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Dalat

Dalat is a city located on Lang Biang highlands – part of the Central Highlands region of Vietnam. Because of its history, special architecture, unique climate features and wide range of beautiful spots, Dalat is known as one of the most popular tourist destinations of Vietnam.

Dalat looks like a cross between Vietnam and the French Alps. Many of its hotels and houses were built in a French style during the French colonization. There are many places for tourists interested in architecture to visit, such as Dalat Railway Station, designed by French architects Moncet and Reveron, or Hang Nga guest house, a.k.a ‘Crazy house’ which is also an interesting place to stay.

The climate in Dalat is often called ‘Eternal Spring’ for its pleasantly warm temperatures during the day and quite cool at night, down to perhaps 10oC. Due to its favorable weather, Dalat is a supplier of temperate produce for all over Vietnam, for example, cabbage and cauliflower. Also, it has a nickname ‘City of Flowers

Langbiang Mountain

Lang Biang Mountains is located on Lang Biang Plateau, Lac Duong District, Lam Dong Province. It’s only about 12km from Dalat centre and sometimes called Lam Vien Mountain as well.

Only 12km from the central of Dalat, you will see Lang Biang Mountains standing imposingly and beautifully like the roof of Dalat city.

Legend says that the name Lang Biang was derived from the name a couple who were deeply in love with each other - the boy named K'lang and the girl named Ho Biang. They fell in love with each other after K’lang saved Biang’s life from a fierce heard of wolves. However, they weren’t allowed to get married due to the long-standing feud between their tribes.

Generally, there are two versions of this story. One said that at last, they got married and then moved onto a mountain to live. Unfortunately, when Biang caught a critically illness, K’lang had to come back to the tribe to ask for help, the people here shot him with a poisonous arrow. However, it was Ho Biang to be shot since she had shielded her husband. K'lang could not suffer such loss, he cried and his tear made up a big stream which is now called Dankia (the Golden Stream). The second version said that: the couple committed suicide together since they couldn’t get married.

In both versions, Ho Biang's father was so repentant of his daughter’s dead that he unified the tribes into one called K'ho and allowed boys and girls in K’Ho group to get married to each other. Their graves then grew into the two giant mountains, and in order to memorize the couple with profound love, the mountain range was renamed into what we call it today: Lang Biang.

Since Lang Biang consists of the two highest peaks of Lam Vien Highland: Lang Biang (2,167m) and 2,287m high Bidoup Ban, which is often regarded as the roof of Dalat. The mountain is famous for its spectacular nature, as well as its marvelous view of the whole wide area of Dalat City, the forest, the rivers and houses of tribal people.

Standing on the top of Lang Biang Mountain, tourists can see the Golden Stream and Silver Stream, or observe fanciful Dalat, which looks like a lush green valley with two pieces of silver silk (the Golden and Silver Stream)

Camping, exploring the natural flora, bird-watching and enjoying the unique culture of ethnic minority groups are recommended activities for tourists coming to Lang Biang. Also, Lang Biang is an ideal place for adventurous activities like mountain climbing, conquering high peaks, paragliding and trekking. “Thung lung Tram nam” (Hundred-year valley) which lies at the foot of the mountain is regarded as an entertainment and ecological tourist site.

Bao Dai Summer Palace

Dalat, the city of love, not only attracts tourists because of its charming landscape, comfortable weather but also the number of French architectures, typically the antique villas. Bao Dai’s Summer Palace (also known as Palace 3 as there are 2 other palaces of Bao Dai in Dalat) is a must-visit villa for almost all travelers.

The palace was built from 1933 to 1937 under the dynasty of King Bao Dai, the last king of Vietnam feudal court. The palace was designed in the art deco style and lies in the middle of a pine forest near the Pasteur Institute. In the past, this villa was constructed as a retreating place King Bao Dai and his royal family to escape the summer heat but after 1950, when the French colonial came back to Vietnam, the palace occupied a role as the office and house of the king. Today, tourists can find it on Trieu Viet Vuong St.

Visiting this 2 stories structure, travelers will have a chance to discover the living of the royal family through 25 rooms and its amenities. The ground floor is the working place of the king. It consists of the office room, the guest room and the reception room. Upstairs is the living space of the king and his family. The bedroom of the king also has a gorgeous balcony called the watching moon balcony where the king and the queen could appreciate the moonlight. Each of the room reflects the characteristics and status of the owner: the eldest son's room is painted yellow and considered luxurious at that time; the Queen's room can be easily identified with her feminine touch

Inside the palace, there are many valuable items still preserved in good condition. They include several sculptures of royal family, the life-size white bust of Bao Dai himself and a smaller gold and brown bust of his father Khai Dinh, picture of Angkor Wat given to King Bao Dai by King Sihanouk of Cambodia and an engraved glass map of Vietnam, to name a few.

Hang Nga House (Crazy House)

Dalat has the power to not only romanticize but also inspire people to go beyond their limits. Hang Nga guesthouse, also known as the “Crazy House,” is a piece of artwork that really surpasses the limit of people’s imagination. Designed by Vietnamese architect and impressionist Dang Viet Nga, this extraordinary building of non-rectilinear shapes has appeared in many international architectural journals and finally made its way to the list of the world’s ten most creative buildings (according to the Chinese People’s Daily).

The house is located at 3 Huynh Thuc Khang St., Ward 3, Dalat City, covering an area approximately 1,600m2. Stemming from the need to build something completely on her own, architect Nga's house was started constructing in 1990. The construction as well as the process of claiming for possession of this house is both long stories. Started from scratch, there was time that Ms. Nga was on the verge of bankruptcy when all banks refused to lend her. It was at this point that she came up with the idea of selling tickets for tourists visiting the house. Moreover, after 18 continuous years and 6 times filing, she has been given the possession of this house, as well as its recognition as a piece of art. Still, she doesn't want to relax at all but is going to add up more constructions, such as a communal house inside the existing area.

As the intention of the architect is to make a fairy tale house, the “crazy house” resembles a tree with uneven windows, tunnel-shaped stairways, etc.  Both the exterior and the interior of the guesthouse are created and decorated with twisting organic forms and very few right angles. The hollow “tree” extends in many directions, rising above to reach to the sky of the amazing Dalat. Walking along the cave-shape hallways inside the house is not simply a visit but an exhilarating experience, a departure from the norm; wild mushrooms and spider webs popping up on your way is not unusual.  Besides, the guesthouse is really a spectacular construction with ten themed guest rooms such as the tiger room, the eagle room, the ant room and the kangaroo room…, with decorations and handcrafted furniture matching the theme. According to Viet Nga, each room has its own meaning: the tiger room refers to the Chinese; the eagle room describes the American; and the ant room represents the Vietnamese, etc.  

Even though it is theoretically a hotel, Hang Nga Guesthouse is today regarded as a “museum” of dream, childhood, abnormality, etc. Everyone has their own interpretation of the house, as well as their own experience but all of them agree on one thing: the guesthouse is so pure and natural that they were once again lost in their childhood dream. 

The Valley of Love

Just as true love has to surpass several obstacles, the Valley of Love in Dalat had to surpass many challenges in the past in order to gain its rightful name today. In the beginning, the valley was called Vallée D’amour (Valley of Love) by the French before being renamed The Valley of Piece. In 1935, its beauty and captivation persuaded people to once again name it after the most wonderful thing in the world: Love. Thanks to being the honeymoon destination of newly-married couples, this valley is even regarded as Niagara Fall of Vietnam. 

Throughout history, it has been one of the most picturesque and romantic sites of the city, with many deep valleys and endless pine forests. The tranquil Da Thien Lake, which was created in 1972, also adds a great deal to the attractiveness of the valley in general. To truly appreciate the sceneries is not hard because travelers can easily follow the natural tracks and staircases all around the valley to visit and admire the gorgeous flower gates and statues.

The tracks lead to Vong Canh Hill from which The Valley of Love’s magnificent view gradually appears in each traveler’s eyes.  From that hill, they can also see the Langbiang peaks standing out vividly against the blue sky, or continue their adventure to find the Paradise Hill, another ideal destination which is surrounded by beautiful lakes. Overall, the valley is another wonderful addition to your trip to the romantic Dalat.

Xuan Huong Lake

Xuan Huong Lake lies charmingly at the very heart of Dalat City, surrounded by Nguyen Thai Hoc, Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, Tran Quoc Toan, Le Dai Hanh and Yersin St. Used to be the site in which many indigenous people of Langbian highland inhabited, this man-made lake is nowadays the most beautiful lake of Dalat, giving the city an invaluable gift of having a lake right in the center.

The history of Xuan Huong Lake distinguishes it as one of the most special lakes in Vietnam. In the past, there was no lake where we see Xuan Huong Lake today. In 1919 and 1923, two dams were formed on a branch of Cam Ly River to create two small lakes. Unfortunately, during a severe storm in 1932, both dams were destroyed. Between 1934 and 1935, a larger dam was built of boulders below the sites of the two previous dams to create one large lake. At that time, the French named it Grand Lac (large lake), but in 1953 it was renamed Xuan Huong Lake to express the people’s appreciation to the famous Vietnamese female poet in the 19th century who has the same name. The lake has gone through several constructions. There would be time when it's not full of water (very unlucky if you drop in the city by then, though)

The crescent-moon-shaped lake covered an area of nearly 43 ha, stretching through several other attractions such as the Dalat Flower Park and Cu Hill. The surface of the lake is as smooth as a mirror reflecting the romantic scenery of Dalat with pine forests, meadows and gardens. Nowadays, visitors can not only enjoy strolling along the lakeside but also resting under the conifers, pedal-boating on the lake while admiring the spectacular architecture of Thuy Ta Pavilion. Try the elegant swan boat ride; it's the best way to discover the beauty of the lake. Having a cup of coffee overlooking the lake is another suggestion. As a major attraction of Dalat, the lake is a place for people from both inside and outside the city to meet, talk and fall in love. Thus, you don’t need to be on honeymoon to visit this wonderful place (even though honeymooners do it all the time), just come and let the beauty of Xuan Huong Lake inspire you.

Dalat Railways Station

Coming to Dalat, tourists will not only be surprised by the beautiful landscape, comfortable weather but also by the imprint of French architectures on this land. One of the most unique French monuments to recommend is Dalat Railway Station (also Crémaillère Railway Station)

The history of the railway dated back to 1932, when its plan was finally carried out by two French architects named Moncet and Reveron, under the acceptance of Paul Doumer – the French Governor – General of Indochina from 1897 to 1902. Finally, the constrcution was completed 6 years later, after several difficulties such as the last stretch, traversing Lam Vien Plateau. However, it was largely unused since abandonment of the railway (due to attack) during the later years of the Vietnam War. In 1991, 7km of the track between Dalat and Trai Mat were reconstructed and launched into operation for tourists.

Regarded as one of the finest piece of colonial engineering and architecture in Vietnam, the station was designed in Art Deco style which is perfectly in harmony with local characteristics and culture. Its three high pointed roofs resemble the three peaks of Lang Biang Mountain or as some people say, the communal house of ethnic minorities in Central Highland of Vietnam (called Nha Rong). Each roof contains multi-color glass window and the central roof has a huge clock which has been restored recently. 

The other distinctive feature of Dalat railway station is the cog railways. The total length of the railway is 84km from Dalat to Thap Cham station with 16km of cog railway designed by Swedish engineers. Because of the mountainous geography, a system of cog railroad and locomotive is needed to provide the traction for uphill slopes and slow down the train when going downhill. The construction had to overcome many difficulties of the mountainous terrain so that it leaded to such a long period of time to complete which was 24 years.

In the past, there were two daily trains from Dalat to Nha Trang and Dalat to Saigon with three compartments for passengers and one for goods. However, during the Vietnam wars, the railways and station became the target of bombing and they were seriously destroyed. After the fall of Saigon and the national unification in 1975, the railways were repaired and put back into use.

Since 1991, Dalat railway station provided tourists with the 7km route from Dalat to Trai Mat station, where visitors can enjoy the fresh peaceful daily lifestyle of local people, find fresh vegetables and fruits in the local market, as well as visit small Linh Phuoc Pagoda. Sitting on the train going on a slow speed, tourists can enjoy the full sight of Dalat from different angles when the train is winding its way along hillside, as well as the purest atmosphere of the highland. Though the seat is not quite so comfortable, this train trip is really worth a try, thanks to the unique feeling of the past that it brings about.

TRAVEL BROUCHURE 2013
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  • Mr Liem was a wonderful guide he was professional but still showed a good sense of humour. We would never have been able to cross the roads without his help. Your design and management of our trip were excellent. I just realised that I hadn’t given feedback on the meal in the Mekong on the first day – this was at the house on the Mekong river, this was very remiss of me as although all meals were excellent this one was exceptional and the best we had for the entire trip, I should also have mentioned that the guide (a lady) we had on the Mekong cruise was excellent.
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