To this day, Da Lat, a former colonial town in Viet Nam’s cool highlands, is a popular weekend and even honeymoon destination for locals. Lat, located on the rolling hills Two nights in Mui Ne were more than enough, I wanted to get out of there. Again, there was the widest range of fares – for no obvious reason.
I didn’t feel like searching for the best price instead of spending another afternoon on the beach (where a resort’s watchman screwed me over big time when illegally renting me one of the exclusively for hotel guests reserved beach beds). Luckily my landlady arranged transportation to my next destination at an acceptable price.
My destination was Da Lat, called The City of Eternal Spring, a cool yet sumptuous scenic little town up in Viet Nam’s Central Highlands where already the French colonialists had sought refuge from the hot and humid weather in what used to be Saigon.
Munching on my breakfast sandwich I eyed the following passengers up: A couple of Scandinavian guys, two bitchy German girls, an American jock who funnily asked if this bus would take us to the bus to Da Lat. Nope, my American optimist, this is the bus to Da Lat. At the next guesthouse, the vehicle filled up to the top with an Indian family of nine, tourists from Malaysia. Off we went – quite jolly.
After an hour, there was a short stop at a motorway roadhouse – and I noticed that our bus was the rattliest and funkiest one. Who cares, we’ll get there just the same.
Geez, was I wrong! Twenty minutes after we left the roadhouse and drove uphill, the vehicle started to make a very loud, very hoarse, very disturbing noise – and as the noise rose, the speed sank. And then both – noise and speed – stopped at once.
Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, it was almost noon, no shade, just the black tar. The driver shooed us off the bus – it was too dangerous to stay there. Only the American guy insisted on staying on the bus – for what reason ever. The rest of us was hanging around in the frying heat.
The driver was laying under the vehicle and while he was…checking, parts kept falling down. I was just hoping that he wouldn’t achieve to get the bloody thing going – I didn’t want to go up the mountains in a provisionally ‘repaired’ vehicle. But we weren’t even close to this scenario: the driver – between many cigarettes – laid under the vehicle that kept losing parts.
After two hours – and during this time not one other car passed us by – finally came another bus the driver had called for between cigarettes and falling parts. We shifted our luggage over – and even the American guy gave up his seat in the vehicles without parts and moved to the new bus – which by the way was really all new and pretty and clean. An hour later we arrived in Da Lat.
Although we finally arrived safely, this unexpected break robbed me of about three hours and that’s a shame because the place is really nice and serene and one can stroll up and down beautiful streets and around the idyllic lake and hang out in coffee places and relax.
I did all that, but I also booked a ‘country tour’ (again: if you don’t want to pay far too much, ask at a couple of different places and compare and bargain) – a day tour that took me to a flower farm (well, okay), a coffee farm (great views, beautiful landscapes, nice coffee tasting, creepy insect tasting, precious handwoven scarves for souvenir), a silk farm (interesting, but the idea that there is life in the cocoons they dump in boiling water gives me the creeps) where we sampled some silkworms (lesson for life: I prefer crunchy insects over mushy silkworms). Talking ’bout food: There was a lunch break, too, it was not all critters.
After lunch, we visited the Linh An Tu temple and the Elephant waterfalls. Back in town, the hyperactive guide (she was a little intense, but she sure did her best to make our trip great) showed us the old train station and that was it.
Gosh, now that I’m writing about it, I realize how much we got to see – it was superb!
I visited the ‘must see’ Hang Nga crazy house built in 1990, and I find nobody has to see it if they don’t want to. I missed a greater idea or a genuine philosophy behind the queer architecture – I don’t go for crazy as a self-purpose. The designer is Dang Viet Nga, Viet Nam’s second president Trường Chinh’s daughter. She’s from Hanoi but lived for 14 years in Moscow. These trivia might have to do with the building being such a promoted tourist sight.
And that was it for Da Lat, whereby if you have more time – I had only three weeks for all of Viet Nam – you can easily stay two or three days longer, it’s a very serene place, no wonder it’s a popular domestic tourist place (popular with honeymooners – there were even two poor honeymooners on the crappy bus).
You can go on different day trips to wonderful surroundings or just enjoy the pleasant town life. I even took my chances and went to a hair salon.
In Da Lat, I do recommend a homestay to get at least a short peep into la vie en vietnamien.
If you are looking for great food, check out the restaurants on Lê Hồng Phong and Nguyễn Viết Xuâ.
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