It took a 6 hour bus drive to get from Nha Trang to Dalat which was eventful on its own. A sleeper bus, so great to sleep and lie in your own space. The drive is quite scenic as it goes into the depths of the country surrounded by mountains and many produce farms. A narrow windy road around a mountain however, so at times the bus had to stop for the other side of the road to pass.
I arrived late that evening and the first thing I noticed or should I say felt was the cold! If you didn’t know Saigon, the city I lived in, was a tropical place – so all I knew was heat all day everyday. That and rain, so feeling some cold after a few months was strange and so welcomed! Da Lat is high up in the mountains at around 5,000 feet above sea level. Due to it being surrounded by valleys, the mist covering within it keeps year round cool weather, giving it its name the “City of Eternal Spring”.
A taxi drive into town and I arrived at Dalat Central Hostel which is run by a couple who were so welcoming. This hostel is one of the best hostels I have ever had the pleasure of staying in. The beds are comfortable, you have your own curtains to give you privacy, a light within, plugs, and your own locker. Bathrooms are spacious with a good shower, comfortable commune area and overall really friendly and helpful staff.
A quick change into warm clothes (after forever), I headed out to see my area. I chose this hostel cos as it’s name says it is central to the town. Due to it being the TET holidays, the streets were busy and packed especially the night market.
Da Lat’s night street market in Hoa Binh is one of the most visited markets as you can tell by the crowd. Overall the market covers second hand clothing, new clothes, fresh foods (local farmers have some of the best produce in the country), an abundance of street food and even a street performance area. Sometimes the street food sellers are entertainers themselves while cooking, even talented kids.
Walking back down street to the hostel, I came across the Lien Hoa Bakery. This bakery and restaurant is one of the most popular places in Da Lat. The downstairs area has an array of yummy baked goods, pastries and bread. Upstairs is the restaurant that was always busy every time I passed, upon eating there I was happy to see a menu that had quite a few things to offer. I loved the aroma coming from this bakery every day.
With that, a great needed hot shower and a good sleep had me up and ready the next morning to explore and to meet my new friends from Norway!
So in Vietnam and in other parts of Asia, besides UBER, there is a travel service – GRAB. I regularly used the Grab Bike service to get around Saigon where it is a very popular choice of travel. In Vietnam, a motorbike taxi driver is called Xe Om (pronounced “say ohm”). Usually in Saigon I can find one easily as they are everywhere, usually around the same spots. Even if you can’t find one they will find you, especially if you look lost (not even, just walk). The only reason I preferred not to was bargaining for prices, which is why Grab Bike was always perfect as it had fixed prices (as well as registered drivers when thinking safety wise).
However when the situation called for it, one must do what is needed, as it did in Da Lat when it came to my attention, that Grab Bike for some reason wasn’t very active. What also didn’t seem very active were actual Xe Om drivers! I walked around and finally spotted a kind faced older man who didn’t speak much English but after showing him my destination on the map (being old school works) – he was willing to take me and he tried his best to tell me stories during our drive which I enjoyed listening to.
It was on this drive that I got to see the French influence over Da Lat which was a former French Hill Station. The roof top villas and french-colonial architecture are evident along with its own Vietnamese twist.
I went up to Truc Lam Temple – a Zen Buddhist Monastery, surrounded by flowers and roses. Da Lat is well known for its orchids, roses vegetables, and fruits, giving it another name as the Flower City.
After this I headed back into central Da Lat to meet the friends from Norway, Siblings – Morten and Anje with their best friend Jens.
This group were so much of fun, sailors and a doctor! We had an eventful day in the park eating local food that was wrapped to my surprise in English homework! We took a beautiful swan boat ride over Xuan Huong Lake – the heart of Da Lat.
While the boys paddled, us girls got to relax, take in the serenity of the lake and get to know one another. It’s always such a pleasure to meet travelers who are so open to sharing their life stories, views and basic love for adventure. We all decided to take a walk and to our favour found a home that let out their garage as an area to play pool (snooker)! Using your home is a business is a very common practice in Vietnam. With a picture of Ho Chi Minh himself playing pool it most certainly made us feel right at home to enjoy a few games while the owner did her best to speak with us in English and enjoying the laughter of tipsy foreigners in her garage! A relaxed and happy first day in the City of Eternal Spring.