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Dalat out of tourists’ radar, despite its charm

Natural sites, picturesque landscapes and evergreen forests flank this 'City of Eternal Spring'

Dalat's Valley of Love - BENEDICT LOPEZ/ALIRAN

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Lesser-known cities in the world intrigue me.

Even when I was based in Stockholm, I took the road less travelled and visited cities like Tallin, Riga, Vilnius, Kiruna, Dubrovnik and Kotor (Montenegro).

Refer to Vietnam as a tourist destination and the names Hanoi, Ho Chih Minh City and Danang are foremost on the thoughts of holidaymakers. Seldom do cities like Can Tho and Da Lat feature on their bucket list.

So, in July this year, I visited Dalat, the capital of Lam Dong province, in southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Hills, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls surround the city.

Popularly known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its classic temperate climate, Dalat was developed as a resort by the French in the early 1900s. A tour of the city reveals relics of French colonial rule.

Dalat has an inimitable beauty. Nestled in the highlands 5,000 feet above sea level, the city is home to 500,000 people. The adjacent countryside produces a wide variety of flowers, vegetables and fruit (including durians).

Natural sites, picturesque landscapes and evergreen forests flank Da Lat and its vicinity.

Dalat Flower Park

The Dalat Flower Park – BENEDICT LOPEZ/ALIRAN

Sprawled over 7,000 sq m, the Dalat Flower Park offers an enormous area of natural beauty. The park contains a wide range of colourful flowers assembled in striking fashion.

Horse carriage rides allow visitors to explore the park in a different way.

Amid this floral marvel, tourists can choose from a range of restaurants for a tantalising gastronomic experience.

Crazy House

The ‘Crazy House’ in Dalat – BENEDICT LOPEZ/ALIRAN

Living up to its name, this is indeed a Crazy House. Some look at it as matchless architecture, while others think of it as a weird but wonderful tourist sight.

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One thing is certain though, it is an attraction you must not miss if you are in Dalat. Seeing is believing.

The house has a muddle of twisted staircases leading up to sculptured bedrooms. It features rippling surfaces, narrow bridges and concealed corners. Climbing to the top and back down was a feat for me.

Here’s a quote from the Vietnamese Architect Dang Viet Nga, who refers to it as the ultimate expression of her imagination: “Crazy House is the culmination of my life and creativity – it all came together in this structure. I wanted to create something original, pioneering – different from anything else in the world.”

She has realised her vision.

King’s Palace

About five kilometres from the city, the King’s Palace is on a windy hill flanked by pine trees. Its unique architecture is in the neo-colonial European style.

King Bao Dai’s abdication in 1945 signalled the end of the Vietnamese monarchy and the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945).

This palace contains a secret tunnel system, allowing you to move from the higher floor of the palace to the office, the living room and on to the backyard to reach the heliport.

The tunnel was built by President Ngo Dinh Diem in 1956.

Valley of Love

About five kilometres from the city of Dalat lies one of the most famous tourist attractions, Dalat’s Valley of Love.

But don’t be deceived by the name of this aesthetic place.

The French named it Vallée D’amour (The Valley of Love) in 1930 because of its tranquil setting and backdrop. The name was changed to The Valley of Peace under the reign of King Bao Dai and finally reverted to its original name in 1953.

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Graced by breathtaking landscapes, serene lakes and vibrant flower gardens, it is an ideal spot for tourists and environmentalists to enjoy a peaceful retreat and to be one in harmony with nature.

Cable car ride

Just three kilometres from the city is the cable car ride, which takes you on a relaxing trip up to the mountains.

The cable car has a total length of 2,267m and has 10 support posts for the cabin to rise over the top of pine trees. The system has 50 cabins and runs at a speed of 5m/s.

Lush greenery flanks both sides. Enjoy the invigorating fresh air all the way to the top, where the Truc Lam Monastery is perched.

Visitors get a breathtaking view of the mountains, pine forests and farm during the trip. Once you reach Truc Lam, immerse yourself in the serenity and tranquillity of its ambience.

Any complaints about Dalat? In many places, the steps are steep with no handrails provided. This is dangerous, especially during inclement weather.

Hopefully, the local authority will note this matter and install handrails in places like the Flower Park and at the entrance to the cable car.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Benedict Lopez
Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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Nesen
Nesen
24 Nov 2023 4.05pm

Interesting read Thanks Ben

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