…and honeymoon capital of Vietnam. That is Dalat’s claim to fame, and it’s easy to see why! The place is beautiful and can really only be described as romantic; as I said before, I immediately thought of southwestern Europe and Gabe could’ve sworn he was in Colorado. We spent four full days there, quite a chunk of time on this sort of trip, and were both hesitant to leave.
It was just such a nice change from everywhere else that we’ve been for the past six months. The nights were cold, the days absolutely beautiful, and palm trees were replaced with towering pines. The whole city is built into the mountains with stairs connecting the various levels and narrow cobbled alleyways, and there’s no word for the houses aside from ‘quaint.’ The market is now at the top of my list, several levels and streets full of everything you can imagine and a food stall area that just begs you to eat 8 meals a day! Soup, the number one food in Vietnam, is especially wonderful in this town and the numerous cafes are a welcome sight with their steaming cups of locally grown coffee.
We spent the first day hiking up Lang Bien mountain, a volcanic peak with incredible views of the countryside. There was unfortunately a large cloud occupying the top, but we made it up high enough to enjoy endless views of surrounding farmland, vineyards and coffee plantations. At night, we’d enjoy a bottle of Dalat wine (less than $2) and whatever treats we could pick up while roaming the market in search of brand name bargains (resale, anyone?)
We drove our motorike out to Thoc Voi, or Elephant Falls, on the second day. The route was off of our map and it took a lot of asking fellow drivers and turning around to find it, but it was more than worth it! The drive itself was breathtaking, full of steep, winding mountain roads and valleys absolutely bursting with vineyards, lakes, farmland and flowers. The falls were huge, crashing down over massive boulders at the bottom; we spent time climbing around at the bottom, priding ourselves on being the only ones there without a guide. Afterwards we stopped for some pho at a roadside home where it seemed no tourist had stopped before – they got a kick out of it and served a delicious, memorable meal.
On the third day Gabe went mountain biking while I explored (code word for walked) the town a bit more. I finally headed over to the lake, and immediately kicked myself for not having done so sooner! The lake was huge, surrounded with perfectly landscaped trees and flower beds and lined with a wide, clean unbroken sidewalk. In short, this was probably the best running I’d find in SE Asia! I walked a loop to test the distance (5K) and enjoyed the crisp, sunny day and hundreds of other people out doing the same. Refreshingly, Dalat is full of tourists, but they are all Vietmanese. Somehow this place hasn’t really made it onto the standard foreigner circuit, and we loved it all the more because of it!
Needless to say, I was up at five the next morning and headed straight for the lake. I immediately noticed (when will I quit being surprised by this?) that we miss out on a lot while we sleep. As I passed above the market area, I couldn’t help but notice that the streets resembled Times Square on New Year’s eve. They were packed, with thousands of people browsing around what is apparently the best all-night market in existence! I tried to push away my regret at not having experienced it and continued on.
The lake was surrounded by innumerable runners, walkers and cyclists, and the chilly air was enough to allow me a hard nine miles, something I was quite proud of after my rather dodgy running schedule lately. I enjoyed a euphoric walk home where I dragged Gabe out of bed (so what if he had a grueling 35km bike ride the day before?) in search of food, pronto (I’m so lucky that he manages to be so agreeable in the morning…)!
We had to leave at 4 p.m. on a night bus to Hoi An. We had one more lake visit, got one last market meal, savoured one last bakery treat and somewhat sadly waited on the bus to show up.
We were even more hesitant to leave after we realized that we (the only people with “Europe-legs” on the bus) had picked seats above the wheel carriage. As the guys in front of us leaned their chairs faarrrr back, we looked at each other, acknowledging that it would be a looonnnggg night. 14 hours and four pee stops later (one of which was on the side of a mountain road, involving lots of shameless, squatting women) we arrived in Danang, boarded a school bus that looked like it’d been through a few world wars, entrusted the driver (who had one good eye and no passable English) with our life and soon found ourselves in Hoi An.
Hoi An is a beautiful place as well, though absolutely overrun by white people. We’ve done a good job of keeping our distance and straying from the path, as usual (finally found our 50 cent soup!). I’ll save my description for another post in a day or two, after the longing for Dalat wears off a bit more…
Tags: Dalat, food, markets, Photos, Travel, Vietnam