The Zebras of Dalat: A Langbiang Trekking Tour
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??
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.
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.