Dalat – a nice surprise in the mountains

15.01.-16.01.2018 Dalat

From Can Tho we took the night bus to Dalat. It was our first experience with a Vietnamese sleeper bus. I must admit when we first got on the bus, we were all a bit shocked. Yes, there are little „beds“ for everyone but they are made for people Asian size with no hand luggage. Fitting us and our backpacks into the little space was a challenge. At one point I found a rather comfy position though and was able to sleep quite a bit.

Way too early in the morning we arrived in Dalat, took the shuttle to our hotel where luckily one room was ready for early check-in, so we were able to drop off our stuff and take a shower before heading off on our rental scooters. My sister and I put our parents on the back and off we were! Destination: Elephant Falls. It was a long drive, but quite a nice one with a viewpoint along the way and fortunately not a lot of traffic since we’re far from being expert drivers.

The falls themselves were spectacular and exceeded my expectations by far. It’s quite a climb to get to the different viewpoints and the bottom of the falls from where you have the most amazing view. Weather was nicely sunny – in fact a little too hot almost. We had expected cooler temperatures in Dalat but that wasn’t really the case.

After a refreshing fruit shake, we headed back to Dalat with a short stop at the Chua Van Duc pagoda which was nice but at this stage we’re getting a bit done with pagodas.
We also intended to stop by Cam Ly waterfall but couldn’t find it right away and then gave up. We did find a nice coffee place instead, as alternative program, with lot of funny and weird little sculptures clustered around the garden.

My dad and I continued our sightseeing a little longer afterwards, visiting the Linh Son pagoda in the city centre and driving all the way around the big city lake Xuan Huong – quite a peaceful drive.

For the next day, we had booked a private driver which was cheaper than paying for 4 people to join on one of the organised tours, plus these tours didn’t appeal to us anyways (too many program points like „coffee farm“, „flower garden“, „xyz showroom“ etc.). Once again we were very lucky with our driver Chup who spoke decent English, explained us a lot and was overall just really helpful and kind. We had agreed on the route before, and which places to visit, but other than that it was our choice how long we wanted to stay in each place.

First we drove to the cable car at Robin Hill to take the same to Truc Lam Zen pagoda near Tuyen Lam lake where Chup was already waiting for us.  He showed us around a bit in the pagoda and meditation center grounds. We had not originally planned to visit this pagoda but it turned out to be really pretty – especially the setting in beautiful flower gardens. From the pagoda you can take some long stairs down to the lake and walk around the shore for a bit. Renting a boat is also an option but since the sun was burning down again, we gave that a miss.

Our next stop were the Datanla Falls nearby. The upper part of the falls is full of Asian tourists engaging in photo shoots but it gets more quiet the further down the trail you head. And DO go down all the way – even if it means paying for an elevator and a little jungle cable car! The best view of the fall is all the way from the bottom. I guess many people are not even aware that there is a 2nd fall after the first one which you reach rather quickly from the parking lot. We also took the „roller coaster“ but only to go up unfortunately. The price is more worth it if you buy a return ticket from the beginning though. It took quite a while to visit all of the falls, so don’t underestimate the time you need.

A bit of a longer drive brought us to the Linh Phuoc pagoda afterwards. We were at first a bit reluctant to put another pagoda into our tour program but this one looked very pretty on the pictures we saw – and we were not disappointed!! In my opinion, this pagoda is a must see when you’re in Dalat and so far the most beautiful pagoda of Vietnam! Again, don’t underestimate the time you need to see all of it since there are multiple buildings and towers you can (and should) climb. Everywhere you look, there’s new things you discover. Little pieces of porcelain are placed into mosaics and dragons and other figures are staring at you from every corner. We were totally overwhelmed and didn’t know where to look first!

There’s also a little canteen among the pagoda buildings where our driver brought us for cheap and delicious „com chay“ (vegetable rice).

Re-energized, we then made our way to the old railway station of Dalat. The station by itself is not that interesting but there’s an old wooden train leaving from here and also some museum trains to look at. In the meanwhile there was a big tropical downpour happening so we were glad to be under the roof of the station.

Unfortunately our last stop of the day was mainly outside and the rain didn’t stop quickly enough. The „Crazy House“ is a house built a bit similar to the styles of Dalí or Hundertwasser. There’s lots to explore and it’s a bit of a labyrinth, with little bridges connecting parts of the houses. It’s also a hotel where you can stay but seeing the masses of tourists I was glad we had picked a „normal“ hotel. This was the end of our tour and of a great day with lots and lots of different impressions! Also it meant our time in Dalat had come to an end. It’s definitely a city that I enjoyed a lot – more than expected – and so far it would be my choice of city if I were to stay for a longer period of time in Vietnam.

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