Monday, September 13, 2010

Dalat: the Vietnamese Paris

Vietnamese people call Dalat the Vietnamese Paris. The site was found and the town founded by the French colonialists as a sort of… cool tempered resort center in the mountains. (around the 1900s). There’s even a smaller version of the Eiffel tower, you can see it on the picture.

In truth, Dalat looks nothing like Paris, but rather like a French skiing resort, albeit more colourful and cuter than any French mountain resort I know. But still, there are definite resemblances. For one, some buildings are very French-looking, mainly because of the “persienne” shutters, a trait I have found here and there everywhere in Vietnam. This building, on the picture, I swear looks like a typical South-of-France school. It seems funny to me to see it standing in Vietnamese mountains, it looks like someone decided to build a little bit of Marseille right there.
When in Dalat, one barely feels like in Asia, it really does have a European something about it and the air is pure and dry, the smells even are different from the rest of Vietnam. It smells like snow and herbs.

The people are lovely, so friendly it would be hard to top (in this, a huge difference with your French mountain resort, he he). The LP mentioned being harassed by tour guides and motorbike guides here: We didn’t get harassed in the slightest. We’ve only been accosted in a friendly way, and given tips and advice on where to go and what to do with our motorbike.

Last night we woke up from our nap only for a few hours, walked around town and found it bustling with life: Vietnamese teens playing foot-badminton with tourists, street food stalls selling sea food, night markets, all the shops still open, hundreds of people around the main square. It was great. Can you find Ding on the picture below?

This morning, we got up early and checked in a much nicer hotel, same low price but with a much warmer atmosphere. From there we visited the city by day, walked around its colourful streets and took many pictures. We drove around the main lake (we couldn’t find it at first as it is quite dried up, it’s really a main patch of grass right now. We laughed so much at the one poor dude who somehow managed to get a small boat in one the tiny puddle left in the center of the “lake”. The puddle must have been 20 cms deep; what that guy was doing in a boat in there, I can’t fathom), we walked in the flower market, explored the famous crazy house (pretty crazy) and when the weather changed for the worst, we took refuge for lunch in an awesome little artsy restaurant. The fish was ngnon!!

For tomorrow, we’ve booked a bike trip. A bicycle trip, that is. We’ve begged the tour company to let us go on a private tour, just us two, because we are so bloody unfit it would be embarrassing to impose our slowness on anybody else!

I’m looking forward to it and at the same time quite dreading it. 4 hours on a bicycle, me. I haven’t ridden one in years, maybe 10 years? Anyway, I’ll let you know how that went, if I’m still alive to tell the tale.

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