|Next morning we awoke to bright blue skies and decided it was a sign we were meant to
take the cable car to Truc Lam Pagoda. The views of Dalat from the cable car are lovely.
Where We Be
|The lake at the center of Dalat (Xuan Huong) gives the city
a more natural feel than most other Vietnamese cities
|This place feels as if it's growing from
the ground up and is somehow alive
|Vine-like balustrades, vertiginous stairs, and serpentine bridges connect the various buildings.
As you can see, some banisters are quite low, so be careful especially if you have kids.
|There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing as to
which parts you’ve visited and which parts you’ve haven't seen
|Strangely enough, you can sleep inside this tourist attraction. Rooms are set aside with animal themes (e.g., Termite
Room, Kangaroo Room), or you can just wander around for an hour or so. The cost is 40,000 dong ($2 each) for a visit.
|Tourist trap? Maybe. But it's undeniably entertaining
to wander through this eccentric funhouse.
|Dalat Cathedral was built by French colonists in the early 1900s. Its steeple is visible
from almost any point in the city. In front is a tall statue of Jesus holding a lamb.
|On our last day we took a long walk along Xuan Huong Lake to
Dalat Flower Gardens, located on the northwestern side of the lake
|We liked this incredibly long topiary dragon
|This was a pleasant outing and certainly
worth the $1 admission per person
|Splashes of purple seemed to be everywhere in late April. We'll certainly miss the
cooler temperatures and natural beauty of Dalat as we head to Saigon next.
|Dalat offers just about the only domestic red wine production in Vietnam, and you can often find a glass
for $1 or $2 throughout the country. Much harder to track down is Dalat's authentic civet coffee -- incredibly
expensive coffee beans that have been digested by civets first before being used in the coffee making process!
|Dalat's temperate climate has given it the nickname "City of Eternal Spring." When the rest of Vietnam is roasting,
it's cool and comfortable here. That's because it's 1500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level in Vietnam's Central Highlands.
|The art deco train station known as Ga Dalat is a pretty sight in its own right.
Tourist trains leave here for the village of Trai Mat about 7 km away.
|You can pay a visit to this lovingly restored steam locomotive
|We had some time to kill until our 2 pm train ride, so we walked to the Dalat Train Cafe down a quiet
side street near the station. This unique cafe is located inside an actual 1910 French train car.
|The Train Cafe is appealingly decorated within. A gramophone sits on the counter and old
jazz music from the 40's plays on the speakers. Train paraphernalia is posted on the walls.
|The 20-minute train ride ($6 each) passes through agricultural country on the way
to Trai Mat. Notice all the greenhouses protecting flowers -- a major Dalat export.
|The entrance is a little tricky to find: turn right out of Trai Mat train station and look for the laughing
Buddha sign up ahead and to the left. The entryway is crammed between two other buildings.
|Calling this place colorful is an understatement
|Buddhas take many forms here. The only consistent
element seems to be a sense of whimsy and fun.
|If Gaudi grew up in Vietnam instead of Spain,
this is the sort of church he might have built
|Buddha's "Church of Disney" is full of surprises
and chock-full of stuff to stare at in every direction
|Many of the statues – including this ten-foot-high dragon –
are built with thousands of broken beer bottles
|Here's the real reason to take the train: Linh Phuoc Pagoda (ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for Dalat). This modern
pagoda complex is free to enter and built with recycled materials like broken glass bottles and shards of china.
|The Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) towers over you
and is somehow made out of 500,000 dried flowers!
|Here's another statue of the Goddess of Mercy
surrounded by beautiful porcelain mosaics
|Forty minutes gives you just enough time to
flit from one breathtaking sight to the next
|You can even take a turn ringing the gong. The deep sounds
of this gong accompany you throughout your journey here.
|View of the gong from above. You can climb
several high towers here for excellent views.
|Serene Buddhas occupy each level of the tower as
you climb upwards, with colorful mosaics at every turn
|Call it kitschy, call it gaudy, but we really liked it! So do most who visit here. The work is
ongoing and we could actually hear workmen breaking bottles and plates behind the scenes!
|Even the truck is decked out in dragons and colorful displays
|Impressive woodworkings occupy
another corner of the complex
|The cable car gets you away from cities and honking horns for awhile to a place where you can actually hear
birdsong and nature. You cross over Deo Prenn pass and get good views of Tuyen Lam Lake at the far end.
|The cable car lets you off right at the entrance to Truc Lam Pagoda. This complex was only completed in 1994, so you’re
not coming here for the ancientness of the site, but rather for the splendid locale and the balancing of nature and architecture.
|It’s a pleasure to walk around this serene nature-centered temple and monastery. There are bonsai
trees, and stands of bamboo, and temples with emerald Buddhas, and colorful flower gardens.
|Paved paths wind through the pines past stone benches arranged in circles
where you can relax. Pines cascade down the hillside to scenic Tuyen Lam Lake.
|We caught a taxi back to town and asked to be dropped off at Crazy House.
This has become quite the tourist attraction in Dalat due to its quirky architecture.
|The main “houses” resemble tree trunks, and within
are wonderfully curving doors, windows, and walls
One of the main reasons to come to Dalat at this
time of year is the cooler temperatures. Dalat is
a hill town, and that can be a big deal when the
heat gets unbearable in the rest of Vietnam. But
Dalat has a lot to offer in its own right, including
a lovely lake at the city's center, flower gardens
near the lake, an art deco train station, and a 1½
mile long gondola ride to Truc Lam Pagoda in a
beautiful setting amidst pine-covered hills.
From Dalat station you can take a train that runs
on a 7 km historical line to the village of Trai
Mat, where the train stops for 40 minutes. Be
sure to use this time to visit Linh Phuoc Pagoda,
an easy 5-minute walk from the station. This
modern pagoda complex is irresistible for its
whimsical statues and creative constructions --
like dragons made out of broken glass bottles.
Don't miss this place! Another highlight: Crazy
House. The delightfully absurd architecture at
this tourist spot has to be seen to be believed.
|Cable Car to Truc Lam Pagoda
|This roundabout is more or less the city center. The lake is just off to the left. In the
near distance on the left is a good city landmark -- the steeple of Dalat Cathedral.
|Robin climbs aboard just in time!
|Not many train stations boast stained glass windows
|The worshippers in the foreground give an
idea of just how enormous this statue is
|This gigantic gong is covered as high as
people can reach with paper blessings
|Terraced hillsides surround Linh Phuoc Pagoda, reminding you that this
crazy over-the-top complex is located in a small town out in the country
|It's a 7 km taxi ride (60,000 dong or $3) to Truc Lam cable car (70,000 dong or $3.50 each round trip).
The 1½ mile long ride takes 12 minutes each way. Note: the cable car stops running from 11:30 to 1:30
each day. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are frowned upon at the temple itself (zip-off pants are convenient).