Cédric and I survived the overnight bus from Can Tho to Dalat without any issues. Apart from the beds being more suited for a smaller local stature, we were both able to find comfortable-enough positions for the night. I would also like to believe that our bus driver kept the sudden, jerking stops to a minimum, as I only awoken five times over the course of 10 hours.
We’re now in Dalat, the honeymoon capital of Vietnam- but for a good reason. It’s located in the Southern Highlands, a mountainous area favored by Vietnamese royalty, army generals, and French colonialists for its cooler temperatures and green forests. This city also serves as a weekend retreat for couples and families in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
Yesterday, we took a bus to climb up to Lang Biang, a large mountain in the area. The hike was relatively uneventful, except the beginning being on a road where and cars race up to bring national tourists to a lower summit nearby, but it was neat to see the pine forest give way to a tropical forest about 400 meters from the summit. The rest of the day was spent walking around the city – with notably a clone of the Eiffel tower and a French cathedral – and we had the local speciality for dinner: meats grilled over our own clay pot barbecue on the table.
Today, we acted like Vietnamese tourists and saw all of the kitschy attractions in the area. The first stop was the Art Deco summer palace of the last royal family in Vietnam (rule ended ca 1950s). The front lawns are now full of objects for lovey photo sessions. Next, we saw the highly developed Dalanta waterfalls (the falls were still there, but now surrounded by concrete viewing areas and bobsled). Then, we scootered over to the Valley of Love, an odd, mostly empty love-themed amusement park and recreational area. Lastly, we visited the flower gardens of the area. Due to the cooler temperatures here, Dalat is great for growing plants, as seen by the sea of greenhouses on the outskirts of the city, including surprising not very tropical plants like strawberries and tulips.
Tomorrow, we’re going to Lak Lak, the highest mountain lake in the area, in an area of ethnic minority groups.