Our journey to visit the 1000 Places To See Before You Die took us from Saigon to Dalat – the honeymoon capital of Vietnam and sometimes even called the Vietnamese Paris. As a couple we tried to find out if Dalat truly deserves the title as the most romantic city in Vietnam and if it deserves to be one of the 1000 places.
On our way to Dalat
The cheapest option to get to Dalat from Saigon is the local intercity bus. Dalat is only about 300 km north of Saigon, but the bus takes 7 hours because of the Vietnamese have different understanding of the term “highway”. We booked two tickets and hoped for the best.
The trip itself was very exhausting, but the landscape really made up for all the trouble. The first two hours were the extensions of Saigon and shortly later, the narrow road took us through the thrilling jungle of Vietnam. After doing so much research about the Vietnam War I couldn’t stop picturing soldiers running, hiding and fighting in those woods. Also the sad thought of the use of Agent Orange which destroyed large parts of this magnificent forest was stuck in my mind.
My mind switched from being sad and enjoying the view and then back to sad again within minutes. Overall, though, it was a pleasant journey. Well, except for the bad streets, the honking and driving of the bus. After 7 hours of rumbling and the fear of hitting someone (or getting hit) we finally arrived in Dalat.
Since Dalat is in the high plateau, the climate is very temperate all year round compared to the heat of Saigon and the Mekong Delta. That’s probably the reason why the honeymooners like to come here.
The main attraction here is a man-made lake in the middle of the city which invites couples to wander around or rent a padal boats that look like giant swans (a bit kitschy). There is a large radio tower which can be seen from the city that reminded us a little bit of the Eiffel Tower. Maybe they built it that way because of the reputation as “Paris of Vietnam”.
I guess since we were told that this city is so romantic and its the number one spot for honeymooners, we were expecting a bit more. Dalat is a quiet little city compared to Saigon or Hanoi, which is nice. But we are glad that we didn’t have to spend our honeymoon here because it really is not that great compared to the great romantic honeymoon destinations like Maldives, the real Paris or Bali.
The Curious Things in Dalat
There are some things in Dalat that we haven’t seen anywhere else in Vietnam or even the world. One of those things was a salesmen on the street selling live fish in small plastic bags from his motorbike to the couples on their honeymoon. We couldn’t find out if there is a Vietnamese tradition of buying some fish together, but there seemed to be quite a few couples who bought a bag with two fish in it. We felt bad for the fish which were stewing in the tiny little bag in direct sunlight, so it isn’t something that should be supported.
The other curiosity in Dalat is the Crazy House. It is a guesthouse built in a strange style comparable to the style of the Gaudí houses in Barcelona. This is even more interesting when you consider that this is in contradiction to the views of the communist party in Vietnam, which believes that nothing should stand out too much and that this is too much decadence.
The building most likely was only approved because the architect and owner is the daughter of the second president of Vietnam. Nevertheless, the building is extremely interesting with many differently shaped rooms and a structure that reminded us of Alice in Wonderland.
The top of the house offers a great view over Dalat and finding your way through all the different hallways is a lot of fun. I imagine it would be even more fun to stay in one of the rooms for a night if there wouldn’t be so many tourists and visitors walking around all the time.
Is Dalat really one of the places?
As with lots of other places from the book that we seen so far, the city is quite nice and something that should be on a backpackers route through Vietnam. It is not enough though to put it on a list of thing that everyone should see in his life.
It is nice to be here and see the city, but nobody will be lying on his deathbed and regretting that they have never been to Dalat. So this is another scratch from the list.
From Dalat our trip takes us to Hoi An, a small historic harbor town a few hours north of Dalat. Come back in a few days to read our report.
Something on a personal note: We want to write in a way that you enjoy reading. And since we are new to travel blogging, please let us know if you like the style of our writing. Do you want more pictures? More stories of things we have experienced? Feel free to leave a comment.