In Dalat I stayed at Gold Night Hostel. It was originally a hotel but recently they converted the top floor into dorms. The dorms are really nice and modern. Each bed has it’s own ledge and curtain, and each room has it’s own bathroom with a bathtub (not that I would use it.) The entire floor is carpeted and there are only a few bedrooms so the entire place feels quaint.
Dalat reminds me of a small European village. The first hostel was built two years ago and although there were hotels before, the city is not very touristy. The buildings are all small and there’s a church and synagogue downtown. The locally grown produce is strawberries and artichokes which are sold all along the streets. If the locals weren’t Asian I would honestly assume I was in Europe.
The weather here is also cooler than the south. It’s in the 70s daytime and 50s at night. Certainly not freezing for us; however, for the locals it’s a true winter. They all walk around in winter coats with gloves, scarves and hats, both during the day and at night. Because of the setting I feel like I’m in a European ski village.
I arrived in Dalat around 9pm. I met a Scottish friend at the hostel that i’m now going to travel around with for a while. We met on the bus to Vang Vieng and I have run into him almost every place I’ve been since. That night we went for street food and got a large mixed meat hot pot- beef, pork, fish, squid, etc. I’ve had a hot pot before but turns out I was doing it wrong. First you add all the meat to the broth and let it cook for about 7 minutes, then add the vegetables and let it cook for another 3 minutes. Add the noodles to your little bowl then add the soup concoction. I thought I was supposed to cook it until the meat was done (a few minutes) then add the noodles to the pot too.
Afterwards he showed me around the night market. It’s not touristy at all which is great. The foods here are somewhat different than elsewhere. There are wrapped pizza flatbreads, hot soya milk, grilled corn/potatoes, street meat, and strawberries everywhere. I woke up the next morning to see flower markets lining the streets. I felt like I was in Paris.
Scotland met a guy from Wales his first night who started hanging out with us too. He’s also going to travel Vietnam with us for a bit.
My first day in Dalat we went canyoning which is the thing to do there. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect- rock climbing and cliff jumping? It turns out canyoning is scaling down rocks into waterfalls with ropes aka serious rock climbing. I was absolutely terrified- tall heights and the fear of falling. I was too scared to lean back to be 90 degrees with the wall, and I was even more scared to release the rope and jump down on the rock. I did the first two cliffs but that was enough. I did the 7 meter cliff jump (also tall enough for me) but skipped the waterfall scaling and the 11 meter jump. Unfortunately, since it’s winter here, the water and air outside was cold. It felt awful going in and out of the water all day especially because we were wearing clothes and sneakers the whole time. But although I didn’t love canyoning it it was worth trying.
After canyoning Scotland took me through the daytime Central Market. I bought a pair of Converse since I really needed closed toe shoes for the cold. The clothes market is all locals which was great, but it was the food market that I really liked. Fruit from all over the world (including apples from the U.S.), dried fruits and vegetables by the pounds, and fresh meats (including live chickens.) I love the dried mixed vegetable bag (like chips.)
We went to check out the famous bakery, Lien Hoa. The cakes in the shop were elaborately decorated with neon jelly frosting and only cost $1.25 each. They had every type of pastry each costing less than $1. I walked out with nothing but Scotland walked out with 9 pastries, most of which were delicious. We went back to that bakery twice more in the next day.
That night we went to a bar in town to play pool. It was me and about ten guys.. Sausagefest. The bar was really cute. It was small and dark with a real European feel but their were weird ornaments around which made it feel like an old timer stoner bar. The owner was an old man who was very social without speaking much. He challenged all of us in connect four, and then became heavily involved with who plays pool and teaching me how to play, assuming I had no clue.
My second day in Dalat we went to Prenn Falls. We went to ride ostrich’s but it turned out to be an activities park. Elephant rides, camel rides, ostrich rides, a cable car, a bow an arrow contest, a pool contest, row boats, a zoo, and a waterfall. First we headed straight for the ostrich’s. Riding an ostrich was hilarious. I got on and about 5 seconds later he started running. It was scary but fun at the same time. The ostrich was huge, about twice my size.
Next we went to the zoo, which was awful. Someone call PETA. There are monkeys chained by their necks throughout the area. Bears and porcupines in tiny cages. Other small animals in even tinier cages. A loose snake on the ground in the middle of everything. A crocodile pond and right next to it a gift shop selling crocodile handbags. And then there were 4 deer chained down with their antlers cut off. I played with one of the monkeys a bit and he tried to open my backpack but we couldn’t stay long as it was too much to handle.
One of my friends tried the pool contest and lost, and another tried the bow and arrow contest and lost. We then walked under Prenn Falls before leaving.
Next we took our cab to Linh Phuoc Pagoda aka Dragon Pagoda. The pagoda was stunning. Modern, decorated with colorful tiles of animals (mostly dragons) and Buddhist symbols. There are two temples within the complex. There was also a shop selling massive wooden furniture including a 15 foot carved tree.
That night I didn’t do much. I wandered alone through a part of town I hadn’t see before. It ended up being a touristy area with all the restaurants I had read about on Lonely Planet. I ate at Chocolate Restaurant. I had Chicken corn soup with shrimp wontons. After that I walked home through the night market and picked up a grilled corn and a hot green tea soya milk.