DaLat is in Vietnam, but in some ways, it’s another country.
Most obviously,the climate is in total contrast with the other parts I’ve visited. A morning walk requires a layer,and two for good measure, against the chill. In Nha Trạng, the popular Old Man uniform – a plain flimsy white singlet – is more than enough.
Descent toward the light
DaLat is at altitude, 1500m above sea level, a fact which was obvious on today’s descent to Nha Trang.
The bus ( a luxury 9-seater, trip NZD 11) emerges after midday out of the high dark mist of DaLat toward the bright, clear heat of NhaTrang, like a shuttle-full of winged beings from a Renaissance painting.
Within an hour, we’ve gone from the chill plateau of Dalat to the intense heat of Nha Trang. In that, sitting outside under shade for the 15-minute rest break is murderous. The difference is a major.
A lot of the ‘fresh’ produce on shevles – maybe not roadside stalls – throughout central Vietnam comes from DaLat. Coming into the city from the East ( seaward, from Nha Trang ) there are hectares upon hectares of strawberries, for example.
The city, as far as my once-over-lightly research goes, was built by French colonists, as an escape hutch from the heat of the rest of Vietnam.
The only obvious signs of this are at least one petit Eiffel Tower.
I hoped to find a wider variety of cheeses on offer, but I spent most of my time there motorcycling aimlessly around the city, instead of shopping.
From my very brief experience, not so bad as Nha Trang, or Da Nang, and made more bearable because there’s no accompanying intense heat.
The city has not one set of traffic lights, instead it’s roundabouts everywhere. So, very easy to navigate from one to another, weaving a thread between each cotton reel roundabout.
In an enforced experiment, I ate out twice a day, for lunch and dinner. It’s very easy to buy a solid meal for VND 30.000 ( NZD 2 ). That’s a decent serving of meat, a fresh salad ( mostly cabbage ), and a small pho ( soup ).
Of course, over three days I was very limited in what I was able to sample. But of two small sit-down restaurants ( 5 – 10 tables ) I visited, one cooked its meat to perfection, while the other served dry, overcooked fare ( but good salad ).
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This is a city I could live in, ideally during the hottest part of the year. I’d happily forego being ocean-side in favour of comfort heat-wise.
This is a city I want to go back to.