Up in the mountains and around 4 hours away from Saigon, Dalat isn’t always on the classic Vietnam itinerary, but we had heard good things about it though so decided to visit.
Dalat may only be a small town but there is no shortage of things to see, mainly because the countryside around it is so beautiful, and very lush and green compared to further south. A lot can be grown here that can’t elsewhere in Vietnam, evident by the countless greenhouses and fields of fruits and vegetables visible across the hillsides.
On our first day we decided to explore, using our favourite method of transport – rented motorbike. We first headed to the Robin Hill cable car, only to be told that if we went up we would have to wait 2 hours to come down as it closes for lunch – this happens a lot in Vietnam and kept catching us out. Not fancying that, since there isn’t much up there, we headed instead to Datanla Falls.
There are waterfalls littered all around Dalat, and you could probably spend a good day just visiting all the different ones. We decided on Datanla as it was apparently one of the better ones, easy to reach and had a toboggan! Sure enough we got there and the first thing we did was ride the toboggan down. This was a much faster and more exciting one than we rode on the Great Wall but it was hampered sadly by other riders who missed the point of the thing completely and kept slowing down to a stop and waiting for each other, causing a traffic jam.
Once down the falls were pretty but a bit of an anti climax. We followed some routes over to some lookouts and other parts of the falls but overall were underwhelmed. Little did we know we would be back the next day for something way more exciting..
Next we made our second attempt at the cable car, as it was now nearly 1.30pm. It opened on time and we were the first post lunch riders. It is a seriously long cable car, a good 7-10 minute ride, and passes over some spectacular scenery, it’s well worth the ride.
Make sure you buy a return ticket because it really isn’t walkable unless you have a few hours to spare and there isn’t much transport at the top. There was however a small temple with some nice gardens to look around, and we also got some lunch from the cafe at the cable car station which I can’t say I’d recommend.
Back down at the bottom we made our way back to town to see the next sight – the Crazy House. This is a totally bizarre Gaudi-esque (but with added kitsch) sprawling building which is nominally a guesthouse but mostly just welcomes visitors to wander around (for a price). After 20 odd years it still isn’t finished, in fact the new bits are even more extreme than the old. Being Vietnam with a complete lack of safety standards, you’re even allowed to walk around the half built bits, in which you do have to be quite careful not to fall to your death.
We were actually thinking of spending a night in the Crazy House before we arrived but were glad we didn’t, purely because of the visitors there poking their heads into your room at all hours, it would be like staying in a zoo.
Finally we made our way across town to the train station – no I still wasn’t bored of seeing trains! The line doesn’t really go anywhere except a small town (though I think it can connect to the main line somehow) but I was eager to have a ride as I heard it may be a steam train. Well it wasn’t a steam train and it didn’t even run very regularly, so we gave it a miss and just spent some time admiring the unique mixture of art deco and Vietnamese architecture of the station, which dates back to the 1930s. There was also an old steam train long out of service parked at the station serving as a cafe, so that was interesting to look at too (I had to have my picture taken next to it!)
Where We Stayed
Dalat is a small town with not a huge amount of budget accommodation (available online at least) so we plumped for ‘Backpacker’s Paradise’ located 10 minutes walk from the town centre. It was supposed to be brand new so we didn’t expect any problems, but the room certainly wasn’t new. The mattress was terrible, the bathroom small and old fashioned and the door didn’t shut properly. On the flip side, the owner was a genuinely great guy and all the staff were really helpful. Also the dorm room looked way more renovated than our private one did. So I can’t be too down on it, but that mattress was a killer.
However they did have this amazing dog which is worth another point: