Da Lat is the focal point of a lovely natural environment in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It is increasingly being included in Vietnam tour itineraries and quite rightly so. The mountains, lakes and valleys are there to explore and among the waterfalls is Thac Voi (Elephant) Waterfall where you can almost stand on its edge. Another, Pongour, is one of the largest in the whole of Vietnam. Da Lat is in a temperate region and its fresh fruit and vegetables are central to the great cuisine in the region. Da Lat is a great honeymoon location in Vietnam but equally suitable as a city for families to enjoy; Vietnam with kids is an extremely good idea as part of their education.
There are a few manmade places you must all see while you are there:
• Bao Dai Palace was the summer palace of the last Vietnam king. It is art deco in style and was built in the heart of a pine forest in the 30s. It remains in good condition with several interesting furnishings and sculptures. Downstairs includes office, reception and guest room while the king’s living quarters are on the first floor.
• Linh Son Pagoda is on a hill in the City. Externally, it looks similar to many Asian buildings and if anything is less impressive than others in the city from outside. However, its dragons, red tile roof contrasting with the green pines, the statue of Buddha on a lotus flower and the 450kg bell on a wooden frame make it a place worth a visit; it receives many pilgrims on a daily basis.
• Ling Phuoc Pagoda or Dragon Pagoda was built in the middle of the last century from broken glass and pieces of pottery. There are pillars in the front in the shape of dragons, a 5 metre Buddha statue and a huge glazed dragon almost 50 metres long. Its tower is 27 metres high and on the second floor there is the largest bell in Central Vietnam.
• Truc Lam Pagoda was built in 1994. Its setting is lovely gardens, forest and tranquillity. While there it is worth walking down to Tuyen Lam (Paradise) Lake, a manmade reservoir that certainly adds to the overall environment.
• Crazy House (Hang Nga Guesthouse) has found its way into the list of the most creative buildings in the world, as judged by the Chinese. Work began on the building in 1990 and it took many years both to complete and for Hang Nga to finally claim ownership. The concept was to build a fairy house and visitors will see a house spreading in different directions, strange stairways and irregular windows. It is open to the elements with plenty of spiders, mushrooms growing inside and theme rooms for guests, suitably decorated.
While in Da Lat you should split your time between the natural environment and these buildings that help to reveal the history of the city, and the religious beliefs of its inhabitants.