Dalat reigns as the Go To Cool Off City in Vietnam. Not just today. But thankfully during the dynastic desires of the Colonial French. Whatever France did, good and/or not so good in this charming country, they certainly did to perfection in erecting notable architecture.
Mingling the mountainous splendor of Dalat with the high and low but always striking summer home architecture of Dalat is a mix that is heady and enduring. Ergo,…Vietnam’s Go To Cool Off City!
With a population of 200,000 people Dalat stills retains a somewhat small town aura. The 2500 summer homes of the French spread over the city from faded glory to restored reverence. Some homes are so far gone it will take a gilded hand to bring back to life. Others are in a mediocre state of (dis)repair. And some are lovingly cared for. Most are not furnished with the European ethos which the French would have accomplished.
A few represent a satellite of a nearby hotel. Some comprise a resort.
All are protected and owned by the government of Vietnam. Maybe a deeply ingrained Socialist Republic like Vietnam does find ways to preserve some important elements of the past. This has not always been their raison d’etre for ownership of heritage properties. The long, strong arm of a communist party in charge of the country since 1975 held property for the sake of holding property. Nevermind who lost out in doing so.
2012 sees a kinder approach in action. The summery old homes of those just as reprobate rulers in the early 20th centruy are safe from the wrecker’s ball. Thankfully. And now as Vietnamese get broader and broader views of their country with greater resources to bring some of the lovely parts of the (murky) past to a new kind of life, Dalat is rising as a Treasure Trove Star.
But the homes of Dalat would not be so notable without the wondrous scenic gorges and valleys and hills and mountains, rivers and streams and lakes and pools to populate the setting.
And all of this in a climate that is hospitable and friendly. One forgets the steam of the plains of Saigon, the bite of the heat…and the cold of Capital Hanoi. No one could not love the thousands of kilometers of seaside flanking the east coast of Vietnam, wrapping itself like a delicious and delicate gem through inlets and bays and streaming sandy beaches along with rocky shores luxuriantly. But to find solace in the cool-ish temperance of the Lady of the Central Highlands, Dalat is be held in kind arms.
I have visited Dalat many times. A long bus trip. Nine hours! Or a short flight. Thirty minutes. The bus forages through countryside, farmland, towns and villages, hills and valleys, tea and coffee plantations. It’s a delightful ride. Nice to stop and sample the teas and coffee of those green hills. See the bright white coffee bush blossoms and their delicate scent. Or when the blossoms are gone there are the great green bunches of beans hanging in fertile clusters.
Flying to Dalat passes so quickly one has barely buckled up for take off when one must buckle up again for landing. The airport is a new yellow fancy rising out of the remains of the old airforce base. It’s a large inviting child’s play structure. Good connections on nimble new buses cool and comfortable zip to the city.
Dalat…all those summer homes, cabins to cottages to villas, flora and fauna dancing everywhere, gardens and shops and cafe and markets. They are all here. Something for everyone. And most of all…cool comfort.
There is something for everyone here.