Sunday, May 8, 2011

Travel to Dalat: The Gem of Vietnam's Highlands

Local woman sells cauliflower in Dalat, Vietnam
A local woman sells cauliflower in Dalat, Vietnam.
Vietnam’s Dalat—nicknamed “The City of Love,” “Le Petit Paris,” and “City of Eternal Spring”—has long been popular with Vietnamese and expatriate artists and writers who have taken up residence in villas around town. The area, originally inhabited by the Lat and Ma hill tribes which now live in nearby Chicken Village and Lat Village, increased in popularity during the French colonial era. More than 2,000 beautiful French villas dot the area.
The central part of town is clustered on the northwest side of Xuan Huong Lake where the majority of restaurants, markets, banks, cafes and budget accommodations are found. Footpaths and roads circle the lake, making for easy hikes and bike rides. There are three large cafes built on stilts over the lake. Though better known for their views than food, they do make for convenient rest stops if you decide to make the 3-kilometer hike around the lake.
Dalat is hilly and its sights are spread out, so renting a motorbike or arranging a taxi for a half day or full day is a smart way to see outlying areas. If you select accommodations near Lake Xuan Huong, many sights in town are within walking distance. For outlying areas, Dalat has a unique crew of motorbike guides called Easy Riders. They are all locals, speak fluent English or French, and for $8 per day will guide you around town and the area.

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