Hopping off a slightly miss-timed night bus at 5:00 AM, we were welcomed by the cool weather of Da Lat and nearly no taxis to take us into town. After a constant temperature of 90-100 degrees, the mid 60’s mountain weather seemed even colder. Stu dawned his fleece for the first time since arriving seven months earlier. It has only been a week for me in the heat, but it was still a relief of sorts.
Da Lat is nice change of pace from the crowded streets and noises of Saigon. It is a picturesque, Euro-style town in the mountains that is popular among honeymooners. They call it La Petite Paris.
Cafes, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses poke out on the winding streets of the hilly city. At every roundabout and park there are well-manicured gardens and plants with intricate designs. Strolling around the charming streets with a cool breeze on our skin we already felt that this city could be a favorite in Vietnam.
The weather is refreshing. It might have reached 80 degrees at the peak on the hottest day and would drop down to 65-70 at night. Although it is more humid than California, it is as similar weather as we will get I think.
The people are also a bit more laid back and nicer than in Saigon. Our homestay owners woke up and unlocked the doors at 5 AM for us, with no reservation, and didn’t charge us anything for staying that day. They also loved talking to us about Obama visiting and the husband seemed to enjoy when we streamed the Warriors Game 6 in the lobby cheering and yelling when we came back to force game 7.
Activities in Da Lat
We handled most of our activities by cruising the town on foot. Our few days in Da Lat we averaged around 8 miles per day walking. Besides the quaint town and romantic atmosphere (quite the getaway for Stu and I), the city mainly offers outdoor adventure tours and religious sites to satiate the exploration cravings of travelers.
Linh Son Pagoda
The outside of the Linh Son pagoda was impressive, but what I liked most was the garden and structures of the courtyard behind it. Wandering through the gardens with only the sounds of birds and the distant white noise of the city brings a calmness. Even more so as we had the place to ourselves.
Ky Vien Temple
Higher up on a hill than Linh Son, we walked up narrow streets to find Ky Vien. Multiple decorative walkways and towers lie at the feet of a lady buddha statue. Wandering the corners and columns of the temple and looking down on Da Lat, the sun broke through the clouds and a light rain came down in the sunlight. Within a few seconds, the surreal atmosphere ended as the sun and rain disappeared and we dawdled off back to the homestay (hotel Tom).
Canyoning in Da Lat
Our second day in we booked a canyoning tour through the VietChallenge company to get a taste of Da Lat’s nature. Hiking alongside the cascading river the tour included abseiling, natural water slides, and cliff jumps. A few months prior to us doing the tour, a few British tourists actually died after getting sucked over a big waterfall, but we’ll let my mom find that out here after I have already completed the tour safe and sound :).
Truc Lam Pagoda
After a two mile walk and 10-minute gondola ride, we made it to the Truc Lam Pagoda on our last day in Da Lat. The sprawling temple grounds had multiple buildings, gardens, and sections. Unlike the first two we visited, this pagoda was crawling with loud tourists. It took away from the serenity of the area, but it was still an impressive site.
Night Life in Da Lat
We arrived in Da Lat on a Friday to discover that on the weekends there is a lively market and festival-like party in the town center. Because there was live music, decorations, and thousands of people, I originally thought it was some sort of annual event. Every local we asked seemed to say it was every weekend, although nobody we asked actually understood our question.
100 Roofs Cafe in Da Lat
On one of the main drags of the town lies a bar called the 100 Roofs Cafe. It is one of the most amazing bars/restaurants I have ever seen, supposedly still being built and worked on after 26 years.
Twisting staircases, hidden nooks and rooms, and jungle decor turn the five floor building into a maze out of Jumanji. Adding a little alcohol to the scenario results in a hilarious episodes of people getting lost and walking in circles to find their friends.
By 10 PM, the place is absolutely packed with tourists. If you want to meet other travelers, listen to loud music, and have a good time, this is the place to be. If you are looking for more of a mellow, local bar, stop by earlier in the day to check out the amazing architecture and move along before it gets crazy.
Food in Da Lat
Off to Nha Trang
After three nights in the cool air of Da Lat, we were sad to say good bye. Hopefully some day we will be back to conquer the other adventure activities and restaurants.
Hotel & Hostel in Da Lat, Vietnam
For our stay in Da Lat, we booked a private twin room at Nha Nghi Tom for just under $6/night. The staff was very nice and the room was pretty clean. There was a television, hot water, and ample space with a coffee table and chairs. There was no A/C as you do not really need it in Da Lat. We did have to be back by curfew at midnight, so it is not the best place to stay if you want to party late into the night. Feel free to get in touch if you have any more questions on this hotel.
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