We arrived in this small-ish city after 14 hours on an overnight bus with reclining seats and TVs. The city, seemed to have a constant overcast and drizzle with maybe a few hours of sunshine.
After a Grab ride that dropped us off at our home stay, we went searching for food before everything closed since it was close to ten, and ended up at a little hole in the wall, mom and pop kitchen serving amazing Pho. They had beer on tap and local coffee.
Of course my tall German friend and I enlisted several gasps and stares as we walked through the door and unlike HCMC, no one spoke English. So with the use of Google Translate and a lot of gesticulation, we were able to order our meals and drinks.
Afterward, we returned to our rooms to sleep. The next day, we rented a scooter, it was going to be my first time driving in Vietnam and the traffic gave me anxiety, but I was up for the challenge. Silja and I made it to the center of town unscathed near the lake where we realized the vibe of the town felt a lot like a European city that we could not quite put our fingers on.
We decided to first walk around the open market before it closed and were not disappointed with the fare being offered.
The market was mostly run by women vendors selling fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and trinkets. They offered astonished friendly smiles as we walked around picking items to cook later. Several allowed me to take photos while smiling for my camera as I bought items from their stands.
As we walked out of the market into the rotunda lined by many cafes and bistros that had Vietnamese noodles and freshly baked du pain rafting from their windows, we realized we were somehow looking at Paris, right in the middle of Vietnam. When we sat down at one of the cafes and ordered coffee, I closed my eyes to feel the rhythm of the town and I literally felt like I was in a Vietnamese neighborhood in Paris. The two cultures didn’t seem to compete with each other here, instead, they presented a marriage of sorts.
We later discovered from our homestay host that Dalat was considered the Paris of Vietnam. It was here that we could literally see and feel the French’s colonial fingerprint on this town. From the horse-drawn carriages, radio tower shaped like the Eiffel Tower in the center of town, small cafes, and architecture, the French left a blended cultural mark in Vietnam.
I fell sick from allergies for a few days which prolonged our stay in Dalat to 7 days, but once well, we visited a coffee plantation situated in the countryside dotted with hills, and windmills and a beautiful Buddhist temple. Dalat, is definitely an under the radar must see while in Vietnam. Although, a bit off the beaten path, it offers a slowed down version of the bigger, more populated cities.
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