There’s much to love about Dalat, a mountain “resort” town north of Saigon. We didn’t go canyoning or pay a visit to the Crazy House but we still fell in love with this relatively calm city. These are just 12 things we love about Dalat.
1. You can walk around without sweating through every fiber of clothing you’re wearing. Dalat has been a resort area since the French controlled Vietnam as the cooler temperatures provide a much-needed respite from Saigon’s oppressive heat and humidity. Although it rained more than we’d have liked, we both appreciated being in a place where air conditioning isn’t necessary.
2. The Central Market is the cleanest and calmest market we’ve found in Vietnam and the selection is also the greatest.
3. Easy Riders, the term now used by anyone in the area with a motorbike and a willingness to play tour guide for the day, provide great value. The owner of our hostel and one of his buddies were our Easy Riders for a day of touring the countryside. Sitting on the back, taking pictures, and generally watching the world go by while leaving the driving to an experienced local who knows the roads and answers all sorts of questions is an excellent way to spend a day. Easy Riders can also be hired for long distance trips and many people rave about using their service to travel from Dalat to Hoi An via Nha Trang. We chose not to do this because of cost and the discomfort of spending so many days on the back of a motorcycle.
4. There’s wine! It’s not as good as New Zealand or any other well-known wine producing nation but Vietnam’s wine is a step up from Cambodia’s. Sadly, that isn’t saying much and a winery visit is not possible.
5. With flowers everywhere, the town is, quite simply, pretty. Local greenhouses supply the markets in Saigon, Cambodia, and Thailand with fresh flowers on a daily basis. But there are also flowers planted throughout town, contributing to that wonderful feeling of being in a place where people care about natural beauty.
6. Cricket farms are not something we see every day nor are crickets part of our regular diet. But as Jen found in Cambodia, they’re not a bad salty snack. For her, anyway. I agreed to try one but having an entire animal in my mouth is not something I wish to repeat. Regardless, standing under the blue tarps in the hot and humid environment of a cricket farm, listening to the rustling leaves and crawling insects was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m all for sustainable farming and finding sources of protein that are better for our environment than livestock and poultry so although I choose not to eat these critters, I’m glad that others do.
7. Ankroet Falls, according to photos, is stunning by the end of rainy season but we were there in early July, when rainy season was just beginning. From what we understand, few tourists head there and it wasn’t as easy to find as we were led to believe. But when we finally found it with our Belgian friends, we relished having it to ourselves.
8. One of the stops on our Easy Rider tour was Cuong Hoan Traditional Silk Centre. In addition to learning how silk is made, Jen ate a silkworm and I bought my first true souvenir of the trip. Alas, I sent my scarf back to the States without taking a photo of it so instead, please enjoy this one of Jen modeling the wares.
9. Loads of fresh produce – the climate here is conducive to growing fruits and vegetables the likes of which we hadn’t seen since New Zealand. Blackberries, artichokes, red peppers (capsicum), strawberries, broccoli, snow peas.
10. Another stop on our Easy Rider tour, Elephant Falls swarms with tourists for a reason. Handrails along the rocky paths guide you behind the falls for a drenching shower and with a sense of adventure, you’re free to climb where you like. It was raining when we started down to the falls but sunny by the time we returned to our motorbikes. It took more than 24 hours for Jen’s shoes to dry but we’re both glad we braved the slippery stones.
11. Weasel poop coffee might not be a new favorite for either of us but its uniqueness is worthy of our love. According to our guides, the trend began when coffee growers picked up what looked like coffee beans on the ground only to realize they were pieces of weasel poo with undigested coffee beans inside. Frugality ruling the day, they still processed the beans and brewed their coffee. Today, weasels are kept on coffee plantations in cages, force fed coffee beans. That part makes us sad but it’s hard not to laugh at the thought of someone answering the question, “what do you do?” with “clean weasel poop.”
I still don’t drink coffee but Jen does and she tried a cup of what the locals told us is the less sour type of weasel poo coffee. Her assessment: strong, bitter, overpriced.
12. The varied topography creates excellent vistas and nourishes my soul. I grew up in Colorado, navigating by my position relative to the Rocky Mountains. During my years in Boston, I kept a calendar in my office with mountain photos, reminding of me our planet’s beauty and the peace that exists outside of a busy skyscraper. But since we started this trip, I’ve found myself more drawn to the ocean, a place I may one day call my office. Lakes and hills are not quite the same but in a place with mountainous terrain and tranquil waters, I find myself at peace. The sense of past – mountains – plus the potential future – water – and the present – the foreign element of rice paddies and tropical vegetation – reminds me how lucky I am and how amazing our lives are.