If you’re looking for an escape from Vietnam’s hustle, Dalat is well worth a visit. The countryside town in the South-West Highlands of Vietnam are a welcome change from the heat of the lowland areas. Make sure to experience the huge nightly market, the appropriately-named ‘Crazy House’, and the beautiful countryside with an Easy Rider.
Getting to Dalat:
We arrived at Dalat on a long journey from Hoi An (check out my blog on Hoi An here), which involved a night in Nha Trang.
Dalat is inland and is easily accessed from Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City. The route from Nha Trang to Dalat is seriously impressive and the town’s coach station is one of the more modern and organised ones we passed through during our trip.
Where to Stay:
There’s a handful of decent hostels in Dalat, but I’d advise booking ahead because we ended up spending a while walking around looking for somewhere with vacancies. Most options will be fairly similar, and the size of Dalat means everywhere is fairly close together.
For a memorable, but more expensive option, book ahead at the Crazy House. I can’t speak for the quality of the stay, but you certainly will never stay anywhere else like it.
What to Do:
A visit to Dalat isn’t complete without a trip to see the Crazy House (above) and get lost exploring all the secret passages, stairways and pathways. Think of Doctor Seuss mixed with any fairytale house from any book or film, and somewhere in that mental image is the Crazy House. The house isn’t especially ‘Vietnamese’, but it’s definitely worth a visit to walk around and get lost!
After the Crazy House, the rest of Dalat’s architecture doesn’t seem as impressive. However, the town has a noteable colonial feel, especially from the French. This is especially evident in the town’s train station. Have lunch in the station’s cafe, which is in an old train carriage, and then take a ride on the colonial Cremaillaire tourist train through the hills to Trai Mat. Apparently the Linh Phuoc Pagoda is in the village, but it was pouring with rain when we got there, so a visit wasn’t on the cards.
At night, Dalat comes alive with a huge network of market stalls. It’s like a huge charity shop, where there are endless opportunities to buy clothes, shoes, and food at bargain prices. I managed to buy two good quality coats for around $5, and I’ve worn both regularly in the year since I was in Dalat with no issues.
Dalat’s countryside is definitely worth exploring, and we enjoyed using one of the any Easy Rider services where you a guide takes you around the area on the back of their motorbike. A one day trip with Quoc Dung cost us $35 each, and the tour was personalised to what we hadn’t seen. We visited a local silkworm factory (which looked like the industrial factories from the 1800’s we see in textbooks), a mushroom farm, and the ‘Chicken Village‘ – named after a huge chicken-shaped water tank!
Also nearby is an impressive pagoda with a Giant Buddha, and the beautiful Elephant Falls, before we ended at the top of the Truc Lam Cable Car terminal which has impressive views over the town. Using the Easy Riders was a great way to see a number of sights in a single day, and you get a great view of Dalat’s stunning scenery from the back of your rider’s bike.
Finally, many visitors to Dalat go canyoning in a number of the nearby waterfalls. When we were in Dalat in 2015, there was plenty of opportunity for canyoning and white-water rafting, but that could have changed after a tourist was killed while canyoning in the area last year.
What to Eat:
The nightly market stalls have a wide range of food stalls to feed all of the visitors in search of a bargain. For a fairly cheap restaurant option, there were a handful of nice restaurants along the lively, but steep, D Truong Cong Dinh.
As mentioned, the town’s bus station is efficient, modern and organised. Many backpackers and Easy Riders will head North to Nha Trang and beyond, which is easily accessed on good roads. We continued our journey South, and took a sleeper coach to Ho Chi Minh City.
Check out my blog on Ho Chi Minh City here! Then, look at my ‘Top 5’ Highlights blog, where I look at the best places we visited, stayed, ate and drank over the course of our incredible seven weeks exploring South East Asia.