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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dalat 1994

Dalat is a highland in South Vietnam. The weather is cool like Malaysia's Fraser's Hill but not cold and misty like Genting Highland. The town center has a large central market selling diverse produce. There are many places of interest such as the Summer Palace, Dalat's Flower Garden and Love Valley. Along the way to Dalat are many water falls and the largest one is the Prenn Waterfalls.

In 1994 I visited Ho Chi Minh City and got a Vietnamese friend to book for me a 3d/2n package tour of Dalat. I did not know that he went to a travel agency that catered mainly to the Vietnames tourists. On the morning of the tour, I was the first to arrive at the travel agency office. The 12 seater mini-bus was waiting by the side of the road. Then came a young couple on motor bike. Another young couple arrived after them. Soon the mini bus was filled with 5 young Vietnamese couples. They were about my children's age. I was the only foreigner among them and felt very uneasy. I tried not to feel embarrass. Fortunately they were very friendly. We chatted along the way to the hill resort. I learned from them that they were all going on their honeymoon to Dalat. Oh dear, I was the only odd man out! I also came to know that as a foreigner I paid nearly 3 times more than them.

We stopped for refreshment at a tea shop which also displayed bottles of snake wine for sale. The shop owner claimed the snake wine, an aphrodisiac was very good for honeymooners. As we moved on we saw a few waterfalls. The largest and famous was the Prenn Waterfall. We arrived at Dalat in the afternoon. I was taken to Nam Dao Hotel in town and the Vietnamese couples were taken to a lodging house away from the town center. That was the only difference for being charged more.

Each morning at about 5.30 am the road fronting the hotel was like a market place with hawkers and buyers haggling over the price. Passing motor bike taxis added to the din with their noisy exhausts pipes. By 8.00 am the place was swept clean by the hawkers before they disappeared from the scene.
The package tour took us to the Love Valley which was surround by tall pine trees. There was a lake for boating with souvenir and food shops nearby. We also visited the Summer Palace of Vietnam's last Emperor Bao Dai. Other places in the tour itinerary included the Flower Garden famous for its variety of flowers, shopping at central market, Vietnamese temple and a church. I remember visiting a stand by itself building called Crazy House. It looked more like a big tree trunk to me with many pigeon holes. Evening was free and after dinner we booked a room at a Karoake lounge to sing our favourite songs until late at night. Looking back, I have no regret joining the honeymoon tour. The guys were very friendly and at the end of the tour we exchange our personal particulars before parting.

Refreshment at a tea shop. On the table was a large jar of snake wine.

Path to Datanlah Waterfall

Datanlah Waterfall

I stayed alone in this hotel

Dalat Train Station

A restaurant by the lake. The tourist guide is on the front left

Dalat Flower Garden

Love Valley with honeymooners

Today the landscape in Dalat town has changed. It has many new hotels and shops. There is a market square, night markets and many more establishments catering for tourists' dollors.


professor said...

I went to Dalat and like you I found flying t from HCM cost me at least 2X more than what a Viet pays - the plane was a Russian Illyushin model. You enter the plane form the rear which lowered a ramp. I stayed at the Dalat Sofitel Hotel next to the golf course. At nite no need AC bcos very cold - 12 degrees. I thot Love Valley like macritchie reservoir where u row boat with your lover. I believe NatSteel bought a piece of land next to Love Valley but no idea whether they sold it at a loss. There's a prominent landmar in Dalat - a sphire form a French-built cathedral.

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