DaLat wasn’t originally on our ‘to go’ list for Vietnam, however, due to the typhoon that was battering central Vietnam we had to divert from our original next destination. We were due to travel to NaTrang which had neither power or running water as it was the worst hit during the typhoon, so we made a last minute diversion to a place we had previously never heard of. Hoorah for spontaneity!
After a quick flight from DaNang we landed at DaLat airport that is inconveniently a 40 minute taxi ride away from the city centre. Why are Vietnamese cities always so far away from their airports? We were so ready for food and bed by the time we arrived at the hostel and crashed out without exploring what the city has to offer on an evening.
The hostel that we stayed in, SoLo DaLat Hostel, was a basic guesthouse that was one of the cheapest places we stayed in Vietnam – and it was pretty central! Even though it was basic, the atmosphere here was amazing. They served both breakfast and dinner for everyone at the hostel meaning that everyone came together, mainly in the evening, and just hung out, talked and had a great old time. We have met up with some of the people that we met there later on in our trip through Cambodia. We haven’t been to a hostel since DaLat that compares to the atmosphere that this place has!
We hadn’t heard much about DaLat and neither had many other travellers we had met along the way, but we found a few gems that make a trip to DaLat worthwhile!
Go chasing waterfalls…
DaLat is well known for its waterfalls. Three of the more famous being: Pongour waterfall, Elephant waterfall, and Datanla waterfall. We only visited the latter of the three as it was quite close to the town centre and easily accessible by local bus. The other waterfalls are further out and require either a motorbike or expensive taxi ride to get to them.
Datanla waterfall is made up of different levels, of which visitors can only visit 3 levels without going on a canyoneering tour (We think there may be 5/6 levels in total). To get to the first level you can either walk or take the roller-coaster down the hill. This was a quick, self-driven ride that allowed you to curve down the hill at your own speed -in Grace’s case this was rather fast- it was so fun and a more exciting way to get down a steep hill rather than the usual walk.
The waterfall at the first level is the biggest and most crowded, however the gushing water is extremely relaxing and makes the air fresher in this area. To get down to the second level you can either pay for the cable car down or you can walk down via the steps. As we didn’t want to pay we chose to walk down the concrete steps! Due to the rain Vietnam had had from the typhoon the waterfalls were all full and full flowing which made them look 10x better.
To reach the final level of the waterfall you have to pay to take the lift down. At this level is where we saw the cannoneers abseiling down the waterfall and swimming through the waters. This level had the smallest waterfall but was the least crowded and once the cannoneers left we were the only ones in this area so we hugely recommend going as far down as you can to get some peace and quiet. We opted for the cable car on the way back as it was included in our lift ticket. We also got the rollercoaster back up the hill, which was a little less impressive as it was automatic and you couldn’t control it yourself, probably due to it just being a straight and steep line back up the hill.
If you are in the area we highly recommend a half day trip out to see Datanla! Other people at our hostels also enjoyed their trips to the bigger waterfalls, despite a couple of bike accidents. Be careful on the roads, kids.
Visit a hilltop Monastery via cable car
One of our favourite things that we did in Da Lat was to take the cable car up to Robin Hill to Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery. The views from the cable car were incredible. We saw SO much forest and waved to local rice workers. Because we got to the cable car very early we were the only ones on the whole line and a couple of only a handful of people at the monastery.
The monastery itself was very tranquil and we saw some of the monks going about there daily chores. We walked around the beautiful grounds for a couple of hours, taking hundreds of pictures and taking in the culture. We then got back on the cable car, by this time the cable cars were filling up with visitors, and taxi’d it back to our hostel.
Visit Crazy House
One of the best-known attractions in Da Lat is Crazy House. Think Dr. Seuss meets Disney Land. The house was created by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga who was inspired by the likes of Gaudí and Salvador Dali, both of which you can see nods to in his design. It was so fun to walk around the maze-like stairways and to peek inside some of the empty hotel rooms. that’s right! You can stay there too. However, if you don’t want to stay in a hotel where tourists can look through your windows a visit will cost you 40,000 VND.
Relax with a drink at a coffee shop
Vietnam are some of the biggest exporters of coffee in the world so we felt that we had to try out as many of their cafes as we could. In Da Lat this became a daily ritual for us. We would find a coffee shop or cafe to sit in for a couple of hours and give our feet a rest from walking. Our two favourite spots were Bicycle Up Cafe and Thong DaLat Space (pictured below), both of which had great atmospheres, delicious coffee and superb ice chocolates.
Look out across the lake
Da Lat is named as the ‘city of love’ by the locals, however it wasn’t quite up to Paris’ standards and wasn’t in any way a romantic place to be. The most beautiful part of the city was the lake that the city is centered around.
Along the edge of the lake there were locals fishing, many places to go and eat and there were even swan gondolas that we were very tempted to have a go on. On the opposite side of the lake there were also a couple of buildings that you really can’t miss. They are shaped like flowers (as a nod to Da Lat being Vietnam’s biggest distributor of flowers) and surprisingly are home to a coffee shop and an underground shopping centre that was a fun find and home to a fantastic make-up shop that was selling big face mask bottles for around £1 – we now regret not buying anything from here. If you have a few hours to walk around the lake we suggest you take in all the delights along the waters edge!
Visit the markets
There are a couple of markets of note in Da Lat. The night market and a morning market that we stumbled upon when trying to find an ATM.
The night market is slap bang in the centre of town sells all your usual bits and bobs and local food. It is a great place to find fellow travellers trying to find trinkets to take home. However, we were more intrigued by the market that we stumbled upon accidentally. It seemed that all the locals were at this morning market to buy food or ingredients for their evening meals. Boy it was loud and of course there were some questionable smells, but it felt like a more unique experience to be able to walk around with the locals. Da Lat is Vietnam’s biggest exporter of flowers and this can be seen from their market.There are literally fresh flowers everywhere – all of which we wanted to buy in abundance.