Vietnamese saying is when talking about the Fresh air. If the air was any fresher you could use it instead of any “pick-up” lines.
Dalat is bordered by a big, lush pine forest, which, along with the city’s year-round cold temperate environment, gives the impression that you are in the middle of Europe. Even on the hottest days, the average temperature seldom rises above 24 or 26 degrees Celsius due to the moderate climate. Additionally, Dalat is fortunate in that the temperature rarely drops below 10 degrees Celsius in the Winter months..
The Christmas months are the dryer months with May to October being the months that attract the rain. What a lovely way to spend Christmas either alone or with others. Cool and dry.
A Brief History of Dalat.
At 3:30 pm on June 21, 1893, after a long expedition in the Southeast region, Dr. Yersin set foot on the Lang Biang Plateau to change a wasteland into a wonderland. Dr. Yersin was a Swiss man with French nationality who had been tasked by the French authorities of the time to explore the Central Highlands and reach the Lang Biang plateau. He played a significant role in Dalat’s history by helping to turn it into a well-known city that is now listed in many nations’ encyclopedias.
Origin of the name, Da Lat.
Dalat’s name originated from the words ‘Da Lach’ which is pronounced in the language of the Lach people. One of the three different tribes belonging to the K’ho system that share the northern regions of Lam Dong province.
The Lach people live from the base of Lang Biang Mountain to (the now) Dalat city, occupying land around Xuan Huong Lake area where a small stream flows. In the language of K’ho, Da or Dak means water, river or stream; Lach (Lat) is the name of the tribe of the ethnic K’ho. So Da Lach is the stream of Lach people.
Alternative Origins of the Name.
The first five characters of the Latin phrase “DAT ALLIIS LAETITIUM ALLIIS TEMPERRIEM,” means “giving this person the joy and giving the other the coolness”.are claimed to have been chosen by the “French founders” for this lovely city. And if you take the first letter of each word you get “Dalat”.
Whatever you chose for the origins of the name Da Lat the one thing you can say is true is that it is beautiful.
Da Lat is a bit less than 5,000 feet above sea level in the southern parts of the central highlands. If you are traveling from Ho Chi Minh City by car it will take you about 6- 8 hours. Thankfully you have flights from Ho Chi Minh City, Vinh, Da Nang, and Hanoi. The flight time from HCMC to Dalat is less than 1 hour and about $33.00 USD. There are also bus sleepers you can take which are very cheap and get you there refreshed for around $5.00 to $6.00. . However, if you are tall the sleeping compartment may be a bit short for you.
A motorbike taxi, or XE OM as they are known, is one of the simplest methods to move around Dalat. These guys can be seen on most local corners. Remember that they are independent contractors and not employees of a taxi business, so be sure to haggle the price beforehand and have the right amount of cash on hand because they never seem to have change. There are also taxis and grabs available. The local taxis are “Lam Dong”, “Red Star”, “Thang Loi”, “Quoc Te” and, my favorite, “Mai Linh”
One of the more frequent gripes I hear is about the “entrepreneurial ship” of the taxi drivers. These things don’t happen all the time, but enough to be annoying. Some Vietnamese think all foreigners are rich.
If you are looking for a hotel to stay in, don’t take a taxi to find a hotel room.
If you are only going for a short trip, wait until you are moving to tell the driver the destination. A lot of drivers dislike doing short trips.
If you are looking for a one-day tour, hire a car not a taxi for the whole day.
Make sure the meter is turned on, then there are no excuses for additional charges. And to avoid taking the “scenic route” turn on Google maps on your phone so the driver sees what you are doing.
But please don’t be rude about it. And if you like the drivers attitude and service, get his phone number so you can call him directly for further hiring and give a tip for the same reasons. 20,000 dong is less than $1.00 and would be appreciated by the driver.
Things To See in Dalat.
Da lat has been called Vietnams vegetable garden and provides anything from avocados, plums, peaches, and an endless string of local ethnic fruits. However, if you come at the right time the bursts of color from orchids, roses, azaleas, camellias, and carnations will captivate you.
The Most Memorable Moments of Dalat
The National Flower Festival is held every 2 years since 2005 in Dalat and it attracts people from all over the world.
If you are lucky enough to visit during the National Flower Festival, I would definitely put this at the top of the list.
Lakes and Waterfalls
Dalat is famous for its beautiful lakes, waterfalls and pine forests. The lakes in Dalat city are “Xuan Huong” , “Tuyen Lam”, ‘Than Tho” Da Thien Lake, “Van Kiep” and Me Linh Lake. They are located right in the heart and surrounds of the city and each lake associated with an ancient legend. They should be put on your “must do list” while you are in Da Lat.
The French built Dalat and gave it its large boulevards, huge roundabouts, and lovely flower gardens. They also built enough European houses, schools, and offices in Dalat to compete with those in Hanoi or Hoi An.
You’ve come to the right site if you’re looking for French architecture in Vietnam.
Domaine de Marie
A Catholic church, Domaine de Marie (Nhà Th Domaine De Marie). It was constructed by the French in 1940, and in recent years, it has gained notoriety for its lovely pink façade, which, depending on the lighting, actually looks to be more of a coral or brick color. People go to this location to take selfies with one another in front of the church and on the tiny Juliet balcony. Not me on the balcony.
The Pasteur Institute
The Pasteur Institute in Dalat, which was constructed between 1930 and 1936, was once one of the main vaccine manufacturers in the area. It was established by Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin who invented fermentation and pasteurization and became the first ex-pat in Dalat. This building is owned by the Vietnamese Government. It should be ok to photograph, but if there is a guard present please ask first and obey all requests.
And many more including the Dalat Cathedral, the French quarter Villas, and arguably the most famous of all, “The Dalat Railway Station”
The Crazy House
This is not French architecture, but you can’t talk about “architecture”in Dalat and not include the Crazy House.
.Artist Dang Viet Nga designed and constructed this extraordinary edifice, which she describes as the pinnacle of her creativity.
She created the Crazy House “blueprints” in February 1990. And produced a number of paintings to convey her magical concept rather than blueprints.
The house is an example of expressionist architecture and lacks perfect angles in favor of organic shapes intended to resemble natural objects like mushrooms, shells, caves, and spiderwebs. This is something that can not just be talked about, it should be visited and enjoyed. And what better way of doing it than sleeping overnight?
Creating that Coffee moment in Dalat.
There are plenty of cafes in Dalat, so make sure to visit a few of them while you’re there. The most romantic thing you can do here is to sip a fragrant cup of coffee while taking in the view of the city shrouded in mist from some of Dalat’s top cafes. Popular examples with great views can be found at “The Vietnam Coracle”
While this certainly doesn’t give you a 100% list of what can be done in Dalat, I hope it does give you a little taste of what it is like. Do yourself and the locals a favor and spend more than a few days here. Dalat has a lot to offer and it is very easy to spend 2 weeks here without even scratching the surface.
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