In Vietnam, Da Lat is associated with romanticism. It is normal! Da Lat is the number one destination for honeymooners. It also evokes ghosts, it is also the most popular filming location for Vietnamese horror movies.
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
In this travel diary that goes back in time, I tell you about our stay in this beautiful city, which JB and I visited in December 2013. This is only the 2nd time I visit Da Lat. The first time being in 2006 or 2007, with my family. I liked it very much, and I wanted to go back there with JB.
What you need to know about Da Lat
For the Vietnamese, Da Lat = city where the 4 seasons parade in one day. In the morning, it is spring, at noon, it is summer, in the afternoon, it is autumn and in the evening, it is winter. As soon as someone goes to Da Lat, everyone around him will warn him: the weather is changeable, don’t get sick. All the more so if this person comes from South Vietnam (where the weather is fine all year round). Going to Da Lat is like going to Iceland for him, he must be sufficiently dressed, and dressed in layers, to be able to take off/give back the clothes according to the “season” of the day.
Da Lat, located in the heights, was a popular destination for settlers wanting to escape the stifling heat of Saigon. Da Lat reminded them of Europe.
It’s a bit like Ba Na hills, which served as a vacation spot for settlers stationed in Da Nang. As a result, there are a lot of French villas in art deco style. The city is very big, because it is made up of vast valleys, parks, lakes… rivers… it’s super romantic.
After the war, the villas were abandoned. Plants took up residence there, destroying some, covering others, creating abandoned places very favorable for filming. Add to this the fog present towards the end of the day, the cold, the wind, the forests… and you have the best horror movie set.
But hey, if you stay downtown, you won’t have this horror vision eh ahahaha don’t be afraid!
Day 1: Arrival at the hotel Edensee Da Lat
During my first visit to Da Lat, I fell in love with Lake Tuyen Lam, a little out of town. And when my father told me that a 4-star hotel opened on the lake and that he could have discounts for us, I said yes without thinking.
If I remember correctly, we booked 3 nights there, including December 24th and 25th. Thanks to Christmas, we had some free activities, which I will tell you about later.
As the hotel is a bit off-center, there is a free shuttle that makes hotel – city center several times a day. There is also a shuttle (paying) that comes to pick us up at the airport. I still remember, in this shuttle, there was a Vietnamese customer, who had to answer the stupid questions of his junior colleagues. I heard him explain the difference between “impressions” and “clicks” on Facebook 😀 I felt like ripping the phone out of his hand and saying “you’re on vacation man, let them do a Google search!”
This hotel is really the hotel of my dreams. Not only it overlooks the most peaceful (and clean) lake that I know in Vietnam, but moreover, we have like a private villa, with balcony, surrounded by trees. You can see on the picture the main building, and the small villas.
To get from the villa to the main building, there is an electric golf cart system. Just call the reception and they will pick us up. Too classy! Even if we are only 100m from the main building, JB and I still call the electric car haahha.
Thanks to Christmas, we were able to benefit from one hour of free fishing and one massage per person + half board (we can choose between lunch and dinner, but we prefer dinner at the hotel instead of going to the city center and back with the shuttle). In short, we spent an excellent Christmas in this hotel. For 4 days 3 nights => 100€/night double room with half board
Note: I checked the rates in 2019, it’s about 80€/double room, breakfast included (link Booking)
Lake Tuyen Lam
Since the Tuyen Lam lake is right next door, this is what we visit first! The shuttle of the hotel also drops us there, at the landing stage from where several motorized boats leave.
Tuyen Lam Lake is an artificial lake of 350ha, created thanks to a dam. The water is used for agriculture and the water of the lake comes from the Tia River. It is very deep (up to 30m) and has small islands covered with fir trees. It is unrivalled in its romanticism.
We see other hotels under construction (in my opinion, they are finished now in 2019), the flowers, the gardens, it’s super super beautiful!
While I speak Vietnamese, the communication isn’t going very well with the owner of the boat (North Vietnamese like me do not understand anything with the accent of the South).
He makes us make a “shopping” stop on a small island, where we feel a little obliged to consume, before getting back on the road. It is when he understands that we have just had breakfast and that we are really not hungry, that we take again the road towards the pagoda of Truc Lam.
In any case, if there is something not to be missed at Da Lat, it is this lake. One feels really good there, with such a positive energy that a Zen Buddhist temple is built right next to it (in Vietnam, the locations of pagodas, temples, statues are always carefully chosen, according to the rules of feng-shui, energy, four elements etc.)
Thuyen Vien Truc Lam
Yes, on the lakeshore is a relatively new temple, Truc Lam. The first time I went to this temple, I crossed the whole lake as I did today, and when I saw the temple from the boat, I thought I was in paradise (and my mother didn’t even tell me where we were going).
The second visit is less impressive though 🙂 because I know what to expect.
We walk around the temple. It is too new for me and everywhere I see signs of wealth, such as this probably expensive bonsai. It isn’t my favorite temple in Vietnam, but its exceptional location makes it interesting.
Then you take the cable car down to the city center. The view is less nice than the lake 🙂 but you can see that the city isn’t polluted.
We then take a cab to go to the valley of love. It is a paying park where lovers walk.
The landscapes are magnificent…
… but be careful with your eyes because the kitsch elements are omnipresent..
Everywhere in Da Lat you will see whole letters/phrases made of plants/flowers.
We take a cab back to the city center. We book a one day tour in a tourist agency and the shuttle of the hotel comes to pick us up.
Day 2: Day trip
The tourist agency picks us up early in the morning at the hotel. We must be about twenty tourists.
The guide speaks very good English and is very funny. I can’t help noticing that she is very, very pretty, but that her flowered t-shirt and her fan hat are of dubious taste. However, it isn’t uncommon for guides – women – to get hurt on purpose to avoid being harassed. Especially in case of tours lasting several days, where they risk being harassed by tourists, or even worse, hotel owners. On cross-regional buses, many Vietnamese women traveling alone wear a cloth mask – to hide their beauty and to be less bothered.
Note: harassment is of little concern to foreign tourists.
The first stop is a flower plantation. The special weather in Da Lat allows to grow many flowers and plants that do not grow elsewhere in Vietnam. The roses of Da Lat are famous all over the country, we can still find roses that sting and smell good (real ones). They have the particularity of having large stems, contrary to flowers from other Vietnamese regions.
Vietnamese people always like to have flowers with large stems because they often buy large vases. When it comes to offering flowers, it has to be huge, ostentatious.
It is the only place in the country where tulips grow, as well as strawberries and persimmons of extraordinary quality. It used to be the only place where we could have tomatoes all year round for example, but now we import them because Da Lat cannot provide for the whole country.
Flowers grow all year round, and Vietnamese florists – from all regions – always rely on Da Lat to provide them with the most beautiful flowers for Valentine’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Mother’s Day and so on.
The first stop is a coffee plantation. I don’t know anything about coffee so this stop hasn’t been of extraordinary interest to me, but I think it’s good to promote Vietnamese coffee to tourists – because it’s still little known. Vietnamese people are used to drink very strong coffee. Tourists and expats, having tasted Vietnamese coffee, often become addicted to it. There are even more coffee and tea plantations in Northern Vietnam, on the Thai Nguyen side, if you are interested. And if you are interested in importing organic Vietnamese coffee and tea, I have contacts too (the girl who doesn’t miss an opportunity to boost the economy of her loool country)
We then visit an insect farm – cricket farm to be more precise. It’s less scary than we thought. A few days before being eaten, the crickets must be fasted to be as clean as possible. Afterwards, they will be fried or grilled. When you eat them with hot sauce, frankly, it’s not bad at all. I confess that I don’t know who they sell all this to because I have never eaten them in my life, and neither have my Vietnamese friends. Maybe they eat more in the South than in the North?
We are taken to see the making of silk. We see the silkworms, how the silk threads are made (10 worms = 1 silk thread) etc. The guide suggests us to eat the cooked silkworms, but nobody wants them 🙂 Silkworms are eaten in the North of Vietnam too, it’s like an appetizer for us, waiting for dinner. But my parents don’t like them so I didn’t eat much.
We continue our visit to the Datanla waterfall. That’s it, the “spring” is gone, it’s super hot now, it’s “summer”. Fortunately we are dressed in layers. The flow is very strong, be careful and do not make too much selfies at the risk of finishing at the bottom of the cascade.
We then visit a temple. I don’t know why, but I have absolutely no memory of this temple #selective memory or what we ate for lunch 😀
And we finish by visiting this house named Crazy House – part of which is converted into a hotel – with its strange architecture, like a gigantic spider’s web. At the time, some parts were still under construction.
Right next to this house is an embroidery gallery. I strongly encourage you to visit it, as they show embroidered canvases on both sides. I’ve never seen this before, it’s super beautiful, it’s 100% traditional and 100% handmade. To visit!
That’s it, it’s already over! I really liked this one day tour, it’s really great and they don’t take us to romantic parks reserved for lovers. It’s a good introduction to Da Lat’s specialties and know-how.
Day 3: Da Lat City Center
We go downtown again, looking for a goat barbecue. The first time I came here, my mother’s friends took me to eat barbecue and I liked it too much. Unfortunately, I didn’t write down the address so this time we chose a piff barbecue
The barbecue is charcoal. There is a guy pushing a cart full of meat and fish. We take the plate we want (each plate has a color corresponding to the price), and we pay at the end. It’s not as good as what I ate last time, but it’s still not bad.
Note: don’t ask me for the address, I don’t remember it. Type “bbq” on google maps to find the closest barbecue to your hotel.
In Da Lat, there are a lot of nice cafes, nice restaurants, you’ll have to dig a little bit on Tripadvisor. It is the city where the homestays are the most beautiful of the country also, do not hesitate to make a tour on Airbnb
We spend time at the city’s central market. I absolutely want to go there because the honeyed saleswomen always make me taste a lot of free stuff. Contrary to the saleswomen in the North who yell at customers who don’t buy anything, here they are super nice and nice “come and taste this and that, you don’t have to buy”. And if I don’t buy anything, they don’t say anything either.
I particularly liked the beef jerky here (which they call “dried doe”, but it’s more like beef, or even pork). When they make us taste tea, they also cheat, by putting a little honey or sweet tasting herbs – the tea tasted on the stand will be too good, but at home it will be bland. Go ahead, it’s a great local experience!
There are local restaurants inside, hygiene isn’t their strong point, but it is good and cheap. I remember eating a kind of pancake grilled on the barbecue, the specialty of the city but I didn’t find it very good.
Here you can find a lot of wool sweaters. OK, it’s acrylic, but it’s cheap and it helps the tourists who did not bring enough warm clothes.
Day 4 :
We stayed at the hotel all day (it’s Christmas Day), to take advantage of the free activities and to rest.
Part 2: Practical Tips
In Da Lat, the most romantic city in Vietnam, it is recommended toopt for a super 4/5 star hotel, or a charminghomestay on Airbnb.
Our hotel is called Edensee (booking link), I recommend it especially for the Christmas period.
This is the city that I gladly recommend to digital nomads, there are plenty of things to discover in the surroundings, cafes too nice, too good, it’s pleasant, quiet, fresh, and not polluted. There are rivers, mountains, plantations of lavender, tulips… the instagrammers will also find their happiness there. You can also visit other equally romantic lakes in the city center, go to the villa of the last king of Vietnam… there is no lack of activities.
For those looking for thrills, ask the locals where Da Lat’s most famous haunted house is located. It is occasionally occupied by homeless people.
After Da Lat, you can go to Nha Trang, or Ho Chi Minh City. By bus or plane.