Traveling to Da Lat – Vietnam ( Part 1)

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When referring to Da Lat, many people think of a city full of different shades of flowers, a city with which nature has lovingly endowed all greatest things. Here are top things that everyone should try when coming to this beautiful city.

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Mr Rot’s Secret Tour

The moment that Rot started making naughty jokes about vegetables in the middle of the market, we knew this tour was special. Mr Rot’s Secret Tour is a refreshing alternative to conventional Da Lat Easy Rider tours. And though we left the market in stitches, it’s not all fun and games. The Secret Tour is a window into Vietnamese and K’Ho minority culture.

We have been on countless market tours in Southeast Asia. To our surprise, this ranks as one of the best we’ve ever experienced – not necessarily for the information, which was good, but because Rot made it fun. Life is too short to be serious about squashes. We don’t want to give away too many of the tour’s secrets, but we’re letting the cat out of the bag on this one: the big secret of the tour’s success is Rot himself.

Rot grew up in a K’Ho minority village, one of 14 children in a family of poor coffee famers. When he was eleven, a family in the city sponsored him and he became the only one of his siblings to attend school, a fact that he always carries with him. A walk through his home village’s muddy streets was a reminder to us all of how much of Vietnam’s 95 million people have simple, hard lives, living off the land.

Canyoning

Canyoning in Da Lat ( via magicalmysterytournhatrang.com)
What is canyoning? Da Lat is a great place to learn what it is first hand. You’ll navigate your way down a canyon and waterfalls by abseiling (aka rappelling), scrambling, zip lining, jumping and swimming. No previous experience required, just a little courage. Every agency and tour operator in town can sell you a canyoning trip. Highly praised Phat Tire Ventures is the only outfitter legally licensed to do canyoning in Da Lat and their professionalism is evident. They charge double what the others do, but you get experienced well-trained guides and quality equipment. The Phat Tire Ventures five-hour trip includes an orientation – knot tying, how to wear the harness, proper rappelling technique and a dry practice – before tackling three abseils at 15, 25 and 40 metres. It also includes “the Washing Machine”. Once you do it, you’ll know how it got its name. The water flow is dam controlled which means this activity can be done year round.
There will be other companies using the same course but Phat Tire always has priority to go first since they are the only ones legally supposed to be there. Since abseiling is done one by one, on busy days that means you are avoiding queues and a wait upwards of an hour for your turn.

Easy Rider Tour

If you had to summarise Da Lat, it would be countryside and waterfalls, and motorbike is the best way to experience both. Get on two wheels in order to smell the pines, see the flowers, feel the cold air brush your skin and drink in the stunning pastoral scenery.
Everyone and their mother (and sister and brother and second cousin) has a motorbike tour in Da Lat and we counted at least a dozen with “Easy Rider” in the name. A one-day trip is a good way to tick off the must-see attractions, and a multi-day trip is a more interesting way to relocate to another city than a bus ride.

The Easy Rider trips offered are formulaic: You can ride on your own (be it a regular motorbike or something more powerful), or you can ride pillion, usually on an impressive touring motorcycle with a comfortable seat.
Keep in mind that sitting as a passenger gives you the freedom to soak in the scenery and take photos.

Pongour Waterfall

Pongour Waterfall ( via Vietnam-travel.org)

Fewer tourists venture to Pongour Waterfall given its distance from Da Lat and that means the falls is almost free of tourist kitsch.
Pongour is worth the journey and if you had to choose just one waterfall to visit while in Da Lat, we’d rank this over both Datanla and Elephant Waterfalls.

Follow the trail and stairs down to the base of the wide and multi-layered falls. Pongour is comprised of a series of natural rocky ledges that you can climb to walk under and behind the cascades, a very cool way to, well, cool off. There’s a bridge over the stream so you can walk to the other side and see the falls from a different angle.

What’s refreshing (other than the water) is the fact there are no gaudy animal statues, cable cars or swan boats. Unlike Elephant Waterfalls, there’s relatively little rubbish or tourists. If you haven’t brought your own picnic, there are two low-key vendors who sell drinks and barbecue.

Crazy House

It is crazy, as well as wacky, eccentric and weird. Enter through the gate and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a Salvador Dali painting and Disney’s Haunted House with a dash of Hobbiton rolled into one. The buildings, which you can freely explore, have melting walls, fluid organic lines, gnarled twisted forms. Pillars grow like tree roots and the cave-like stairs will have you scampering up and down lost endlessly like an Escher drawing.

First known as Hang Nga Villa, Crazy House was built between 1990 and 2010 and it now includes a guesthouse as surreal as you would imagine. Each room, not surprising, is unique and a stay here means you can explore after hours without any tourists.
The designer, Mrs Dang Viet Nga, received a doctorate of architecture in Moscow before returning to Hanoi and eventually moving to Da Lat where she designed several buildings in the city. In an explanation posted near the entrance, for Crazy House she drew inspiration from nature and is driven by a desire to lead people to come back to nature, and she “wanted to break traditional practices by forming free volumes with free curves and structures.”

If you need more information about Activities for your trip, please let us know.