After a three day stint in Saigon, Dalat seemed like a good idea; a well needed respite from the relentless honking of the big city. Erin and I were keen to inhale some of that fresh mountain air and see plenty and plenty of greenery.
After jumping off the plane at Dalat airport, dodgy passport in hand, we caught the shuttle to the centre of town for a measly 40,000 VND, one way. Score! The drive was about an hour long and sufficiently scenic in all its mountainous, foresty glory. In classic Courtenay and Erin fashion, we decided to save our pennies and opted for Ken’s House Backpackers, which set us back a whopping around $7 a night, including a simple but yummy breakfast.
food for thought:
Before you read on, can i just say: the breakfasts served in Vietnam are tiny as far as hostels go, especially when you can’t eat bread due to intolerances and the like. So if you’re anything like me, and you enjoy a big breakfast, be prepared to supplement with fruit or other delights. Two eggs alone may not give you the sustenance you need to explore a foreign country for very long, so grab a bunch of nanas from the market to munch on demand. But of course, there’s always Vietnamese coffee when you need a little extra buzz…
a place to call home:
Our stay at Ken’s was comfortable and conveniently located, but if you’re a nature lover, staying outside of town might benefit you more. If I was headed back to Dalat any time soon, I would make for the hills. Admittedly, Erin and I expected Dalat to be a little smaller than it was. Perhaps we were anticipating something more like Sapa? Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Saigon, but it’s certainly not the quaint French town we read about in the guide books. Needless to say, my hope of seeing local artistes swanning around in berets was quickly dashed upon arrival…
things to do, things to see, things to eat:
- We began our adventures at the Crazy House, which comes in at #4 of #70 things to do in Dalat on trusty ol’ Trip Advisor. Entry was about 40,000 VND, and truth be told, we didn’t really know what to expect. The word “kitsch” seemed to be thrown around a fair bit to describe this tourist-trap, but we hadn’t a clue what that meant, and so off we headed with no expectations in mind.
Without meaning to state the obvious, the Crazy House is exactly that: crazy. And not just because of the impressive fairytale-like feel of the place, but also because it was (and probably still is) under construction. I don’t think anything like quite like this would get by in Australia without a long list of regulations, safety concerns and OH&S rules. All the more reason to go, I say! Besides, if you ain’t living on the edge, your taking up too much room, as my uncle so often says. If you’re a fan of Disney movies and anything fantasy-related, the Crazy House will certainly be your cup of tea. But if not, it’s still worth visiting for the view and the sheer oddness of it all. The creator of the place actually lives there with her family. Crazy.
- We hit the markets in the day time and foundly it oddly quiet. Little did we know that it came alive at night! The whole place was buzzing with street stalls selling delicious food and colourful shops displaying a plethora of knitted clothing and other unnecessary junk. Be sure to try “Bánh Tráng Nướng” from one of the street vendors. It’s easily the most amazing Vietnamese specialty, in my humble opinion! Soak up the night life and then find a good possie for people watching when you no longer want to battle the crowds (which may be as soon as you arrive).
- For an afternoon break, F.Coffee & Shop provided the perfect spot to recuperate. It was a little off the main strip but beautifully decorated, with stepping stones, fish ponds, colourful flowers and cast irons chairs and tables tucked in amongst a twinkling sky of fairy lights. The staff were sweet and eager to please. Plus, there’s free tea. Bliss!
- If you’re into site seeing, you can also visit the catholic church (with a sweet view, see below), the lake, the flower garden and various pagodas and waterfalls. For good eatin’, head to “Chocolate Cafe” and order a curry, weather permitting. Then get to exploring this lovely little slopping street in the centre of town. A few people we met also suggested the 100 Roofs Cafe. We didn’t make it there (so many cafes, so little time!) but apparently it’s a fair match for the Crazy House.
- Without a doubt, the most exciting and thrilling thing we did in Dalat – and possibly the whole trip – was canyoning! I’m talking abseiling, free jumping, trekking and sliding down natural rock slides. The weather was a little unfortunate, so much so that my lips turned blue (photo below does not do justice), but it still remains one of my favourite memories from our trip.
Highly recommended for diehard adventurers and wimps alike! You will not regret it. We booked with Highland Holiday Tours but if you book through your hostel you may get a marginally better price.