By Jeanne Martin
Tucked away, partially inland, just over 300km Northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, sits the mountain ctwon of Dalat. The rather quick change in temperature as one climbs the hills leading to this French inspired getaway may feel uncomfortable at first after a visit to Vung Tau during the dry season, but still refreshing. The cool night air, mellow sounds, and country resemblance may remind some of Halloween nights in suburbia. Southern Vietnamese locals suggest couples visit the city in search of romantic evenings, and more specifically to visit “The Valley of Love”. Aside from this idea, I was drawn to the French architecture in a Vietnamese town that didn’t have the honking and musky smells of a poorly up kept river in an overcrowded capital. Instead, the river that flows through Dalat seems serene. The bulk of the river lies in the city center and ties together the hotels and restaurants overlooking it. On my second visit, the river was being emptied for the building of a dam, and while the city felt a little incomplete, a few locally owned horses made use of the space for roaming. I found shelter at a hotel, whose balcony overlooked a pond, a country-style farmhouse restaurant, and a school hidden by pine to my left: a different view from the neighboring sweaty, and palm-tree covered beach town of Mui Ne.
While the ride to Dalat may resemble a smooth, easygoing rollercoaster for an experienced motorcyclist (using at least a 110 cc bike), some may find the ride a little nerve-wrecking with a seemingly mad bus driver behind the wheels. The town itself rolls over hills and turns. Just outside the main area, Dalat offers outdoorsy types a handful of waterfalls and views to take in, and although this may require some negotiation and travel time, they are well-worth the visit. The streets are lined with a few food stands like Banh Mi, as well as more enclosed restaurants. The town center also contains markets selling items to locals and tourists alike: ranging from coats and clothes to help one suffice the drop in temperatures if unprepared, to jams, to trinkets and spices, to wines. Dalat is known for its’ wines and jams. During a visit to a waterfall and monk sanctuary nearby, I stopped at a local market and purchased a small container of strawberry jam-sweet and delicious! And of course, the bottle of wine was saved for the perfect moment a little further into the road trip- pulling over when your bike overheats on a deserted mountain!
Needless to say, the shop owners and locals feed off of the calmer, more serene and breathable vibe of Dalat. There was less hassling than in prior visits to surrounding cities and the city seems to have a more pleasant regard for it’s well-being and beauty. Its’ charm is quite revitalizing for any traveler making their way through Vietnam during the hot, dry season.
About the Author
Jeanne is currently working at her passions from her new home in New York City. While making the most of her time in “The Big Apple”, Jeanne wants to travel some more in the near future in hopes that new travels will spark new ideas and new stories!