When Sirapa Limsiworapat, from Diethelm Travel first visited Dalat, Vietnam she immediately fell in love with the ‘fairy tale’ town. Here’s why in her own words…
Although I’ve been to Vietnam many times, I had my first chance to visit the city of Dalat in March 2013. It’s a romantic town of mist, lakes, mountains, waterfalls, flower gardens and beautiful French architecture, and many people have said it’s like Switzerland. I thought it was a fairy tale city!
Although there are many ways to get to Dalat, my friend and I took an overnight bus from Saigon, which departed at 23:00 and arrived in Dalat around 5:00. It’s possible to rest on this 6-hour ride because passengers can lie down on private lower and upper beds. I’d say it’s similar to sleeping on a sofa at home.
The bus tickets we bought were inclusive of a shuttle service from the bus station to our respective hotels in Dalat. Upon arrival, most of the hotels offer complimentary early check-in as long as there are rooms available because the hotel staff is aware of early arrivals by overnight bus.
Once in the city, I was very comfortable using the Vietnamese taxi services. I wrote down the contact information of several prominent taxi companies and whenever I needed a ride, I called and informed the drivers of my pick-up place and they came shortly thereafter.
I treated myself to a villa at the Hoang Anh – DatXanhDaLat Resort. This 4-star boutique resort is a European-style building decorated with local Vietnamese flair. One of my favourite features was the hydrangea garden. I couldn’t help but take hundreds of photos while strolling around the hotel and its gardens and stumbling upon all the beautiful details and decorations.
The first place I visited in Dalat was the Truc Lam Pagoda. It’s the city’s most famous pagoda and a place where many people make pilgrimages to pray at its main Buddha statue. I made a wish that I would have the chance to come back here again (and I did a year later!).
After exploring the pagoda, I took a cable car from the Truc Lam Pagoda over the scenic countryside. I really enjoyed this ride and its fantastic views of the fields below.
Next, I chose to visit several sites because of their renowned beauty and historical significance: the Bao Dai Summer Palace, Dalat Train Station and the Dalat University. The French colonised Dalat in the mid-19th century and these buildings’ architecture reflects beautiful French styles with a classic yellow and red brick colour scheme.
We enjoyed lunch at another scenic site called the Valley of Love, which is surrounded by green hills and beautiful gardens. There is even a big lake in the middle that serves as the perfect place or for relaxing and having a picnic lunch.
The Xuan Houng Lake, otherwise known as Paradise Lake, is a big beautiful lake in the centre of Dalat. Taking photos of the cloudy sky reflecting in the clear water and watching the lights turning on as dusk settled in was my favourite part of the trip.
The Datanla Waterfalls is an attraction that is both refreshing and thrilling. There are wooden paths that allow visitors to walk near the falls and it’s possible to enjoy soaking in the lower stage of the falls. I went in March, so the water was a bit too cold for me!
I also read in a brochure that there was a mini roller coaster at the Datanla Waterfalls. The roller coaster tracks took me around the falls on a fun 5-minute ride. I was able to control my ride with a brake and enjoy the curved route and scenic surroundings. (I bought a roundtrip ticket for the mini roller coaster but recommend others just buy a one-way ticket because the return leg was not much of anything.)
I stayed four days and three nights in Dalat but I think it’s possible to visit the main attractions I mentioned above in just 1.5 days. I spent the rest of the time walking around in town, taking photos, making stops at cute coffee shops and local restaurants. You have to try Vietnamese coffee and the local cuisine while you’re there – very tasty!
As a Vietnamese language student, I also enjoyed practicing Vietnamese by talking with people at the shops, restaurants, pagodas, markets and any other places I met them. Most of the Vietnamese people I met were nice, friendly, helpful and polite, although some of them were very shy. Don’t worry if you can’t speak Vietnamese, however. People there are able to communicate in English and can assist you if you need help.
After this first trip, I‘ve returned to Dalat three more times. I can’t wait to go back again soon!