Ground travel, specifically buses, is insanely cheap in Vietnam. Because of this, Inna and I elected to bus our way through the country, and since we gave ourselves a month here, we had plenty of time to do so. Therefore, even though Ho Chi Minh City was our only planned stop in southern Vietnam, we added two stops on our way out. Our first stop was Da Lat, a colonial era mountain town.
Almost every bus we took in Vietnam was a sleeper, and they were unlike any sleeper buses we’ve ridden since. These buses were actually very comfortable, so long as you are short enough to fit (<~5’8”). Inna fit easily (yay being in the land of short people!), while I fit just barely.
We arrived in Da Lat at night, where we were greeted by this lake view. We could immediately tell this was going to be a beautiful and charming visit.
As mentioned above, Da Lat is a colonial era town, which means it was built by the French. So how French is this town, you ask? Well, they have an Eiffel Tower, and just like in Paris, it can be seen from everywhere in the city.
Just like the real thing, isn’t it?
Here are some more views of Da Lat. The city was very quiet and relaxing, something we definitely needed after crazy Ho Chi Minh City.
Da Lat is known for its temperate climate, and was actually built as a resort town. Here is what the surrounding terrain looks like, this picture taken from Robin Hill, one of the highest points in the city.
And here is the town as viewed from the same location. If you look closely you can see the Eiffel Tower, although everything is dwarfed by the huge radio mast to the left.
Even better than the views, Robin Hill had a cable car. We didn’t ride the cable car in Hong Kong because it was too expensive ($50+ for the two of us), but here, it was $1.75 per person. It was also completely safe and riding it was a lot of fun.
The cable car took us to Truc Lam Pagoda, a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of town. This was a beautiful and spiritual place, its seclusion being our favorite part.
After finishing at Truc Lam Pagoda, it was time to head back to our hotel. But we weren’t ready to call it a day just yet! Instead, we made one last stop, to one of most creative places we’ve ever been.
The actual name of this place is Hang Nga Guesthouse, but people call it Crazy House and the nickname fits. Straight out of Looney Tunes or Alice in Wonderland, this house is a maze of wonder and imagination, bright and colorful and bringing out the kid in everyone.
Crazy House was built by Dang Viet Nga, a Vietnamese architect who cites Gaudi and the city of Da Lat as her influences, although many critics see Dali and Disney in there as well. Viet Nga originally intended this work as a personal project, although she eventually opened it up for tours and as a guesthouse to help pay construction costs.
While the rooms here were small, they were super creative and surprisingly inexpensive. The only catch staying here would be the tons of tourists (like us) constantly exploring the place, at least during the day.
Crazy House was so amazing, it alone makes a trip to Da Lat worth it. But alas, Da Lat is a small town and there wasn’t much more to do, which meant that after finishing here we had pretty much finished with the city. But this is why we gave ourselves two stops on our way our of southern Vietnam. Up next, we’ll visit the second stop: Nha Trang.