Last week, I decided to escape Ho Chi Minh City and head up into the mountains! Vietnam has many mountains, and I went to precisely 6 of them.
Vietnam is about the length of the Eastern US coastline, and most other cities besides HCM have four seasons.
Where is This Place??
Dalat is considered a “Winter Town” to Vietnamese people, since it averages an icy 60 degrees Fahrenheit (30C)! It was really amazing to see some Vietnamese people walking around dressed in complete winter attire, with scarves and earmuffs, next to tourists wearing shorts and flip flops.
But to be fair, even though it seemed pretty warm to me, driving the motorbike (especially at night) drops the temperature by 40 degrees, so it really DOES get cold then. I was glad I got convinced to bring my otherwise useless coat.
Compared to the major cities, Dalat is fresh, crisp air, and really spectacular views. The city is built into the hillsides, so most houses have a view facing the valleys, like our homestay:
It was awesome to wake up and have a view like that. Being up so high, I finally felt superior to everyone else, as I’ve always known I was.
The silence was stunning. I’m like, “this, this is the place where people come to shut the f$%k up.”
Dalat’s population is pretty tiny, giving that small-town feeling of always being watched.
The city is also known for having no stoplights whatsoever, so as you can assume, motor vehicle accidents are off the charts here.
Apparently, residents have petitioned for stoplights to be erected, but officials claim that putting up stoplights is too scary. “It would feel like robots are in control of the city”, said one official.
Okay, fine, they just use traffic circles, but I like my story better.
What On Earth to Do?
As far as attractions go, we had to find our own things to do. The main activities are the mountainside temples, waterfalls, and mountain biking / rock climbing.
If you’re lazy, and also have an intense fear of rocks (guilty!), you can still see some of the lakes and just look at them for a long time while not moving.
One of the waterfalls, Datanla Falls, comes complete with an alpine coaster! An alpine coaster is a small rollercoaster that runs down the hillside, allowing the rider to control the speed.
Of course, much of the fun is the very real risk of injury or death, but also to enjoy the natural sights of the forest as you whip past at 45mph.
Unfortunately, two of the workers were making some unkind comments towards my friend as we went back up the hill. Speaking in Vietnamese, they didn’t think we’d understand, but I heard enough to bring it up to the manager of the park when we got off the coaster.
I don’t know what I enjoyed more, hearing their shocked silence over the radio as the manager demanded to know what they’d said, or watching two grown men make a humiliated ride up the mountain in a tiny coaster to come apologize. Either way, I would pay for the whole experience again!
One of the other delights includes a large Buddhist temple, situated far enough from the city to have a cable car running from the main district to the temple entrance.
We weren’t allowed in to see the temple (because Buddha HATES bare shoulders), but the cable car ride across the hills was incredible! Since it was a Tuesday, there was almost no one else at the temple, so didn’t wait at all for the car.
“Keep body and belongings INSIDE the car at ALL times”
Maze Bar (Is A-maze-ing)
I also wanted to mention a bar we visited that was just awesome. It’s called Maze Bar, and I’ve written a separate post about it. I love cool bars. They are my favorite thing besides jokes about one’s own mortality.
The bar is based off the style of the Crazy House, built by the same architect. It has multiple floors, indoor and rooftop, which are connected by a series of staircases and passageways. This makes sure you don’t know exactly where you are or what floor you’re on.
The walls and ceilings look like tree roots, so it feels like you’re some sort of jungle temple. There’s tiny nooks and secret places to explore, and the highest part of the bar gives you a great view of the city below.
If you love oddities like that, make sure you check it out when you get there.
The other most important thing about Dalat is that it’s a GHOST CITY (OOOooOooOOOO). There’s at least a dozen grandiose villas dotting the mountainside that have been abandoned. So naturally, beautiful house + nobody lives there = MONSTERS.
The people in Dalat are superstitious. Some will even avoid driving past the houses for fear of being chased by a very fast ghost.
I went to one of the more famous houses (which I’ve written more about in another post). In the daytime, it must be beautiful. In the dark, by myself, it was… how do I say it… a nightmare.
Nonetheless, ghost towns are awesome, and hearing the stories are even better. If you want to check out my tale, click here.
Dalat is the first of my many trips across Vietnam. Regardless of what the post’s title is, the only way this is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise is if you bring enough Epi-pens for you and all your friends.
Against the hot, fast, crowded, hot (did I say hot?) Ho Chi Minh City, this is the perfect place to come relax, enjoy the fresh air, see a lake, practice your whittling skills, and perhaps get attacked and dismembered by a ghost.
Drop by the Travel Blog to read more about Da Lat as well as Vietnam. Here are some recommended articles for you:
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