What do I remember about Da Lat? That it is a city for lovers in central Vietnam, which smells of fragrant pine. Rain falls over it like soft kisses and flowers of Da Lat are of immense beauty and economic value. My Vietnam trip had happened so many years ago, that a lot of its details have become blurred. Nowadays I can recollect only the outstanding memories of this astonishing South East Asian country and Da Lat definitely stands out. Vietnam had been one of the earliest countries that I had visited as a solo woman traveler and the easy visa on arrival facility had made it a very good choice. Beautiful, exotic and seriously cheap, Vietnam had been one great destination and I had gone there on a personal trip. No work assignments, professional appointment, and hectic schedule had marked that trip and I had explored Vietnam at a leisurely pace.
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Da Lat is Vietnam‘s alter ego
My Vietnam trip had started with a travel nightmare. Hanoi had been marred for me due to a very stressful and delayed landing. A bad cold, fever and terrible hotel had culminated my Hanoi experience into a really bad one. The traffic had driven me crazy and I had quickly escaped to Sapa in the north to recover and rejuvenate. That had been a very good idea because after that the rest of Vietnam had been a breeze until I had reached Ho Chi Minh City. My mode of travel had been a rental motorbike and traversing from north to southern Vietnam had been an extremely rewarding experience. The Mekong Delta had been my last stop and many enchanting places with equally magical names like Hue, Hoi An, Mui Ne had crossed my path. Though all of them had been beautiful places, somehow Vietnam had started to get me. I needed a break from the green rice fields, the steamy tropical weather, and stark socialist era architecture when Da Lat happened. With cool spring-like weather, mists, waterfalls, pine forests and French villas, Da Lat had been a welcome break. And then there had been the gorgeous flowers of Da Lat, those bountiful blooms which make the city so very prosperous.
Recommended Read: Valley of Flowers Photo Essay
A slice of Europe and a city of flowers
It had been a wet afternoon when Da Lat had arrived wrapped in fine showers, mist and a bewildering amount of flowers. They had various colours, types, varieties and had bloomed everywhere, thus painting the city pretty. What had also struck me very odd that I should find such a quaint quasi European looking hill town right in the heart of an exotic South East Asian country. Pine trees, soft rain, and misty cool weather had reminded me of the lovely Alps and then there had been those flowers of Da Lat which had seemed to grow out of thin air. They had filled every inch, crevice, garden, and market of Da Lat and local travel brochures at my hotel had welcomed to Vietnam‘s “City of Flowers”.
The French connection
Located in the South Central Highlands of Vietnam, Da Lat had originated as a romantic getaway for the French expats in Indochina. They called it the “valley of love” and it had been famous for its cool climate, pine forests, flower gardens, and hilly peaks. With the French turning Da Lat into one of their favourite spots in Vietnam in 1899, it had been no wonder that the city had a very European feel to it. Many of the houses in the valley had looked typically non-Vietnamese and they had reflected the curious blend of the French Alps with rural Vietnam. As a destination, Da Lat had been most charming and its surrounding areas had offered many excellent activities like mountain biking, hiking, and canyoning. It had been an economically very productive area as well and higher altitude and fertile soil had blessed Da Lat as one of Vietnam’s most prized agricultural lands. The valley had produced a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers that do not grow in the tropical lowlands and cute strawberry farms dot the surroundings.
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There is a lot of love and to love about Da Lat
Cool weather, hills, and flowers turned Da Lat had made one of Vietnam’s most romantic (honeymoon) destinations and the locals did not travel there alone. Thus it had been no surprise that people had given me odd looks when I had told them of my solo traveler status and the lovely city had made me feel a bit lonesome. It had indeed been romantically very pretty in a flower filled and I had spent my days strolling around the colourful Da Lat market to pass time. With the rain playing spoilsport on every single day of my stay, I had not been able to visit the tourist delights like the Elephant waterfalls, Xuan Huong lake, Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace, the Linh Phuoc Pagoda, etc and in retrospect, it had been quite a blessing.
The photogenic local market of flowers of Da Lat
With so much of time and limited activities on my hands, I had haunted the local market of Da Lat every single day. Happily indulging in its sights, sounds, and tastes, those rainy afternoons had been very memorable. I had loved strolling around the pavements and labyrinthine rows of the bustling markets and taking in the jewel-like colours of the wet fruits and vegetables. Each of them had been individual colour bursts and the entire market had been one bright kaleidoscopic rainbow. Fresh produce had often spilled into the pavements and often conical hats of the vendors had looked up at my familiar face and smiled. The market had been enveloped by nurseries on one side and the sight of the freshly potted plants glistening in the rain had never failed to mesmerize me. The Vietnamese in general love flowers and I had always been amazed at the way those nurseries had done brisk business every day. Needless to say, the flower section had been my favourite spot in the market and it had reeked heavily of floral aroma, damp leaves, and moss.
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Ever enjoyed a mix of steam and rain?
The sounds of that market had been very exotic too but the constant drumming of the rain on tarpaulin sheets strung overhead, had muted the lively noises. Conversations, squeals of the animals on sale, pulls, pushes, scratches, and drops had drowned in a constant soft roar of the rain. It had felt like an underwater experience when all the action around us are cotton wool silent and my Da Lat days had been heavy rain soaked. It had rained torrentially most of every day and the rain-drenched Da Lat market had lacked the harsh cacophony of Indian bazaars. The noise of the rain and muted market sounds had been strangely rejuvenating for the tired traveler’s soul and my best experience had been dining there with downpour sloshing from tarpaulin sheets. With so much time being spent at the market, it had been sensible to eat all my meals there and the market had been served by a small local food court. It had served rustic local delicacies and the little space had a lot of action going on. A continuous mind-boggling pattern of steaming, frying, and grilling filled the air with delicious aromas and my lunch had consistently come from a bent old lady. She had sold hearty Vietnamese noodle soup in large bowls and I had never once questioned her about the meat. In return, she had always added a local bagel along with my meal and I had often lingered there longer than required. The rising soupy steam mingling with the rain had tasted delicious and ever since Da Lat had been stamped in my memory forever.
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My Vietnam experience and how it happened
My Vietnam days had been lazy, exciting and adventurous. It had been just before the internet had started getting flooded with umpteen travel blogs and foreign experiences such as those had been the real highlights of one’s trips. In fact, that is one of the reasons why Vietnam is special to me and I had truly discovered it without any pressure of any “must see/do things” list. The lack of information overload had made the exploration excitingly free and I had consciously stayed away from travel guidebooks while exploring the exotic country. My only online search had been for the Vietnam visa information, and with https://www.vietnam-visa.com/, it had been a piece of cake. Their user-friendly, quick, and professional service had helped me get started and I highly recommend using them for the Vietnam e visa. There is a saying which goes like, ” A good beginning makes a good end” and despite falling ill at Sapa, receiving culinary cultural shocks at Hanoi and experiencing a rainwashed Da Lat, my Vietnam trip had been one of the most beautiful journeys of my career.
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