Dalat was founded as a resort town during the French occupation of Vietnam. Ernest Hébrard was the urban planner, which helps to explain the very European feel of this mountain town. Dalat gets panned in some travel books/sites because of the ‘Disneyland’ feel of the planned city with boulevards and waterfront park spaces. I thought it was really nice having good walking spaces and a large public area where there were hundreds of kites flying each evening. July is one of the hottest months of the year in Vietnam, so the significantly lower temperatures in the highlands were very appreciated. When we arrived, the locals were wearing thick parkas and by the evening we were missing our heavier clothes that were back in the guesthouse.
We caught quite a bit of rain while in Dalat, so mostly used our time there to recharge in the cooler air, enjoy the sites of the city between showers and get in long walks on those grand boulevards. We also got to try some local beers at the local beer-hall by the university that had very good Czech style dark and light pilsners for $0.40-$0.85 per half liter.
One of the places I was very curious to visit in Vietnam is a Hotel
called Crazy House. It is the brainchild of Dang Viet Nga ,the daughter of a top ranking Vietnamese government leader. She received her master’s in Moscow and started the home as a personal project to highlight bringing daily life back to nature. The construction is brick with wire-frames coated in cement. The home/hotel is still under construction and it was cool that areas under active construction were still open to visitors. It was very cool to see what some creativity and an apparent complete lack of building codes can lead to. In that vein, we found a coffee shop that was also the brainchild of an architect (Lu Truc Phuong) with a passion for the bizarre who turned a townhome into a multistory epic art-piece marking the mythical origins of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. The coffee shop was actually a second life-project for this architect after the first burned to the ground. The coffee shop includes a cavernous subterranean section that has enough passages with twists and turns that it is hard to not get lost. When we visited it was raining incessantly and also included an indoor waterfall.
Writing this post back in the lowlands of Vietnam, and very much missing the cool weather of the highlands. Hope everyone is doing well.