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Dalat is a city located on Lang Biang highlands - part of the Central Highlands region of Vietnam. Because of its history, special architecture, unique climate features and wide range of beautiful spots, Dalat is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations of Vietnam.
Dalat looks like a cross between Vietnam and the French Alps. Many of its hotels and houses were built in a French style during the French colonization. There are many places for tourists interested in architecture to visit, such as Dalat Railway Station, designed by French architects Moncet and Reveron, or Hang Nga guest house, a.k.a ‘Crazy house’ which is also an interesting place to stay.
The climate in Dalat is often called ‘Eternal Spring’ for its pleasantly warm temperatures during the day and quite cool at night, down to perhaps 10oC. Due to its favorable weather, Dalat is a supplier of temperate produce for all over Vietnam, for example, cabbage and cauliflower. Also, it has a nickname ‘City of Flowers’. Its flower industry is highly developed and famous for two typical flowers: hydrangea (Vietnamese: Cẩm tú cầu) and golden everlasting (Vietnamese: Hoa bất tử).
Apart from architectural places of interest, Dalat also has lots of beautiful sites such as Xuan Huong Lake - center of town, Lake of Sorrow (Lake of Sighs) - 5km Northeast of town on Ho Xuan Huong Road, Valley of Love - Phu Dong Thien Vuong Street, Lang Biang Mountain has a 1900m peak, ideal for a 3-hour hike, Prenn Falls - 10km outside the town, Pongour Falls - one of the largest and widest waterfalls in Vietnam, 30km south of town on highway 20, etc.
Tourists arriving in Dalat can enjoy the atmosphere of Vietnamese markets by visiting Dalat market, which is full of local specialties such as strawberry jam, dried fruits, avocado, artichoke.
Sitting on a beautiful valley of Langbiang mountain, Da Lat has one of the most stable weather conditions among Vietnam destinations. At 1500m height compared with sea level, Da Lat enjoys a cool climate all year round, though the temperature rises slightly during the summer months from May to August and drops to a chilly point at night. Humidity is high, though nothing compared with lowland cities or coastal provinces.
The stable weather means that any time can be an excellent time to visit Da Lat. However, try to avoid June-August since this is the peak season for domestic tourism, when city-dwellers from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city look for an escape from the heat and household chores. These months are also the period when rain falls the most.
By air
Da Lat is well connected to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City by daily flights operated by Vietnam Airlines. Lien Khuong airport saw a major renovation and reopened in October 2009, expanding in its size, capacity and level of luxury. About 30 km away from city center, the airport is served by a crew of taxi ($15 to Da Lat) and shuttle bus ($2 one way to Da Lat).
Flight time from Da Lat to Ho Chi Minh City is about 45 minutes and to Hanoi is about 1 hour 40 minutes. Price ranges between $60 and $90 one way for economy class, depending on where and when you book your ticket.
By bus
Though out of the way, Da Lat’s prestige as a popular destination leads to the operation of many bus services. Public buses are slightly cheaper than minivan though not as comfortable. From Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne or Nha Trang, you can book your bus ticket (recommended companies include Mai Linh and Phuong Trang) to Da Lat from most travel agent or bus company office. In high season (June to August), obtain your ticket at least 1 day in advance to secure your sheet.
Here are approximate times for journeys to and from Dalat:
Ho Chi Minh City: 308 km (7 hours)
Mui Ne, Phan Thiet: 257 km (5 hours)
Nha Trang: 205 km (4 hours)
Di Linh: 82 km (2 hours)
Though impressive and good for photos, Ngoan Muc Pass might not be the best option if you ride your bike or car to Da Lat. Take the inland route to Bao Loc and Di Linh, which is shorter and safer.
Xuan Huong lake
Just as Hanoi has Sword Lake (Hoan Kiem lake) as its heart, Da Lat embraces Xuan Huong Lake as its center. Used to be the site in which many indigenous people of Langbian highland inhabited, this man-made lake is nowadays the most beautiful lake of Da Lat.
The history of Xuan Huong Lake distinguishes it as one of the most special lakes in Vietnam. In the past, there was no lake where we see Xuan Huong Lake today. In 1919 and 1923, two dams were formed on a branch of Cam Ly River to create two small lakes. Unfortunately, during a severe storm in 1932, both dams were destroyed. Between 1934 and 1935, a larger dam was built of boulders below the sites of the two previous dams to create one large lake. At that time, the French named it Grand Lac (large lake), but in 1953 it was renamed Ho Xuan Huong to express the people’s appreciation to the famous Vietnamese poetess in the 19th century who has the same name.
Looking from above, Xuan Huong Lake is like a crescent moon which extends to approximately 1236 acres. The surface of the lake is as smooth as a mirror reflecting the romantic scenery of Da Lat with pine forests, meadows and gardens. Nowadays, visitors can not only enjoy strolling along the lakeside but also resting under the conifers, pedal-boating on the lake while admiring the spectacular architecture of Thuy Ta pavilion. As a major attraction of Da Lat, the lake is a place for people from both inside and outside the city to meet, talk and fall in love. Thus, you don’t need to be on honeymoon to visit this wonderful place (even though honeymooners do it all the time), just come and let the beauty of Xuan Huong Lake inspire you.
Domaine de Marie Church
No one can deny that Da Lat has a reputation as one of the most attractive cities in Vietnam, which can be accounted for by the fact that its architecture was the combination of French and Vietnamese style. The Domaine De Marie (Dominion of Marie) Church is one example of that interaction between the two cultures. Today, it is not only a place for the local people to worship but also a destination for visitors from just anywhere.
The Domaine de Marie Church, also called Mai Anh Church, is home to the Roman Catholic nuns of the Mission of Charity. Located nearly 0.6 mile away from the city center, the church is a 29.6-acre architectural complex consisting of the main church and two convents. It was built from 1930 to 1943 following the 17th century French style. However, because its architecture is the harmonious combination of Western art and Vietnamese folk art, the church definitely stands out from other ones created at the same era.
The façade of the building is designed as an isosceles triangle with many small arch-shaped windows, and a cross on the top. Right at the center of the façade is a grand rose-shaped window, a detail which usually appeared in the architecture of French church at the end of the 17th century. The walls are decorated with the Normandy style which allows creative manipulation of lights: dark-bright, solid-hollow, etc. The Vietnamese part, however, does not subside.
The Vietnamese arrangement of this church makes it special and different from the classical churches of Europe. The roofs of the church have their origin from the design of Nha Rong, a typical type of stilt house in Tay Nguyen, Vietnam. Even though the huge and steep roofs look pretty bland, the elegant stained glass windows make them a work of arts and illuminate the interior of the Domaine de Marie Church. The statue of Mary is another example of the interaction. It is created by a French architect named Jonchère in 1943, but resembles the image of a Vietnamese woman. In general, though the combination of the two competing styles might seem unusual, it creates an absolutely creative and intrigue complex.
If you need a change of mood for you Da Lat trip, which is always assumed to be romantic and peaceful, make sure to pay a visit to Domaine de Marie to worship and experience the intersection of French and Vietnamese art for yourself.
Valley of Love in Da Lat
Just as true love has to surpass several obstacles, the Valley of Love in Da Lat had to surpass many challenges in the past in order to gain its rightful name today. In the beginning, the valley was called Vallée D’amour (Valley of Love) by the French before being renamed The Valley of Piece. In 1935, its beauty and captivation persuaded people to once again name it after the most wonderful thing in the world: Love.
The Valley of Love today is located 4 miles away from the center of Da Lat, the little Paris. Throughout history, it has been one of the most picturesque and romantic sites of the city, with many deep valleys and endless pine forests. The tranquil Da Thien Lake, which was created in 1972, also adds a great deal to the attractiveness of the valley in general. To truly appreciate the sceneries is not hard because travelers can easily follow the natural tracks and staircases all around the valley to visit and admire the gorgeous flower gates and statues.
The tracks lead to Vong Canh Hill from which The Valley of Love’s magnificent view gradually appears in each traveler’s eyes. From that hill, they can also see the Langbian peaks standing out vividly against the blue sky, or continue their adventure to find the Paradise Hill, another ideal destination which is surrounded by beautiful lakes. Overall, the valley is another wonderful addition to your trip to the romantic Da Lat.
Does it sound like a great rendezvous to say your marriage proposal ? Not really, because anyone can possibly fall in love with the landscape before fully listening to what you say. But in case you are really making a proposal, give it a shot. Even if she/he refuses you, at least you will have been to The Valley of Love.
Hang Nga guesthouse (Crazy house)
Da Lat has the power to not only romanticize but also inspire people to go beyond their limits. Hang Nga guesthouse, also known as the “Crazy House,” is a piece of artwork that really surpasses the limit of people’s imagination. Designed by Vietnamese architect and impressionist Dang Viet Nga, this extraordinary building of non-rectilinear shapes has appeared in many international architectural journals and finally made its way to the list of the world’s ten most creative buildings (according to the Chinese People’s Daily).
As the intention of the architect is to make a fairy tale house, the “crazy house” resembles a tree with uneven windows, tunnel-shaped stairways, etc.  Both the exterior and the interior of the guesthouse are created and decorated with twisting organic forms and very few right angles. The hollow “tree” extends in many directions, rising above to reach to the sky of the amazing Da Lat. Walking along the cave-shape hallways inside the house is not simply a visit but an exhilarating experience, a departure from the norm; wild mushrooms and spider webs popping up on your way is not unusual.  Besides, the guesthouse is really a spectacular construction with ten themed guest rooms such as the tiger room, the eagle room, the ant room and the kangaroo room…, with decorations and handcrafted furniture matching the theme. According to Viet Nga, each room has its own meaning: the tiger room refers to the Chinese; the eagle room describes the American; and the ant room represents the Vietnamese, etc.
Even though it is theoretically a hotel, Hang Nga Guesthouse is today regarded as a “museum” of dream, childhood, abnormality, etc. Everyone has their own interpretation of the house, as well as their own experience but all of them agree on one thing: the guesthouse is so pure and natural that they were once again lost in their childhood dream.
Lake of Sighs (Ho Than Tho)
This lake has such romantic connotations for the Vietnamese that you would think it was created by a fairy godmother rather than French dam work. Legend has it that a 15-year-old girl named Thuy drowned herself after her boyfriend of the same age, Tam, fell in love with another. Her gravestone still exists on the side of the lake, marked with the incense and flowers left by other similarly heartbroken souls, even though the name on the headstone reads "Thao," not "Thuy." The place is crammed with honeymooners in paddle boats and motorboats.
Lat Village (Chicken Village)
A village of the Co Ho minority people, the Lat, or "Chicken," Village is usually part of the all-day tours in the hills around Da Lat. Why chicken? Well, there is an enormous cement statue of a chicken at the entry to town the bird has to do with a village legend (ask your guide I've heard about four different versions of the story, and each is a hoot). The Co Ho people are very used to the many foreign visitors who come here every day; trinket sellers are not pushy, and you are free to walk about this rustic little town at your own pace.
Bao Dai's Palace
Completed in 1938, this monument to bad taste provided Bao Dai, Vietnam's last emperor, with a place of rest and respite with his family. It has never been restored and, indeed, looks veritably untouched since the emperor's ousting and hasty exile. On a busy weekend in high season, you might get a rush by imagining you're there to liberate the place and are part of the looting masses — that's not hard to imagine, with the crowds ignoring any velvet ropes and posing for pictures in the aging velvet furniture. You'll be asked to go in stockinged feet or wear loose shoe covers, which makes it fun for sliding around the home's 26 rooms, including Bao Dai's office and the bedrooms of the royal family. You can still see the grease stains on Bao Dai's hammock pillow and the ancient steam bath in which he soaked. The explanations are in English, and most concern Bao Dai's family. There is pathos in reading them and piecing together the mundane fate of the former royals: This prince has a "technical" job, while that one is a manager for an insurance company. There are three other Bao Dai palaces in town, the Sofitel Da Lat Palace Hotel among them, but this is the most choice.
Da Lat Market (Cho Da Lat)
Huge, crowded, and stuffed with produce of all varieties, this is the top stroll-through destination in Da Lat. Here's where you can see all the local specialties and even have a try! Some of the vendors will be happy to give you a sample of some local wine or a few candied strawberries. Da Lat in general is low on the hassling tourist touts that plague the big towns and tourist sights in Vietnam, and entreaties from the merchants are friendly; you can walk around without too much hassle here because the locals are doing all the shopping. The top floor of the market now houses a high-end embroidery studio, and shops catering to tourists are on the rise, but mostly what's for sale are good local wines, preserves, and produce. Just outside the market, a number of vendors sell anything from sweetened soy milk to affordable dinners. The place is busy night and day, mostly with domestic tourists wandering the town. A fun vibe pervades it.
Prenn Falls 
The falls are actually quite impressive, especially after a good rain. You can ride a rattletrap little cable car over them if you're brave or follow a stone path behind the falling water (prepare to get your feet wet). That's a little thrill, of course, but the true Prenn experience is all about staged photos for Vietnamese tourists: couples preening, boys looking macho, and girls looking wan and forlorn. Professional photographers run the show and pose their willing actors on a small wooden bridge, on the back of a costumed horse, with an arm around a guy in a bear suit, on a small inflatable raft in front of the falls, or perched in one of the cool treehouses high above (be careful of the loose rungs when climbing up). Come here to have a laugh and observe until you find out that, as a foreign tourist, it's you that's being observed; in that case, say "Xin chao" (pronounced sin chow) or return a few "hellos" and go from there (you'll be getting your photo snapped, for sure). You might walk away with some new chums, not to mention some souvenirs (plastic samurai sword, anyone?). Other falls in the area include the Gougah Falls, some 40km (25 miles) south of Da Lat, as well as Pongour Falls, 55km (34 miles) south.
Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) Zen Monastery
What's refreshing is that you can walk around Truc Lam with no harassment, unlike many other temples and most pagodas in Vietnam. This is a working temple, and though it's packed with tourists at certain times of the day, you'll be wandering amid meditation halls and classrooms that are utilitarian, not museum pieces. You'll get to see monks at work and have an informative glimpse into the daily rhythms of temple life. The complex was completed in 1994 with the aim of giving new life to the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect, a uniquely Vietnamese form of Zen founded during the Tran dynasty (1225-1400). Adherents practice self-reliance and realization through meditation. The shrine, the main building, is notable mainly for its simple structure and peaceful air, and there is a large relief sculpture of Boddhidarma, Zen's wild-eyed Indian heir, at the rear of the main temple. The scenery around the monastery, with views of the nearby man-made lake, Tuyen Lam Lake, and surrounding mountains, is breathtaking. Truc Lam can now be reached by a scenic tram ride from a hilltop overlooking Da Lat; a motorbike or taxi to the tram station costs little, and the round-trip is 50,000 VND.
Da Lat Central Market, lying at the foot of a hill, is a multi storey building with a unique architecture. It is linked to Hoa Binh area at the hill top through a bridge from its second level, and to Xuan Huong lake at the bottom by a walkway leading to its first floor. That’s why it’s often told as the meeting point of mountains and waters, of ups and downs. Day by day, it attracts local specialties from all over Da Lat to itself. So taking a look around here, you will know what this wonderland is well - known for.
Right at the front of the market, flowers bloom up in myriads of stores. Here you can immerse yourself in the colors and flagrance of hundreds of series of flowers like orchid, mimosa, gladiolus, chrysanthemum, carnations and hydrangeas … They are sold as either sprigs or bunches, still fresh or dry. Oh! Da Lat’s dried flowers are amazing. As fresh and lively as their fresh counterparts, yet more interestingly, their beauty stays unchanged for the whole two or three years. Thus, buying some dried flowers is obviously a wise choice if you want to bring home a piece of Da Lat’s charm.
When you move on inside, just after the flower stands, waiting for you are stalls of fresh fruits and vegetables. At 1,500m (4,920 ft.) above sea level, Da Lat is characterized by its cool year round climate which endows this hilly land with abundant natural produces found nowhere else in Vietnam. Many of them are made into delicate finished products such as strawberry preserves, mulberry syrups, artichoke tea, dried avocados or Vang Da Lat wine. Feel free to ask the seller for samples, and you will find they are really worth it. All of them are Da Lat’s  specialties.
That’s not all. The second storey is filled with kiosks selling souvenirs and woolies of all designs and colors. Most charming are woolen jumpers, scarves or hats hand knitted by Da Lat’s  skillful artisans. Most exceptional are engravings on pine wood with a "fire-pen" devised by a family who still reserves the copyright. Yet most regrettable is that you have to end your shopping soon as the market closes at 6p.m. But seemingly in order to not make you sad for long, the night market ( also called Hades market by locals) will soon come up right along the streets nearby. Open until 4a.m the next day, Hades market gives room to just the same items as you could see during your day shopping, often at cheaper prices and still with little hassle. After all, a fun vibe pervades Da Lat day and night.


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