COOL THINGS ABOUT DALAT For a change from the regular Vietnam itinerary, we head to the Central Highlands and discover a former French hill town where the air is clear and the pace is sedate.

1 Climate Dalat is cool – literally. Capital of Lam Dong Province and home to 200,000 people, the town’s temperatures range from 15 to 24 degrees Celsius across the year, thanks to the 1,500m elevation. If you’ve sweltered in the Mekong Delta or shivered through a Hanoi winter, you’ll love the “City of Eternal Spring”. Thanks to the climate, everything has a fresh,

cent. Perched just above the lake, this French-built palace opened in 1922, and today the 45 rooms and suites are a flashback to a bygone era, from the chandeliers to the claw-foot baths and working fireplaces. The red-carpeted corridors admittedly have a whiff of The Shining about them – and, indeed, there are a few ghost tales from the hotel’s past – but it’s still a wonderful place to stay, unique in Vietnam. Don’t miss a meal on the terrace of Le Rabelais restaurant, with its white-uniformed waiters, scrolls of salted butter, and main meals served under metal cloche domes.

green feel to it. There is wonderful local produce, too – including artichoke tea and strawberry jam – plus spectacular flowers in the parks and markets, and a countryside stacked with pine-clad hills and waterfalls (check out Elephant Falls, 30km away).

Architecture The Palace Luxury


Hotel is just one of Dalat’s architectural highlights. There are French-style villas and Swiss-looking timber chalets dotted around the place (a whole row of them along Tran Hung Dao Street), plus a Christian cathedral with

a towering steeple, and an Art Deco train station. Less elegant, though equally photographable, is the so-called Crazy House , whose Vietnamese designer was inspired by architect Antoni Gaudí. Open to tourists during the week and operating as a guesthouse on weekends, it’s a droopy, twisting, tunnel-filled place. Golf In the 1930s, Emperor Bao Dai returned from a trip to Paris with a taste for golf, and decided to build his own course in Dalat. It’s still there, and is now an 18- hole championship course, the Dalat Palace Golf Club . (Palaces are a “thing” here.) Green fees start at around S$100 for 18 holes. For a fun night with a few drinks after your round, head to Escape bar; it’s in the basement of the Blue Moon Hotel, with live music nightly. 5

2 Lake Almost 100 years old, Dalat’s Xuan Hong Lake is a banana-shaped body of water that takes its name from a 17th-century Vietnamese poet. A path circumnavigates the lake for about six kilometres and makes for a pleasant early morning stroll. There’s also a gaggle of swan-shaped paddle boats available for rent, if those happen to be your idea of a good time.


There are three 50-minute domestic flights a day from Ho Chi Minh City to Dalat. A taxi

Hotel Yo u m a y


feel self-conscious checking in to a place called the Palace Luxury Hotel , but the rooms are only S$200 or so a night. And worth every

to town (30km) costs around S$15.


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