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  • Da Lat

    ‘Le Petit Paris’, ‘City of Eternal Spring’, ‘the Jewel of the Central Highlands’; call it what you will – Dalat is very pleasant place to spend a few days cooling down and enjoying a very different side of Vietnam. Dalat, and its surrounding central highlands, are famous throughout Vietnam for pine forests, waterfalls, flowers and vegetables. Dalat itself is also known as the the honeymoon destination of choice for Vietnamese newlyweds.

    The town itself was originally established at the end of the 19th century as a hill station for Ho Chi Minh City’s European population thanks to the a French doctor, Dr Alexandre Yersin, who first suggested establishing a health resort here in 1893. The therapeutic properties of the temperate climate and the surrounding countryside (with its seemingly endless supply of tiger, elephant and deer) would allow visitors to escape from the heat of the plains and also to indulge the popular colonial past time of big-game hunting.

    Whilst the game may now be long gone there is still plenty to see in Dalat; a fine collection of French colonial architecture including timber-framed farmhouses and villas, several restored Colonial-era hotels, a cathedral, and a fine Art Deco railway station. In the surrounding central highlands there are many minority hill-tribe groups and, whilst they are perhaps not as colourful as those found in the northern mountains, they are diverse and maintain a range of fascinating cultural traditions.

    The best time to visit Dalat is from November to April and there are two daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City.

    DALAT CATHEDRAL
    A French Romanesque-style cathedral set in the middle of Vietnam’s central highlands. With its distinctive red brick, stained glass windows, and soaring 47-metre high spire, Dalat Cathedral is the city’s most distinctive landmark.

    MORNING MARKET
    Dalat’s temperate climate makes it ideal for vegetable and flower cultivation. The centrally located morning market is the perfect place to view some of the exotic species of orchids, fruits and vegetables grown in the region. Ethnic minorities from the surrounding villages also attend the market to sell handicrafts and textiles.

    XUAN HUONG LAKE
    This man-made lake dominates the town – Dalat is built on the slopes rising from its shores. Although you can take a paddle boat on its calm waters, the best way to see it is to stroll along the 7km sealed path that encircles it.

    CREMAILLERE RAILWAY
    Cog railway linked Dalat and Thap Cham (Phan Rang) from 1928 to 1964, when it was closed because of the war. The line has now been repaired and is now operated as a tourist attraction. One can ride the 8km down the tracks to Trai Mat village and back.

    PRENN WATERFALL
    This 10 meter high waterfall roars through the forest 13 km south of Dalat. Bridges near the falls allow for close up views and the chance to feel the mist spraying up from the falls. It’s even possible to walk underneath them.

    BAO DAI’S SUMMER VILLA
    Built in 1933, the 25-room villa was Emperor Bao Dai’s midsummer retreat and hunting lodge. The art-deco interior still looks much as it did early in the 1930s and provides an interesting insight in to Vietnam’s last royal family.

    TRUC LAM BUDDHIST MONASTERY
    This tranquil and newly-built monastery is located in a forest above serene Tuyen Lam Lake. The monastery has a landscaped garden and small museum of Buddhist artifacts.

    DALAT CABLECAR
    Departing from the north of the town this new addition to Dalat takes passengers on a short ride through the surrounding rolling hills.

    CHICKEN VILLAGE
    This village, inhabited by the K’ho people is located outside Dalat. The village is clean and well-maintained and the locals are very hospitable to visitors.

    LAT COMMUNE & LANGBIANG MOUNTAIN
    Lat Commune is located at the foot of Lang Biang Mountain in Lac Duong District, some 12km from the undulating city of Dalat. It is home for some 1,000 families of ethnic minority people, and place where the French doctor Alexandre Yersin came and was welcomed by the locals with can wine and grilled meat. Visitors can touch on the daily life of the locals by wandering to ethnic villages for seeing women weaving traditional brocades in their houses on stilts.

    For active travelers, they can conquer the legendary mountain Lang Biang, which is imposingly standing some 1,500m above the sea level, from where conquerors will possibly see down there Dalat City looming in clouds in the distance. Visitors can also stay over night there for enjoying can wine and dancing with locals besides flickering flames accompanied with typical sounds of gongs.

    DRAWING BY FINGERS
    Passion, resourcefulness, perseverance, creativity makes up a unique style of drawing.

    Large strokes, small strokes, bold strokes, light strokes, soft strokes, hard strokes, all are the work of the right forefingers to make a complete picture. In only a few minutes, a bamboo tree with leaves takes shape from Chinese ink on white paper. Some calligraphic characters are added. A collection of 200 pictures are drawn that way, of which 70 are in exhibition.

    It is surprising that the creator of these pictures, Vo Trinh Bien, is not a professional artist, but a former Literature student. Driven by a passion for art since childhood, Vo Trinh Bien was determined to explore a new style of drawing that can’t be imitated. Two years of hard work, resourcefulness and perseverance resulted in the techniques of drawing by fingers, while he was struggling to earn the money to support his passion as a farm worker, then as a waiter.

    Now he owns a restaurant called Art Cafe right in the heart of Dalat. His unique works cover the inside walls of the restaurant. Guests to his restaurants will be treated with food and art. The owner will be happy to convey his passion and explain his techniques to guests.

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