Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sightseeing in Dalat


The first thing the visitor to Dalat will probably notice is the architecture. Since the city was built up primarily by the French and the Catholic Church, Dalat is an interesting blend of French colonial architecture, paired with lovely Jesuit structures and Vietnamese pagodas.

One site almost all Dalat's guidebooks will lead you to is the Hang Nga guesthouse, known more commonly simply as 'Crazy House'. Built by Hang Nga, Ph.D. graduate of Moscow State University's architecture program, Crazy House is a honeycomb of strange rooms and hallways that also serves as a local hotel. Instead of straight lines and corners, Crazy House is all curves, as if its concrete had melted, dripped, and then hardened into its unusual shape.

Another building worth touring in Dalat is Binh III. Emperor Bao Dai built three different villas for himself in Dalat, and although all of them have been restored and made public, it's Binh III that's the most impressive.
To stay in Vietnam like true royalty, however, book your room at the Sofitel Dalat Palace, a luxury hotel that's been lovingly restored and sits atop a golf course. With a lobby fit for a monarch's ballroom, artwork adorning its restaurants and suites, together with the modern comforts of satellite television and mini-bars, there's nowhere else in Dalat that offers such plush luxury. Even if you can't afford to stay in the Sofitel Dalat Palace, at least have a cocktail and dinner there in one of the three bars and two restaurants. After dinner, dance downstairs at PK's Disco.
Xuan Huong Lake is a popular destination with honeymooners; you can stroll around its outer banks, or hire a paddle boat and go out for a spin. However, be warned that the lake was recently drained, and won't be filled back up until January or February 2011.

Xuan Huong Lake isn't the only lake in and around Dalat, though. Just 5 km north of the city centre is the Valley of Love, where a lake was added in 1972 to make its picturesque, peaceful beauty even more attractive. On the other side of town lies the Truc Lam Pagoda, the second biggest Zen Buddhist centre in Vietnam, surrounded by Tuyen Lam lake and pine forests.
Just 20 minutes from Dalat lies the Lang Bain mountain; at a height of 2169m above sea level it isthe highest mountain in the Southern Vietnam. It is a popular spot to climb and enjoy stunning vistas of the surrounding areas and it is also possible to camp. For those who don't feel quite so energetic it is also possible to catch a ride to the summit.

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