Set in the Southern Central Highlands of Vietnam, Da Lat is a beautiful mountain town known for its flowers, coffee, strawberries, and fresh air. Da Lat has so much to offer by the way of food, culture, scenery, and adventure, that it would be a shame if overlooked. I spent three days exploring this gorgeous part of the country, but if you were strapped for time, it’s possible to see and do most of what you’d like to in two.

 

Day 1: Exploring Da Lat City

If I have multiple days in a specific destination, I always like to take the first day to wander around and get a feel for the city. My day of wandering in Da Lat was nothing short of amazing. From trying every street food in sight, to strolling along the picturesque Xuan Huong Lake to the beautiful Flower Park, my day couldn’t have been better.

 

Xuan Huong Lake

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The Xuan Huong Lake was littered with paddle boats in the shape of swans slowly gliding through the water surrounded by beautiful gardens and children on school break flying kites. I was very impressed by how well taken care of the grounds and the lakes were and can see this as a perfect place for families to come on the weekend to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

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Around the lake, it’s also a hot spot for street food vendors. You will items like Da Lat Pizza, Bahn Mi, an assortment of pastries and much, much more.

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If you’re familiar with me at all, you would have guessed by now that I indeed ate all of the above mentioned foods while I was wandering.

 

Windmills Coffee

(Photo cred: Traveltimes.vn)

I then wandered into Windmills Coffee which serves up all types of coffee and juices, but I opted for ca phe da, which is Vietnamese style coffee with sweetened condensed milk over ice (so yummy!) They have really cute decor and also have great views of the Da Lat Market and the surrounding neighborhood.

 

Da Lat Market

Next I made my way to the Da Lat Market where I perused the countless stalls of food, clothes and other goods and ended up buying a pint of strawberries for about $1.

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Strawberries are a really common fruit in the area as the weather conditions are apparently perfect for growing! The market had so many fresh fruits and veggies that it was hard to scale back and not buy everything in sight!

 

Da Lat Flower Park

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I then took a 30 min stroll along the lake and landed at the Da Lat Flower Park. This was totally on accident, but what a great accident it was! Entrance was $1.50, and the park was filled with gorgeous flower gardens, fountains, and shrubs shaped into dragons.

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It is definitely worth a look! After hours of perusing the countless different types of flower gardens, I retired to my hostel for the night, preparing for day two.

 

Day 2: Canyoning & a Taste of the Local Nightlife

Canyoning

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Around 8:15am, Da Lat Canyoning Tours picked me up from my hostel and we headed into the mountains for our canyoning trip. This was my first time canyoning, and I was super excited to participate in a new type of adventure sport. An activity that involves hiking, cliff jumping, and rappelling down 25m waterfalls? –count me in.

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The guide was AMAZING and so hilarious throughout the entire tour. He was super enthusiastic and although he put safety as the absolute number one, he also challenged everyone to push beyond their comfort zones and just have a blast with the whole experience. I couldn’t imagine having had gone with a better guide, and the equipment was top notch.

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I heard that some companies try to cram as many people into the trip as possible and don’t use proper safety gear, but I can assure you that this company is legit. We only had 6 people in our group and that made waiting to go down each waterfall a lot shorter. It would have taken forever going with a bigger group!

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After rappelling down a few dry cliffs, two waterfalls, cliff jumping, and floating down the river, the staff put out a spread of fresh fruit and all the fixings for a bahn mi, as well as tea, coffee, and beer (score). After lunch we had a nice scenic drive back to town, and they dropped me off back at my hotel with still an entire afternoon to play with. The tour was a bit shorter than I would have liked, (I could have done that all day) but it was an A+ experience.

 

Cha Ram Bap

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Later that night, Jen, the receptionist from the hotel I was staying at, invited me and two others from the canyoning trip that were staying at the hotel out for an authentic Da Lat nightlife experience.

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She took us to to Cha Ram Bap, where I tried one of Da Lat’s specialties, nem nuong. Nem nuong is a roll your own spring roll dish, using thin sheets of rice paper, a variety of herbs, pork, and fried sweet corn rolls, dipped in a thick peanut sauce. It is insanely delicious and is an absolute must while in the region!

 

B21Beer

(Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

After eating five (or 15, I don’t recall…) Jen took us to one of her favorite bars, B21Beer, where they had a live DJ, reasonably priced beer, and hookah. The music was great and the company, even better. I was so happy to have met Jen and her friend Hien; they showed me, Ale and Bianca an authentic weekend night out for a Vietnamese 20 something in Da Lat, and for that I am so grateful.

 

Day 3: Easy Rider Da Lat Countryside Tour

 

Easy Rider Tour

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The morning I arrived in Da Lat, a man named Philip approached me at the bus station and told me about the tour company he runs with some other guides. I took his card and ended up calling the next day to book a one day Da Lat countryside tour. As promised, an Easy Rider guide picked me up at 8:30am, and we made our way towards the countryside.

STOP 1: Chua Linh Quang
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Our first stop was at the Chua Linh Quang, the oldest Pagoda in Da Lat. It was decorated with ornate and incredibly colorful sculptures both inside and outside of the pagoda. The most notable sculpture was the giant dragon surrounded by bright flowers and perfectly maintained shrubbery.

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Next we rode through the winding roads in the rolling hills of Da Lat. It was a gorgeous ride with incredible views of acres and acres of vegetable farms.

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STOP 2: Vietnamese Coffee Plantation

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The coffee plantation specialized in weasel coffee, a Vietnamese traditional coffee where coffee farmers harvest the beans from weasel poo. No, I am not making that up. Apparently back in the day, weasels well, weaseled their way onto to coffee farms and had a particular appetite for coffee beans. Once the farmers realized where their crop was disappearing to, they captured the weasels and waited for them to digest their precious crop.

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When they cleaned it off and made coffee with it, they noticed that the coffee had a new flavor to it that they really liked. Fast forward to today, and now they purposely use weasels to harvest this coffee. Yes, I did try this coffee and it was…strong. The scenery from the deck of the café was beautiful, but I was a bit turned off by all of the caged weasels. It made me sad to think that they are now forced to eat coffee beans.

 

STOP 3: Silk Factory

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The silk factory was an interesting stop, as I had never really thought about how silk was made before. I was shocked to see how many workers there were as well as the sheer number of silk worms needed to create silk.

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Watching the workers pull out the massive silk worms as they spun the silk was quite a gross process, but an interesting thing to see for sure.

 

STOP 4: Happy Buddha Monastery

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This Monastery was very much off the beaten path and was quite a ways out of town, so unless you’re with someone who knows where their going, there’s no way you’re going to find it! It was instantly peaceful upon stepping onto the grounds of The Happy Buddha Monastery, and the grounds themselves were beautiful.

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I was most excited to see monks dressed in the traditional orange robes walking out of the Monastery, carrying on with their day in however monks do! It was my first time seeing monks in person and it reminded me of how exciting it was to be in a completely new place.

 

STOP 5: Elephant Waterfall

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One of the last stops was to Elephant Waterfall, which was certainly more touristy than I expected, but is definitely still worth a visit. The stairs going down are extremely slippery, so I wouldn’t advise anyone who isn’t sturdy on their feet to attempt this climb! The slippery stone stairs wind down to a few different view points and some secret caves where you can get drenched with the force of the waterfall above! I wandered a little off the path and found a perfect rock to sit and relax on. I even saw some local fisherman swimming in the river below manually casting nets in hopes of catching some dinner.

 

Some thoughts on my Easy Rider Tour…

Although my guide brought me to all of the places promised on the tour, he was less than enthusiastic and only gave me a very short briefing on each place we stopped. He would tell me a sentence or two about each place, and then tell me to go on my own and he would wait for me. I was definitely hoping to learn more, and it was disappointing that when we stopped for lunch and I attempted to make conversation with him, he gave me one word answers and played on his phone. Since all the tours pretty much take you to the same places, I ran into another tour guide along the way who got off of the bike and went to each destination with his customers and explained in detail about each place. I ended up running into him later in the evening when we were both catching a bus at the bus station, and he helped me get the right bus and even helped me order dinner at the rest stop later on! He was an incredibly helpful man, and I wish I had met him earlier, because I absolutely would have gone on a tour with him instead. His Tour is Ocean Easyrider Tour Vietnam, and you can reach him at ocean_easyrider@yahoo.com.  Despite my lackluster guide, I still had a great tour and was happy I got to see so much of the Da Lat countrysideLater that evening, I took another night bus north to my next destination Hoi An. Stay tuned for my guide to Hoi An, coming soon to the blog!

 

How to Get There

I took the Futa Bus Lines night bus from Ho Chi Minh City at midnight and arrived at the Da Lat bus station by 6am. The trip was advertised as a 7 hour journey, but we must have had a fast driver…The bus costs less than $10 and was actually quite comfortable. They make a few bathroom breaks throughout the night, but most people just slept through. Besides the excessive use of the bus horn (very typical Vietnamese driving) it was not so bad, and I would absolutely recommend taking the night bus over a flight. It’s quick, easy, and super cheap.IMG_6571

 

Where to Stay

Indigo Home

My first night, I stayed at Indigo Home, which was recommended by a friend, and it was really cute. It was decorated so beautifully, and was tucked away far from any sort of touristy areas. So tucked away in fact, that it took me about an hour of wandering around to find! At only $5 a night for a dorm style room, it’s hard to beat. IMG_6633

 

Hotel Dang Uyen

However, I did enjoy my stay for night two in Da Lat at Hotel Dang Uyen quite a bit more. For only $4 more, you get a private room and bathroom, all newly renovated, with your own balcony overlooking a street of local apartments. The bed was so comfortable, the bathroom was super clean, and the staff was outstanding. (There was even a chandelier in the room, how fancy!)

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Wander On,
Wanderluluu xx

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