Not quite Paris

Trip Start Oct 15, 2010
Trip End Jan 11, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We arrived in Dalat to the first rain we had seen for weeks. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the bus that had brought us there. Only US$9 each for a seven hour trip, we were provided with air conditioning, bottles of water and refreshing wet facecloths. The ride was smooth and fast and there was enough beautiful scenery to keep us entertained. The only downside was the on-board entertainment which included video clips of English/Vietnamese Christmas carols. Not quite our cup of tea.

Since we had kept ourselves quite busy in Vietnam so far we did very little during our first day in Dalat. On our second day we hired a couple of motorbikes and driver-guides to show us Dalat's sites. The guys were great: friendly, informative and safe drivers. The highlight of the tour was the well renowned Crazy House. We had heard a lot about it and had expected it to be strange, but we were really surprised at just quite how crazy it is, and how much we liked it. Designed and inhabited by the architect daughter of an ex-Prime Minister of Vietnam, it brings to mind the work of Antoni Gaudi with a bit of additional kitch and feels like something out of Alice in Wonderland. 

Dalat is a strange place. Founded by the French in the early 20th century it has a definite European air. Small streets and lanes run up the steep hills in the town center. There are lots of beautiful French villas on the hills surrounding the town that were used by the French colonialists. Now they are all government owned and while some are lived in and have been done up many have dilapidated and are hauntingly picturesque. Despite this it is of course nothing like France and Dalat's claim to be a 'little Paris' is a big stretch. This image has been 'enhanced' by items such as a radio tower shaped like the Eiffel Tower, swan paddle boats on the lake and other such kitch. Even the temples are garish, although in quite an impressive way. Somehow, though, Dalat didn't quite 'work' to us and it has certainly been our least favourite stop in Vietnam so far.
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