Dalat, Vietnam

This is the last entry in our Vietnam blog series. To read our Vietnam travel journal from the start, click here

The coastal journey from Nha Trang to Dalat is super scenic – a road that many people choose to motorbike – so seeing it on the bus was really cool, and we were glued to the window for much of it, with huge sweeping mountains peeking in and out of mist, and pretty beaches popping up every so often.

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We loved Dalat at first glance: a cute town centred around a pretty central lake, spring-like flowers blooming everywhere and spilling onto the road from streetside stalls, and fruit and vegetables growing in fields surrounding town. Dalat is known for its beauty and wonderfully cool yet sunny year-round climate, and escaped any kind of damage during the Vietnam War, as both the North and South loved the city, and the rich often had their holiday homes there. This is evident now, as you still find ancient Emperor’s Palaces here, as well as French / European planted strawberry fields that hark back to Colonial times. The fruit there is known to be incredibly sweet and fresh, due to its year-round clement climate.

We managed to find a dreamy hotel room for hardly any money: a big family room (with two double beds!), a fancy bathroom, and huge French windows that opened up to a big balcony, for about £7! We loved our top floor room, and settled into a relaxed few days of exploring the area and eating well.

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Next to our hotel was a strip of fantastic local restaurants and coffee shops, and every time we ate at our fave place we tried some new incredible dish, frantically trying to squeeze in as many Vietnamese dishes as we could in our penultimate location! See Food Blog for details, suffice to say it was some of the freshest, most fragrant food we ate in all Vietnam. Bun Thit Nuong, in particular – a spicy, fresh, cold noodle dish with strips of beef and tons of herbs – was an almost daily obsession!

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We took a walk around the pretty lake, and explored the huge famous central market in town, and bought some incredible sweet tangerines, still on their stalk – which were heavenly! We also found a very zen coffee shop, full of plants with glass walls sitting over the lake, where we frequently nursed delicious iced coffee (accompanied by the customary free jasmine tea!) and watched Vietnamese soaps with local guys who were hanging out there and smoking, escaping the stress of jobs and families!

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There are also some very famous grand houses to check out in town – the aforementioned Emperor’s Palaces, and also ‘Crazy House’, which is a mental theme-park-esque structure of twisting concrete vines reaching into the sky; twirling tree-stump rooms; bizarre animal themed ‘rooms’ and walkways twisting at every angle! Frankly, it looks like it was dreamt up on acid. But in reality, it was dreamt up by a crazy rich lady who’s still extending it now! Pictures probably speak louder than words with this one…!

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After a few hours of fawning around the Crazy House, we visited Bo Dai (a 1930s Emperor)’s Summer Palace, which was all ’30s art deco rooms, thrones, furniture, and the best part… I got to dress up as an Empress with a full outfit (and matching shoes) and pose on a throne!! Anyone who knows me will know, dressing up is pretty much my favourite thing to do ever. I loved every minute!

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Our remaining time in Dalat was spent blissing out in town, eating delicious fruit sitting around the lake, drinking beers and disgusting rice wine on our balcony watching the sunset, and eating more unbelievable food out our local.

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And after a brief stopover in Ho Chi Minh that saw us (yet again) spend a VERY drunken night drinking 15p bia hoi on the street with amazing Vietnamese and Korean guys, and buy once last batch of the BEST banh mis for the bus (SOB) then we headed into our next country, Cambodia!!

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Nha Trang, Vietnam

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Nha Trang is a weird place, that feels like it’s sold its soul to tourism… specifically, Russian tourism. Menus and signs are translated into Russian (rather than English); there are Russian people everywhere; people spoke to us in Russian (assuming we were!) At first we thought the coastal town was pretty nice, as there are pretty mountains surrounding the beach, and fairly tasteful development… kind of like a budget Miami. But on further inspection, we found there to be few local restaurants or bars, and essentially just a lot of tasteless, overpriced, flashy Western-oriented places.

We only spent a couple of days there as a stop-over between the North and nearby Dalat, and we basically just spent time on the beach (scorching in the 30 degree heat!), and eating (overpriced) pretty basic, watered down Vietnamese food.

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On an up note, we did find an INCREDIBLE bahn mi, bought from some cute young Vietnamese entrepreneurs on a street stall. It was a veggie one, but with ALL the trimmings – scrambled egg, with fresh chilis, coriander, papaya salad, pate and all the crunchy veg. They were so good, we had them for lunch and then for bus snacks!

So, onto our penultimate Vietnamese location – pretty, European-inspired Dalat!