The Return Trip 2000 – 8
Thinking about getting away? Maybe someplace where flowers of every description grow in profusion yet a place where it's never too hot? Someplace exotic yet with plenty of amenities including an 18 hole golf course built along the shores of a tranquil lake? In short an ideal vacation get away?
Dalat sits atop steeply sloping pine covered hills nearly a mile above the heat and humidity that we all came to think of as Vietnam. All around dramatic waterfalls plunge through rock lined valleys splashing a cooling mist on nearby vegetation. That is Dalat and its environment. What a welcome change it was after a week of exposure to the climate you all remember all those years ago. Willy sure was right when he told us to be ready for a different and very beautiful Vietnam. Cu Chi and Tay Ninh were downright ugly by comparison. Perhaps the best testimonial for this place comes from the fact that Dalat is considered the Honeymoon destination of choice of Vietnamese who can afford to make the trip.
Increasingly the city is gearing up to greet tourists. The French Novotel chain has recently renovated former President Thieu's Summer Palace into a five star hotel. It sits on a hill, its reflection glimmering in the lake that occupies the center of town. Across the water lies the first tee of an 18 hole golf course. But these new improvements don't detract from the French colonial charm of this old city renowned for its flowers. A stroll through the market reveals a profusion of fruits, vegetables and flowers - above all flowers.
Of course there is more than we have time to summarize here. We ony spent a night in Dalat but there is much more to see. One place the whole group would recommend is the Diem Tham Quan embroidery shop that turns out spectacular work. The prices for what they turn out range from around 40 dollars to over a thousand but all of them seem worth it. One particularly impressive landscape took 9 women 5 months to make. It's price was $650. We all bought something there.
Our stay in Dalat came to an end too soon but we were determined to press on to Nha Trang and a few days relaxation on the beach. There were a number of interesting stops during this phase of our journey. On the way to Dalat we stopped at a roadside stand set up by Montagnard's who had beautifully woven silk goods for sale. Again, we all forked over for some extradordinarily fine handicrafts - scarves, cleverly constructed collapsing backpacks and table cloths.
Other great points of interest are the Cham temples that are scattered throughout the area. The Cham, as best we could determine without a guide book, were foreigners who ruled this part of Vietnam from the 13th to 16th centuries. The writing on their red brick temples looked similar to the kind of script seen in Thailand. Very interesting. We had the place to ourselves. One of the many benefits of touring Vietnam now before the tourist rush begins. If you have any plans to see the country again in peacetime we would urge sooner rather than later as it seems a tourist boom is about to begin.
Dalat Area Pictures
Nha Trang Area Pictures