Dalat, the Paris of Vietnam. At least that’s the way travel books describe Dalat, Vietnam. I’ve been to Paris, and I think the only similarities are the Eiffel Tower and the rainy weather. However, the Eiffel Tower in Dalat is a cell phone tower, and in my opinion, that doesn’t qualify a place to be the “Paris” of a country.
Fortunately, Dalat is not a super touristy city. But, at times we found ourselves struggling to find something interesting to occupy our time. We managed to see a lot of the attractions the first day we were there, including the Dalat Flower Garden, the Hang Nga Crazy House and we even took a treacherous ride on the local cable car to a nearby temple. Since Dalat is not a top international tourist destination, we definitely got some looks walking around the city. We were even asked by a group of pre-teen girls to be in a group picture.
The Dalat Flower Garden had a fun, but weird Disney vibe. We kept seeing characters that resembled Disney characters, like Cinderella’s horse drawn carriage, and broomsticks from Fantasia. Some of it was cool, but most of it was a little creepy.
After touring the creepy flower garden, we decided to take a ride on a cable car to a mountain temple. When we arrived, we were excited that there wasn’t a line for the gondola. However, we soon figured out the reason. It was a super windy day, the cars were swaying back and forth for the entire ride, and we’re the only people willing to risk our lives for a ride on the gondola. It was pretty scary, but we made it to the other side to see the temple. We made a wise decision to take a cab back to town, and pass on the return gondola trip.
When we left the temple, we had our taxi driver take us to the Hang Nga Crazy House. The house was designed and built by Dang Viet Nga, the daughter of a former communist leader of Vietnam. In my opinion, the house puts Antoni Gaudi’s designs to shame. It was tough to find our way around the house because there were so many different staircases and bridges leading to different places. I’m pretty sure we toured the whole house, but I can’t be certain.
On our second day in Dalat, we visited the historic train station. The train station was cut off from the rest of Vietnam by the Viet Cong during the American war, and normal operations never resumed. However, it does transport passengers from Dalat to the nearby Linh Phuoc Pagoda. We tried to buy train tickets but they were sold out, so we hired a taxi. The pagoda is built almost entirely through the use of mosaic patterns, and the detail is spectacular. There is also a huge bell at the pagoda, where visitors would write on pieces of paper, glue it to the bell and strike it with a wooden beam. We weren’t really sure what to write, so Robbie just dedicated it to our dog, Lucy.
The people of Dalat were by far our favorite part of our visit. Our first night we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner and struck up a conversation with the pianist, Tim. He is from Australia, but has been living in Vietnam for a while. A couple of days later, we saw him and his wife at a local coffee shop and ended up spending an hour or two chatting away. He was very kind and invited us to his bed & breakfast up the road for some coffee. We gladly accepted the invitation, and spent part of the afternoon soaking up the beautiful views from their hilltop hotel.
Dalat was a great place for Robbie and I to unwind and cool our body temperatures. We came to Dalat not knowing what we would find, and ended up leaving with new friends and the lesson that you shouldn’t ride cable cars when it’s really windy outside.