Monday, May 2, 2011

Dalat: Out and About

With two days to spend frolicking through the town before we began our motorbike adventure north, we covered a large portion of the worthwhile sights.  Here are some of the highlights:

Linh Son Pagoda.  Lovely hilltop temple with outstanding views of the town located just off of Nguyen Van Troi Street.

A troop of hormonal teens perched on the front steps did their best to intimidate, yet nothing could stop our breathless march on this sun-drenched afternoon. Behold the ornate majesty of the multicolor, mosaic dragons adorning the gates.

The Market.  I love a good market and I think Cho Da Lat, an imposingly drab structure in the center of town, was one of the best I have visited to date.

Heaps of dried fruits from the Central Highlands, fresh veggies that thrive in the temperate climate, rice wine, strange beasts of the Earth, reams of cloth and house wares... they truly had it all in this multi-story complex.

My favorite part of our market adventure was encountering old friends: all the vegetables available in Da Lat that are harder to find in balmy Saigon such as avocados, artichokes, berries, and the various members of the squash family.

The Da Lat Flower Park and Lake Xuan Huong.  We had intended to complete the 7km trek around Da Lat's famously tepid Xuan Huong lake. After plodding along for about 3 km and experiencing a forgettable hike around the bizarro Disney-themed Flower Park, ominous clouds began choking the sky and we wisely jumped in a taxi to continue onwards.

A highlight of our walk around the lake was a stop at Thah Thuy Blue Water Restaurant for a lakeside sinh to bo (avocado smoothie) and cay da (iced tea).  We also completed our first tag-team crossword while enjoying the beverages! Thanks to whatever kind soul left the barely touched book of LA Times crosswords at our hotel.

Emperor Bao Dai's Summer Palace.  Due to the torrential downpour we didn't take many pictures, but the 1930's art-deco inspired palace once housed the last Emperor of Vietnam and his family before they relocated to France.  I love visiting homes and found this one to be particularly awe-inspiring, strange, and melancholy at the same time. (Note one of the original personal saunas in the pictures below.)

The Crazy House.  A surrealist architectural project gone out of control.  It is part theme park, part hotel and is still being added to as we speak.  The gal who designed it is the daughter of a past vice president and clearly has the brains, creativity, and resources to make such an individually eccentric artistic vision come to life.

The Cathedral.  Although it was highlighted in the Lonely Planet (probably due to the lack of spectacular things to do here), a picture of this towering modernist blight was enough.  Apparently, Da Lat has a sizable Catholic population, many of which were refugees from the North.

The Eiffel Tower.  Are we in Paris or Da Lat?  One can't tell with this tower constantly looming over the city!

Children Burning Trash.  No city tour is complete without at least a few pictures of people doing weird things.

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