Leaving Hoi An was tough. It was beautiful, relaxing, and had decent nightlife. I could have spent a few more days meandering through the streets and checking out all the different shops. Alas, there’s a big world out there and it was time to move South. Up next was the mountain town of Dalat. The journey there was one of the longest on the trip, almost 17 hours on two separate buses. We jumped off the night bus in Nha Trang and had a few hours to kill until our next leg. Luckily we didn’t stay in that city because it had a very strange vibe. The Russian mafia awkwardly has control over few SE Asian cities (ex. Pattaya in Thailand) and Nha Trang is apparently one of these strong holds. The resort city caters tot Russian tourists and most menus are written in both Vietnamese and Russian. Very unusual to see and I found it worthy of a note. Luckily after a few hours, we were on our way to the south central highlands.
Dalat was developed by the French during the late 19th century as a colonial resort town. Situated high up in the mountains, its temperate climate serves as a respite from the brutal tropical heat. It was a pretty drive up into the mountains and the landscape was unique to others in the country. There was a plethora of strawberry patches, fields of flowers, and forests of tall pine. Without the tropical humidity and no palms in sight, the weather was quite agreeable.
Martin decided to hang back for a few more days in Hoi An, so Colleen and I spent our first day exploring the town on our own. We actually had a pretty good plan. There was a large cable car that traveled from the highest point in the town to the valley below. We intended to explore the village, ride the cable car to the waterfalls in the valley, and then take a cab back to our hostel. It was a tough climb up the winding streets to the cable car, but the views were worth it. The mountains and valley were both spectacular to behold.
At the bottom we visited the Buddhist temples that sat on the shores of a sizable lake. They were situated in a nice little garden and were quite peaceful. A mile walk further down the road we arrived at the most popular attraction in Dalat, the waterfall park. I’m not sure how to describe the area. They’ve created a large outdoor-adventure recreation center around some of the more stunning cascades. There are large ropes courses and rock climbing options. The site is primarily known for its canyoning adventures. On these tours you travel down the canyon on a special course that allows you to abseil, climb, and swim through the waterfalls. There is also a roller coaster that seems very out of place. Its a fun way to descend to the falls without taking the 500 stairs, but resembles something that could have been made in someones back yard. You actually control the braking and speed yourself which seems alarmingly dangerous but…. that’s Asia. After taking the coaster down to the falls and snapping some nice pictures we decided to head back to where we were staying. Unfortunately, there were no cabs available and we ended up walking about 2+ miles back up the valley. So in reality we spent the entire day going uphill. Admittedly, that part sucked and we did not plan well. Oh well.
Another very cool attraction in Dalat was the Crazy House. Built by Dang Viet Nga in the 1990s, this building looks like something out of Antoni Gaudi’s sketch book. Much like the eccentric architecture scattered about Barcelona, the Crazy House is a rather shocking site to behold. The structure is filled with passages, stair cases, and bridges that seem better suited for a Disney park than for a Vietnamese mountain escape. It’s tough to describe, so instead I took a bunch of pictures.
To coincide the Crazy House the center of Dalat also features the 100 Roofs Cafe. Unfortunately, due to bad lighting and the fact I was drinking, I was unable to catch any pictures here. However, if you are a nerd and have seen Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, the bar was designed like the inside one of those elvish tree cities. Much like the Crazy House, there were secret passages leading to nowhere and cool little nooks and crannies to explore. It’s massive and features a rooftop garden that is reminiscent of the Parc de Guell. The bizarre architecture and massive scale made for one of the more unique drinking experiences of my life. Overall, Dalat was very interesting spot to check out in Southern Vietnam.