DaLat is Awesome!

By: City Pass Guide

Video source: Nam Trieu Dinh

Banner Image source: City Pass Guide

How to plan a romantic getaway to Dalat?

By: Quang Mai

Weekend trips or short getaways just need a little preparation. To make the most of your precious time together you will need to research hundreds of websites, forums and blogs. To help you plan what to do, where to eat, where to stay and what should be the highlights of your trip, I offer some advice to help inspire your creativity and passion.

Dalat is called the “city of flowers” because you will find more flowers and trees than people. For those living in southern Vietnam, Dalat makes an excellent place for a laid-back vacation.

1. Prepare yourself and your partner for a stress free break

A good way to mentally get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and get your heads in a good space is to keep your phones off. Don't make excuses to check your phone, emails or social networks as these are unnecessary distractions. Turn your phones off and keep them off.

2. Plan a laid back vacation

A simple breakfast in serene surroundings can create a perfect start to the day. Dalat will enhance your breakfast with gentle breezes and the mellow golden light of early morning, enhanced by the delicious scents of the various flowers that adorn most of the premium hotels' food squares or restaurants.

Local Insight:Have breakfast and enjoy each other's presence and love with a peaceful lake view at Thanh Thuy - Blue water although sometime extremly crowded.

3. Plan the things you want to do in advance

People love receiving surprise gifts or suddenly be caught up in an interesting activity that they cannot resist. Use this natural curiosity to good effect by surprising each other with special gifts or organizing an exciting experience that you both can share. However, leave plenty of room for downtime – less is sometimes more...

Local Insight: Check out Dalat attractions carefully to know whether your plans are achievable to avoid disappointment. Langbiang mountain and Tuyen Lam lake are worth trying.

4. Personalize your trip

Take the time to do a lake walk, take in the flowers or simply stroll hand in hand through the streets. Try to catch a sunrise or a sunset in a scenic place. Your main priority is to relieve your partner's anxiety and indulge him or her in a whole different world. Keep in mind that you both want to enjoy Dalat to the fullest, before leaving.

Local Insight: The renowned Ho Xuan Huong lake is good for a walk as you can taste some street foods at the Dalat market nearby. Besides, The Flower Garden is a romantic place to visit too.

5. Be together

A short holiday is a good way to catch up on each other’s lives. It is good time to remember when you first met, the early days of your love and how you felt about each other. Sometimes, just sit and enjoy the silence or do your own things. You can listen to your favourite music you while your partner reads quietly. The most important thing is to be together.

Local Insight: I can think of nowhere else more peaceful than Mong Mo Hill. Langbiang mountain

Cover photo by: Khanh Hmoong

Updating Da Lat Key to Upgrading Its Tourism Standing

By: Jesus Lopez Gomez

It has a few names: “The City of Eternal Spring” or “Le Petit Paris” are among them.

The city reifies the second with a scaled-down version of the Eiffel Tower in the city centre overlooking Xuan Huong Lake.

Da LatImage source: touristcompanies.com

We’re talking about south central Vietnam’s oasis Da Lat, of course.

With more than 350,000 residents welcoming tourists inside a mountain city with strict European inflections in its architecture, it’s enjoyed a coveted place among Vietnam’s tourists since the nation’s colonial rulers first used it as their private getaway. At the heyday of French rule, the 1,500-metre-high retreat was the place to be for society’s elite.

A century later, much of that charm lives within the city still, but tourism professionals working within the city argued that Da Lat would benefit from an update to its approach in courting and keeping visitor loyalty in growing this market.

Da LatImage source: i.pinimg.com

Nguyen Thi Hoan Minh, a salesperson with Ana Mandara Villas Dalat, said Da Lat’s cool weather have made it a consistent attraction for tourists seeking outdoor activities, including hiking and biking tours. The area’s topographical diversity make it well suited for creating a broad range of tour packages that centre on its surrounding natural beauty.

Da LatImage source: dep.com.vn

The resort continues to be popular with family-centered tourists, Minh said, noting the high percentage of honeymooners and families that come to the resort. The resort as well as Da Lat as a whole are popular with golfers.

But Minh said the destination’s “second place” status continues to be a hamper on its ability to grow.

Take for example the city’s night market. In the absence of stronger leadership, sellers and vendors at the night market are largely uncoordinated and cannot therefore establish a common pricing scheme. This makes it harder for, among other coordinated market efforts, to raise the cost of under-priced goods, she noted.

Da LatImage source: asiawebdirect.com

In this power vacuum, Minh added that Da Lat’s historic assets are being undersold to prospective tourists. That’s not the case with better branded destinations like Hoi An and Sapa.

She noted that its distance from Ho Chi Minh City is another sticking point for would-be tourists. Minh said the number of flights from Saigon needs to be expanded for few are often willing to make the sojourn by bus or car.

Taking a bike in to Da Lat may be all the more deterred by the fact that the city lacks traffic lights and cross-streets at many of its intersections. Da Lat’s inner city traffic is mediated by roundabouts, which strain when traffic thickens.

Looking forward, Minh said the city’s tourism actors would benefit from more formal training in hospitality and marketing to enhance the city’s ability to connect with and serve visitors. Minh said the Da Lat of the future would surely have to reckon with the growing number of Chinese tourists coming to Vietnam.

Video source: Nguyễn Huy

Banner Image source: vietravel.net

Discover Dalat, Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

Travel to Dalat, Vietnam

Dalat Vietnam is often described as a slice of Europe in Vietnam’s central highlands. Mild temperatures, attractive colonial gardens, lakes, rolling hills and the oldest golf course in the country make it popular with travellers today.

Dalat’s waterfalls and lakes are famous. Most impressive is the 30m Pongour Waterfall. Located 45 km from Dalat, the waterfall is a slight vertical hike and due to an upstream dam, flow has unfortunately slowed to a trickle. Nonetheless, in the dry season, the bird’s eye vistas from the cliff are vertigo inducing.

Don’t forget to check out the Crazy House, Emperor Bao Dai’s summer palace and the XQ centre and village. Linh An Pagoda, 30 km outside of the city, is a quiet temple nestled in a mountain hamlet that houses one of the region’s best known treasures: a massive, smiling Buddha. For a change of pace, explore the area on two wheels with Easy Riders, guides that take you around on motorbikes. Meet them at 66 Truong Cong Dinh and ask for Rocky. Feeling vintage? Visit the railway station on Quang Trung Street to catch a train from Dalat to Trai Mat. A round trip ticket will cost you VND72,000 per person, and capturefor yourself the feeling of 1930's travel on one of the oldest trains in Vietnam.

The city’s market is worth browsing for its Dalat wine, preserves and candied strawberries. For the tea connoisseur, make sure to try the locally brewed artichoke tea which is known for its slightly sweet, smooth flavour. Don’t skip the second floor when you’re venturing the market, as it houses food stalls that make for tasty and cheap meals, including Dalat’s very own artichoke soup. In the evening the roads around the market are closed off and the festivities spill out into the streets.

Dalat Palace Golf Club is home to the oldest and perhaps most beautiful course in Vietnam. The course is almost deserted during the week so take your time to sink that perfect shot.

Going forward, Dalat’s focus will be on developing tourism experiences that take advantage of the region’s topical features including eco tourism to maximise the splendour of the surrounding forests and adventure tourism such as mountaineering, parachuting and mountain biking.

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Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon

Living slowly in Da Lat

By: City Pass Guide

Video source: Hachi8Media

Banner Image source: didalat.com

The Zebras of Dalat: A Langbiang Trekking Tour

By: City Pass Guide

Today, my partner and I left our hotel in Dalat early for a trekking tour to Langbiang mountain, a famous landmark in Dalat.

The Zebras of Langbiang

When planning activities in Dalat during your travels, you may want to incorporate a Langbiang mountain tour, where the “zebras” roam. You can do it two ways: the lazy way and the adventurous way. 

You can take a bus/taxi/motorbike to the foot of Langbiang mountain and from there you go by jeep to the first peak – a former radar station with tourist spots like the restaurant with eclectic meats, some photo ops and a nice view of the Dalat landscape.

But there is the second option for the more sporty – the trekking tour! 

We got up early, left our hotel in Dalat city, poured down one of those pitch black Vietnamese coffees at a roadside café and hopped on a motorbike.

Once you get out of the city, you follow a curving mountain road that would qualify as one of the great routes for motorbike tours, if it wasn't for the loose chippings. Thanks to them, you should proceed with care. There are various spots on the road that invite you to pause for a moment and enjoy the fantastic view of the Dalat highlands.

On the opposite side of the valley, you see a long row of burial monuments and, of course, the omnipresent signs of intensive agriculture. Dalat is Saigon's main source of vegetables, and once you’re there you can see why. One farm next to the other, glass houses, fields... if there is a flat plot of land, they grow food on it.

We arrived at the foot of the mountain and instantly recognized the “Langbiang” trademark alongside the first hill. We parked the motorbike and began our trekking tour. The souvenir shops were not open yet and the old K'Ho women were still making their way to the entrance area.

Several ladies were already at work, saddling horses and... zebras??

The Zebras of Dalat: A Langbiang Trekking Tour

Indeed, they painted the lighter horses with meandering black stripes.

The sight of these animals reminded me of this incident in China years ago, when I went to a zoo. There, they proudly presented a lion. Just, it wasn't a lion, but one of these monstrous, furry Tibetan dogs. They shaved it to resemble a lion. Of course, I asked the zookeeper about it. “The people,” he said, “want to see a lion, but I don't have one. So I show them a dog that looks like a lion, and they are happy.”

You see, in this case, the Asian mentality differs from ours. A fake zebra is better than an unimposing horse, which is exactly my opinion as well, because it made me smile.

Ascent to the Peak

We began our hike up the mountain along the main road. At first, we were mostly alone and enjoyed the fresh air and the soothing, green and brown pine forest of the Dalat highlands. From time to time a ranger on a motorbike popped in and on one occasion we saw a K'Ho man mounted on a horse, herding a small group of horses. Among them was one of our lovely zebras.

Langbiang mountain is actually located in the Lac Duong District of Dalat.

The parking lot at the foot of the mountain is about 12 km away from Dalat city and the entrance fee is 20.000đ, which is okay.

The landmark is a popular tourist spot, especially among sporty foreign tourists and Vietnamese honeymooners. The latter appreciate the romantic tragedy of K'Lang and Ho Biang, which is a Vietnamese Romeo-and-Juliet-ish story that explains the history of how the K'Ho ethnic minority emerged from two warring tribes. You can read it in full on our official Langbiang page.

After an hour or so, we reached the crossroads. To the left you can get to the above mentioned tourist spot with the mediocre restaurant, to the right the road turns into a rocky mountain trail. There is a ranger station where you can hire a K'Ho tour guide. They tell you it's dangerous and you may get lost if you walk alone, but that's nonsense. The path is easy to follow and leads up to the peak, which you can reach in less than two hours if the weather is right. 

On the other hand, one of these guides may provide interesting information and friendly company during the ascent... it's the land of their people after all and the one I met spoke pretty decent English. I guess when undertaking activities in Dalat, getting involved with the ethnic minorities is not a bad idea.

The trek to the Langbiang peak lead us through beautiful jungle vegetation, over rocky ground, and past small ravines washed out from the limestone over the years. The air is filled with the smell of the forest and songs of early birds. 

Several small groups of tourists were already on their descent and we greeted each other cheerfully.

After a while we reached the peak. The view towards Dalat city was not exactly breathtaking, but it was nice. The highlands were covered with a coat of low clouds that looked like a silver ocean. Occasionally a crag, actually the peak of a mountain hidden in the clouds, broke through the surface.

Adiós, Zebras of Langbiang

Despite the early time, we shared the grassy spot with a few people. After eating the brunch we bought in Dalat in the morning, we relaxed for about 20 minutes before embarking on the descent. On the way towards the foot of the mountain we encountered significantly more tourists than before, and as our track joined with the main road again, we had to step aside for a jeep every 10 minutes or so. But we reached the parking lot swiftly and without incident.

The Zebras of Dalat: A Langbiang Trekking Tour

Now the old K'Ho women were actively selling their colorful merchandise. We had a chat with one of them in Vietnamese, and she told us the sad history of her people, how they got fooled by city folk to sell their best land at a cheap price. Nowadays they are stuck with the steep and less arable lands on the mountain slopes.

The Langbiang tour is one of my recommended activities in Dalat: It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the highlands, the view is stunning and the background story of the mountain is a lovely mix of legend.

If you go by motorbike and take your time on the tour, you might witness an emotional sunset on your way back to Dalat city.