After our stay in the Mekong delta and Mui Ne, we come to our last stop in the South of the Vietnam: Da Lat. Crush on our trip, the intended stay of 3 days extended in order to enjoy the riches the region has to offer. We’re taking you with us in the heart of the mountains…
What to do in Da Lat?
Discover the Crazy House
First must-see attraction of the city, the unexpected “Crazy House”. It looks like Alice’s House in the wonderland, extracted straight from Tim Burton’s universe. We would meet the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter or the cat that we wouldn’t be surprised. Located 15 minutes walk from the Lake, this home has the distinction of being both an attraction and a guesthouse. You can spend the night in the room “Ant”, “Bear”, or another.
I don’t know if I could sleep in this universe so whimsical. The architect wanted to realize a House that looks like a tree. So you go up thanks to stairs in the shape of tree trunk. The windows are all wayward (I don’t know if this word really exists). The top? You can take the magic beans seeds or lianas, to each his imagination, to climb on the roof of the House. There are many gateways that intersect, cross, pass one on top the other. It’s great, we no longer know where to look and we wonder if we’re going to arrive at the desired location.
Security concerns now. Obviously, we are not at Mickey’s and his little friends. Here, 10 meters above the ground, gateways are secured by a small body guard, coming at the height of the knees ;). It must quickly become stressful to visit this House with kids running around… There is enough to become totally crazy (house)!
Romantic walk by the Lake in the sunset
The Lake at the heart of the city is conducive to many walks. During the day, it is possible to get around on foot or by bike. The banks are clean and it is easy to walk. Our digital nomads friends have spent an afternoon with their little girls, in order to make the pedalo in these small boats in the shape of swans. What a good time with your family! We preferred to go to the sunset to admire the colors of the sky reflected in the water. In addition, we had bought small coconut tarts just before, so it was the perfect time and place to enjoy these facing the water. If you are lucky, you will see some fishermen on the shores of the Lake, but personally, we have not seen them catch much.
Back to the future!
If you want to relive the time of the Wild West for half an hour, go up to the old station of Da Lat. Today interrupted, the line worked previously and served other nearby towns. A few cars and an old locomotive remain from this era. One of the cars was converted into coffee while others were left untouched, to immerse yourself in the time of back to the future 3, when Marty Mc Fly and Doc were playing the cowboys.
The station has no great interest in itself, but you will have to cross it to reach the 2 platforms on which cars are presented. Notice for selfies and stylized photos lovers, you will be able to enjoy yourself, climbing on platforms of cars or even on the front of the engine, although the forbidden sign (everyone does and the guard let).
Go to the Golden Buddha
A bit far from downtown, you can’t miss the great sitting Buddha statue that stands on a neighbouring Hill. Of course it asks a little efforts, but that’s the price to see good things! We have the very good idea to go there by the end of the morning, when the sun is probably the highest and the hottest. You can imagine our “sweating level” when we finally arrived at the Golden Buddha ;). And even if we got a little breath because of our trekking between the fields of flowers, the Buddha left us mouthless. Colossal, it is “nestled” in the heart of a small garden where you can find a lot of statues of deities. It is really majestic, and as a bonus, a big blue sky stayed in the background. We highly recommend you to go there.
For the laziest of you, many tours offer a day exploring the city. Among others, this trip will lead you to the large Golden Buddha.
Enjoy the excitement of the night market
Like any good Asian city, Da Lat also has its night market. It settles and takes life from 7 pm next to the Lake, taking the place of the day market and florists with magnificent orchids! The night market is ideal if you want to hunt a couple trinkets, find some “same same” at really attractive prices, or a snack before dinner. This market turns out to be very convenient for us since we were in lack of socks (the mystery of socks lost in washing machines). Be aware that for 20 000 VND (less than €1), you can have 3 pairs of Adides or Addiddas! Yes, we should not expect a perfect spelling at this price!
We also make our market on the night market. Da Lat is, among other things, famous for strawberries. During a meal with Quang, the manager of our hostel, we buy so strawberries for dessert. There are plenty on the night market. And they are very good!
Hiking on Langbiang Mountain
It’s probably the activity that asked us the most effort during our “dalatois” stay. There is a mountain around Da Lat, on which it is possible to hike on the day. Here again, agencies offer to take you to the park entrance and drive you on one of the peaks in a jeep, but where is the interest if you don’t suffer a little bit!
We decide to climb the highest of the two summits by ourselves, without a guide. There is a very good explanation by a traveller on Trip Advisor. We advise you to follow it, if you want to try to do it too.
First step of the day: find the bus n°5 to reach the entrance of the Park. Not too complicated, we go to a spot behind the night market and local people tell us to wait here for the bus. One of them shows us on his watch that the next bus will come at 8:45. Timing speaking, we can not do better! At 8:45, all Vietnamese around us show us the bus by telling us “Langbiang, Langbiang!”. You cannot go wrong.
The discovery of the ze – horses
Second step: find the beginning of the trekking path. Once at the entrance, we had read we have to pay the entrance fee to go into the Park and begin the ascent on a small road, parallel to the road of jeeps. We first take pictures in front of the big Langbiang board, while we are still fresh and clean :). This is where we discover our first ze – horses, a new specy of equines, even unlisted! Yes, here, they paint horses to look like zebras. What for? As one of our guides in Hoi An said (spoiler alert!), in a dramatic tone, “sorry we don’t know…”.
After this photo break for 30 million friends, we finally take the road. We start on the road to the jeeps, thinking that the hiking path is a little further away. Wrong way! The path is now located next to the entrance of the Park. A building is under construction on the way it was initially located. It is now impossible to reach it from the inside. We must go out and take it before the gate. We wonder why we paid the entrance fee, but it’s okay, it will pay white paint for the ze – horses!
Attack of the mountain!
Hiking is not difficult in itself. We start along the plantation of flowers, strawberries, etc. before arriving in a pine forest. Here, we can’t go wrong or almost, there are regular ‘Go up, Go down’ signs with arrows. Can’t make clearer indications…
Once we pass the pine forest, we hit the road for a few minutes before coming to a small cabin. You have two choices. Moving left onto the main road, you take the same path as the jeeps to go to the radar Summit. Taking right on the path, you head to the other Summit, higher and only accessible by foot. This is the right direction. We start the path, which is very well indicated. We advance in pine forest, which gradually gives way to the jungle. It’s funny, because we see the summit in front of us, but we go down. Mr said jokingly, “you’ll see, the last 200 meters will be 200 metres of uphill”. And he’s right! The last 500 meters are the most difficult. You climb more or less equal height steps to the top. And even funnier (or not), the signs all the time say “150 m to the top”. These are the longest 150 metres of my life (after those on Mount Hua in China).
But once at the top, after regaining our breath, the view is just beautiful! You overlook the Valley and the surrounding mountains. And you are alone, without the noise of the drivers of jeeps that make the round-trip on the other side. A sign says you are 2 167 meters high. It takes about 2 hours to get to the top. After a small break taking pictures and snacking, the descent takes a little less than an hour, walking at a good pace. There is a small Pho restaurant (Vietnamese noodle soup) at the Park entrance, where you can stay while waiting for the bus back to Da Lat, which leaves at 1:45 p.m. (there is no bus between 12:00 and 13:30). Here again, all locals will warn you when the bus arrives so that you don’t miss it. 😉
A day of scooter to discover the surroundings
The Lake Tuyền Lam
After the trekking day from yesterday, even if there is no body aches, we say that a day on a scooter would be top to conclude our stay in Da Lat. Our hostel rents some for 100,000 VND a day (about 4€). Go! Program: we want to go discover the lakes and waterfalls located a few kilometers from the city. There are many in the corner, but we don’t have time to do them all. So we drive to Lake Tuyền Lam. Change of scenery! It feels for a moment like we are in Canada. We see this huge Lake surrounded by woods, and it looks like the region of the Great Lakes. It is possible to make the boat cruises, but we have had enough cruises in the Mekong delta. So we pass.
The Datanla falls
We go back on our motorbike direction Datanla waterfalls. And there we go to upper level! We arrive in what is almost like an amusement park. We see groups preparing for a canyoning day, others heading toward the wood to try zip-lining. We just want to see the falls… After paying the entry ticket, we start our descent to the first waterfall. There are still a lot of tourists because it is quite accessible. A mini big eight/bob sleigh offers lazy tourists to go back to top instead of walking. Of course, it’s not free. But many people do it in order to avoid the stairs. 😉
We leave the tourists behind us and continue our way down the stairs along the streams. We get to a second waterfall, even more impressive than the first one! And here, there is almost nobody. And you can still go down! Paying an extra 30,000 VND per person, a lift allows you to go down to a third waterfall. And there, there is no one, except us and 3 Germans. End of the visit, can’t go any further at the moment, the extension of the road is under construction. So let’s lift in reverse and surprise, the ticket gives us the right to take the cable car back to the first waterfall, passing through the trees. It’s pretty cool and we suggest you to do it. We don’t want to do the bobsled to go back to the entrance, so we take our legs and we go up the stairs.
Datanla waterfalls are not the most impressive falls in the region, but they are really a nice place to visit. There are other falls that we did not have the time to discover and who also seem very interesting: Elephant and Prenn falls.
Linh Phuong pagoda
After this walk near the falls, we take the direction of Linh Phuong pagoda. And it’s amazing! Looks like we get to the Park Güell in Barcelona. An impressive Buddhist complex stands in the middle of the countryside, composed entirely of earthenware. It’s super colorful and really beautiful to see!
Before the visiting this complex, we have lunch in the restaurant in the courtyard on the left when you arrive. They serve very good vegetarian Com at very interesting price. It is also an opportunity to see women to make tapestries with dried flowers. It’s very meticulous work they are proud to show us.
Then, we discover with admiration the temple and the pagoda. Dragons, characters, etc. everything is worked in faience, it’s really beautiful! There is an outstanding job and great precision in all the sculptures that make up the temple. Besides, this one is under renovation on the right wing. You can admire the beauty of the ceilings that are in the works.
Then you move into the biggest piece, ascension of the pagoda. It is possible to get the 6 or 7 floor to get a spectacular view from the terrace at the top.
The biggest surprise is probably in the basement of the pagoda. Following a guide and his small group, we arrive at the entrance of a kind of labyrinth, Palace of fear. WTF? What is this doing here? Going through, we understand that it is a representation of hell, where demons torture people condemned to live in hell. It’s a really weird place and maybe not recommended if you plan to go there with small children. We are not really proud in the middle of the torture rooms… Another room is adjacent to this maze. It is probably like heaven opposed to hell. Here, you feel more calm and zen, in the middle of the sages, trees and birds chirping.
You now understand how a 3 day stay could be extended. We fell under the charm of this small town in the mountains, at once rich and soothing. Often compared to Annecy in France, we love Da Lat. Our meeting with Quang, the manager of our hostel, also allowed us to discover a lesser-known side of the city. We could taste local specialities we would have never found without him, tested the red wine of Da Lat (not bad) playing french snooker, etc. To sum up, it retains the positive!
It is now time to close the chapter of the South Vietnam and go back slowly toward the center of the country. So, we take a bus to join Nha Trang, to follow up directly on a night bus to Hoi An, the city of lanterns. Future adventures will come in a new article. See you soon!