When we told our Hue hotel staff and our taxi driver we were headed to Da Lat, they all responded the same way: “Ah, so nice, so pretty, not hot. Not hot.” Da Lat aka Little Paris aka City of a Thousand Flowers aka City of a Thousand Pine Trees aka City in the Fog aka City of Eternal Spring is a popular honeymoon destination for many young Vietnamese couples. A resort town in the mountains, it also provided a respite from the constant 90° days we’d begrudgingly been getting accustomed to. Reminiscent of San Francisco, we welcomed the 75° daytime weather and the wonderful 60° weather at night. Isabel got to wear her fleece and Hinterland pants so she was very happy. The temperate climate makes for fertile land, and the region is known for its produce, highlighted by strawberries, avocados, and coffee.
Did you know that Vietnam is the world’s second-largest producer of coffee behind only Brazil?
We checked into our hotel, which though it must have been the cat’s meow back when it opened in the 1930s, today it was reminiscent of the hotel from The Shining (It’s okay, they can’t all be winners, I’m not perfect, y’know).
Despite the quirkiness, the hotel did provide a pretty decent breakfast buffet every morning. Our first morning, however, due to some maintenance in our hotel’s kitchen, we were sent to the five-star Da Lat Palace Hotel down the street for breakfast. Big mistake (Pro tip: if you want your guests to overlook the fact that your hotel is a tad bit run down, do not voluntarily show them what they’re missing elsewhere).
Unfortunately, neither of us had our phones on us that morning, so no photos — but this place had decadence dripping from every chandelier. Trust us when we say that the buffet spread was downright stupid: waffle bar, omelet station, soup, chicken, pasta (stir-fry noodles and spaghetti with tomato sauce), and an enormous dais in the center of it all with a boatload of fruits, veggies, pastries, and desserts. With floor-to-ceiling window views of their elaborate grounds, we finally got to eat like the royalty we [like to think we] are.
After being part of the 1% for breakfast, we went back to being regular tourists and walked to the Crazy House. Designed as a personal project by Vietnamese architect Đặng Việt Nga, with obvious influences such as Dalí and Gaudí, this “guesthouse” has wacky animal-themed rooms at different height intervals, with walls that drip down. There are all these staircases, bridges and pathways headed in directions they should not go — it looked as if Tim Burton made a Dr. Seuss movie. The major downside to places like these is that they are overrun by tourists. All the suspended walkways are wide enough for just one person, yet people barge through two-way traffic so they can take their dumb selfie. Or they’ll stop traffic for five whole minutes so they can do a full-on photoshoot of their four-year-old Instakid. Tourists in tight spaces make you want to disappear.
Quick interjection from Isabel: Mark actually wanted to stay here. He found the Crazy House on TripAdvisor and wanted TO SLEEP HERE. WITH ALL OF THESE PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF OUR ROOM.
The coolest thing we did in Da Lat, hands down, was the Datanla Waterfall. Datanla Waterfall isn’t massive — it isn’t even that stunning, as waterfalls go — but what makes it so attractive is the means by which you descend. Rather than take a boring ol’ staircase down, down, down to the view, why not take an alpine coaster down? Essentially a bobsled minus the safety equipment, you control the speed at which you zip around these loops as you make your way down the mountainside. Your reward after a few minutes of fun is the cascades of Datanla. Plus, in order to get there from downtown Da Lat, we took a freakin’ sky gondola!
Lastly, the only thing that made this feel different from your typical ski resort town (minus the snow, of course) was the night market. Another market?? Haven’t you seen enough?
Traveler’s tip: Always visit a night market, even it’s just once. The food and beer are plentiful, delicious, and cheap. Some of the best food we’ve eaten thus far has been from food carts at night markets. The vendors are always different, selling everything from keychains, to clothes and sunglasses. It’s also a great place to witness the city’s nightlife because many locals attend these markets as well.
Jutting off the lake, this street transforms every night from 5pm to 5am into a lively market. The front is filled with carts selling food and produce. Further in, vendors sell all sorts of knick-knacks and apparel. Carts selling Vietnamese pizzas, sticky rice, meat-on-a-stick and fried dough line the sides, leaving the wide street packed with foot traffic … and motor-bikes, of course. You haven’t lived until you’re scarfing down a piping hot Vietnamese pizza with a side of exhaust fumes. It sure was lively though, and the food — as always — was SO good. Even if crossing the intersection to get there meant playing Frogger for your life.
Although Da Lat isn’t high on the list for travelers to Vietnam, it’s well worth a visit. In 2017, CNN named Da Lat as one of the nine underrated attractions to visit! It painted a different picture of everything else we had seen in Vietnam. Plus I’ve never been so happy to wear pants again, the chilly nights were oh so welcomed.