The idyllic highland town Dalat, also known as Vietnam’s garden state, is already famed for its immensely photogenic landscape, adorned literally everywhere by the prettiest of blooms. There are so much more to this resort town than just the scenery though, as evident by the 5 attractions below.
Once touted as the model resort town of the entire French colonial empire, the city no doubt has lots of beautiful colonial-style structures dated back as far as the 1800s. Many public buildings such as churches, railway station and city hall are still standing till today, but none can be as intriguing as the private residences of the rich and powerful in the past. Some are now occupied by new tenants or preserved for historical significance, while many, many others are left deserted, shrouded in legends and tales of supernatural occurrences. Take a stroll down Tran Hung Dao street at sunset to explore these beautiful aged mansions and be transported to a land of bygone days and mysteries, or embark on a full-blown ghosthunting spree at the dilapidated villas in the Prenn Pass region.
For the quirky ones, Hang Nga Mansion or “Crazy House” offers a fresh breath of whimsicality rather than a touch of nostalgia ever so often associated with manors. (credit: Mr & Mrs Backpackers via Flickr)
For those preferring a different type of adrenaline rush, Datanla waterfall complex is your go-to destination. Sightseeing is taken to the next level here, as visitors can sled downslope in a manual roller coaster to visit the falls. Beyond that, thrill seekers can look forward to a variety of canyoning challenges, involving ziplining, abseiling, drifting and kayaking along the thunderous currents of the falls.
Aside from the French officials, the city also hosted many important political figures during the colonial era, including Vietnam’s last monarch Bao Dai. Two of the king’s summer palaces, one recently renovated and the other preserved in its original condition from the 1930s, are open for public to visit. Fast forward to the 1950s and there is Tran Le Xuan’s palace, once the summer residence of South Vietnam’s head-of-state family. For the history enthusiasts, these attractions offer much insights into the daily life, political struggles and controversies that the past rulers of Vietnam found themselves embroiled in. Nature enthusiasts not to be disappointed, for these establishments are – in true Dalat fashion – surrounded all year round by lush greens and the most beautiful of blooms.
The highland area is home to a myriad of indigenous tribes with a kaleidoscopic spectrum of culture and customs. For those interested to find out about life in different communities, what can be better than doing so under the guidance of ethnic tribesmen themselves? Conducted as daytime bike tours or overnight homestay stints, such programmes includes off-the-beaten-track sightseeing and a walk-through of daily activities of a typical villager for an eye-opening, hands-on experience on the traditional way of life and cultural norms of the hilltribes of Vietnam.
Dalat’s rich volcanic soil, one that enables even fancy roses to grow in the most unlikely of places i.e. middle of the road, also nourishes various export crops such as coffee, cocoa, pepper, tea and cashew nuts among many others. Take a trip to the agricultural regions flanking the city to learn about farming and food production process and have a try at harvesting the crops yourself. Think picking out juicy, crunchy (yes crunchy) strawberries fresh off the field, touring acres of gardens filled with endless variety of vegetables, herbs and spices, or delving into greenhouses for a glimpse into the region’s famous flower industry.