After weeks of sweltering heat, 90+ degree weather & higher humidity, we were promptly dropped off in Đà Lạt on the side of the street with a welcomed brisk evening breeze. Đà Lạt was known & used as a French getaway from Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh). It was easy to see why, situated high in the mountains & built around a man-made lake, it is far cooler & calmer than the hot, chaotic streets of the big city.
Our first surprise was how much larger the city was than we expected. When people describe Đà Lạt, they refer to this “small town” in the mountains. While I guess it is smaller for Vietnam, we were still shocked at the number of tourists, markets & big business in the area.
Nowadays, Đà Lạt is most well-known for its coffee & wine production, the only wine in Vietnam besides “rice wine” of course. Obviously, we tried some - we must be thorough in these matters. For about $5.80 we picked up a bottle of the “special reserve”. Our hostel host complimented the excellent choice, one of the best they have. It was…fine. I had one glass (out of the smaller “woman's glass” I was given ☹) & was satisfied. Ben had a bit more, but honestly we left half the bottle behind - sometimes you just have to know when to let it go.
The town itself offers a bit of site seeing. There is the now famous “Crazy House”, designed by architect Dr. Dang Viet Nga & has been a work in progress since 1990. While I believe it is basically supposed to resemble a tree, the house contains a number of elements inspired by nature. Giraffe “staircases”, thorn branch walkways & a giant spider web in the center. We can certainly attest that it lives up to its name; it is the craziest house we’ve ever seen! Apparently, you can even rent a room to stay here, but why anyone would want to with hundreds of tourists crawling all over it every day beats me. Nothing about that seemed relaxing, but to each there own!
The lake is decent & little paddle boats are available to go out & enjoy it. We walked over to THE GARDENS NAME figuring we’d spend the afternoon enjoying a lovely flower garden. However, when we arrived, you had to pay to enter & it was weird with giant swans & casino-like signs…. not that endearing after all. So we passed, creepily snapped a few long distance photos & instead spent the afternoon downing pastries & coffees.
The real draw of Đà Lạt is all the outdoor adventuring you can enjoy. Almost like the Vietnamese Ensenada, you can choose from Easy Rider bike tours, hiking, or our choice, the canyoning experience.
I’ll state for the record that most of this would probably not be permissible back in the U.S. Oh, it’s your first time learning to repel? Perfect, go down through this waterfall & drop into the river cavern below. It was almost as terrifying as it was fun. I quickly became an expert just dropping into the river & swimming for shore.
Along with several repels, there were also a couple of free jumps, “waterslides” & free-floating river areas.
In all seriousness, it was safe, our company obviously did a lot for safety & helped you all along the way. Just not sure how many more waterfalls I’ll be jumping off for a while!
Đà Lạt was a fabulous change of pace from our typical day-to-day. The countryside was absolutely beautiful & it's certainly an experience we will not soon forget. If we were to do this again, we’d definitely plan out additional travel days & take advantage of the Easy Rider transports over the bus. We are quickly compiling our list of new must-dos on
All canyoning photos courtesy of Highland Holiday Tours