DA LAT

 

Dalat was established as a hill resort at the beginning of the last century by homesick French colonials who were attracted to its cool, spring-like weather, pine forests, waterfalls and lakes. Many reminders of Dalat?s colonial past can be seen in the hundreds of European style villas, chalets and other buildings still standing around town. One fine example is the cream-coloured art deco villa that was once the summer home of Vietnam?s last emperor, Bao Dai. Another slightly more grand example of Dalat s colonial architecture is the superbly restored Dalat Palace Hotel overlooking the central Xuan Huong Lake. On the opposite side of Xuan Huong Lake is Vietnam s first golf course, originally built for Emperor Bao Dai and recently restored, it is now one of the top courses in the region

Apart from its colonial heritage Dalat is known in Vietnam for its market gardens growing everything from carrots and cauliflowers to avocados and bananas as well as many varieties of flowers. For Vietnamese, Dalat means romance, and with attractions like the Valley of Love it is the destination of choice for local honeymooners. A few kilometres from Dalat, at the base of Mount Langbian is the village of the Lat ethnic minority from whom Dalat takes part of its name. The rugged country around Mount Langbian offers some good opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking and rock climbing. From Dalat the fertile plateau of the Central Highlands stretches northwards for hundreds of kilometres. This is the most sparsely populated region of Vietnam and in the past was inhabited mainly by the dozens of ethnic minority groups known as montagnards in colonial days. During recent decades the region has seen an influx of settlers from the more densely populated areas of Vietnam and much of the original forest c ov er has been cleared to make way for coffee plantations. There are however still many places of interest in the Central Highlands and although the main towns of the Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku and Kontum don t have a great deal to offer there are many authentic minority villages throughout the countryside. The traditional thatched, wooden stilt-houses of the Ede, Jarai, Bahnar and others are a feature of the region and an overnight stay in one of the villages is a memorable experience. One such village is Jun village on the shore of Lak Lake about 50km from Buon Ma Thuot. Here visitors can have a real Central Highlands experience with an elephant ride through the countryside, a cruise on the lake in a hollowed-out tree trunk known as a pirogue and spend the night in a village longhouse.

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