VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Central Highands

Da Lat - Around Da Lat - Di Linh - Bao Loc - Dan Nhim Lake - Ngoan Muc Pass - Buon Ma Thuot - Around Boun Ma Thuot - Pleiku - Kon Tum

AROUND DALAT

Valley of Love
Named the Valley of Peace by Emperor Bao Dai in a wonderful lack of prescience, this valley (Thung lung Tinh Yeu, or Vallee d'Amour; Đ Phu Dong Thien Vuong; adult/child 6000/3000d; (7am-5pm) had its name changed in 1972 by romantically minded students from Dalat University. Today this ever-tacky place has taken on a surreal atmosphere and cynical locals call it the Valley of Shops. Tourist buses line up to regurgitate visitors and boats line up to accommodate them. Get into the spirit with some aquatic activities: paddle boats, 15-person canons and obnoxious noise-making motorboats can be hired to tour the lake. This is a good place to sec the 'Dalat cowboys': Vietnamese guides dressed as American cowboys. We've also seen locals dressed as bears. The cowboys rent horses to tourists for a guided tour around the lake. The cowboys and bears expect cash if you take their picture. Re-freshments and local delicacies (such as jams and candied fruits) are on sale at the lookout near where the buses disgorge tourists. The Valley of Love is 5km north ofXuan Huong Lake.
Lake of Sighs
The Lake of Sighs (Ho Than Tho; admission 5000d) is a natural lake enlarged by a French-built dam. The forests are not Dalat's finest. The cheery name comes from the story of Mai Nuong and Hoang Tung, who met here in 1788 while he was hunting and she was pick-ing mushrooms. They fell in love and sought their parents' permission to marry. At that time Vietnam was threatened by a Chinese invasion and Hoang Tung, like a macho fool, joined the army without telling Mai Nuong. Mai Nuong sent word for him to meet her at the lake, and when he didn't come she was overcome with sorrow and drowned herself. She clearly wasn't used to being stood up. There are several small restaurants up the hill from the dam- Horses can be hired for 80,000d an hour, while a ride in a horse-drawn carriage costs 140.000d per hour. The Lake of Sighs is 6km northeast of the centre of Dalat via Đ Phan Chu Trinh.
Quang Trung Reservoir
Quang Trung Reservoir (Tuyen Lam Lake) is an artificial lake created by a dam in 1980. Paddle boats, rowboats and canoes can be hired nearby. The hills around the reservoir are covered with pine trees, and there s a path up the hill southwest of the water-intake tower. Ethnic-minority farmers live and raise crops in the vicinity.
The fun way to get here is by cable car. If heights aren't your thing, head out of Dalat on Hwy 20 and turn right at the signpost 5km from town and continue for 2km.
Lat Village
pop 6000. The nine hamlets of Lat village (pronounced 'lak') are 12km north of Dalat at the base of Lang Bian Mountain. Only five of the hamlets are actually Lat; the residents of the other four are members of the Chill, Ma and Koho tribes, each of which speaks a different dialect. Traditionally, Lat houses are built on piles with rough plank walls and a thatched roof. The people here eke out a living on 300 hec-tares of land, growing rice, coffee, black beans and sweet potatoes. Economics have forced many villagers into producing charcoal, a lowly task often performed by Montagnards. Before 1975 many men from Lat worked with the Americans, as did many Montagnards elsewhere. Classes in the village's schools are conducted in Vietnamese rather than tribal languages. Lat has one Catholic and one Protestant church. A Koho-language Bible (Sra Goh) was published by Protestants in 1971; a Lat-Ianguage Bible, prepared by Catholics, appeared a year later. Both dialects are quite similar and are written in a Latin-based script. To get to Lat from Dalat, head north on Đ Xo Viet Nghe Tinh. At Trung Lam Hamlet there's a fork in the road marked by a street sign. Continue straight on (northwest) rather than to the left. By bicycle the 12km trip from Dalat to Lat takes about 40 minutes. On fool it's a two-hour walk.
Lang Bian Mountain
Also called Lam Vien Mountain, it has five volcanic peaks ranging in altitude from 2100m to 2400m. Of the two highest peaks, the eastern one is known by the woman's name K'Lang while the western one bears a i man's name, K'Biang. Only the upper reaches of the mountain remain forested. Only half a I century ago the foothills had lush foliage thai sheltered wild oxen, deer, boars, elephants, rhinoceroses and tigers. The hike up to the top's spectacular views takes three to four hours from Lat village. The path begins due north of Lat and is recognisa-ble as a red gash in the green mountainside Dalat Travel Service offers guided tours which combine the mountain with Lat village.
Lang Dinh An (Chicken Village)
Famous for its giant concrete chicken caught mid-strut in the village centre. Lang Dinh An has become very popular with travellers because it's conveniently situated on the highway, 17km from Dalat. The village is home to about 600 people of the Koho minority, who were enticed down from the hills and have, to a certain extent, been Vietnamised. Most no longer live in stilt houses and they wear Vietnamese-style clothing. The chicken was an elaborate decorative device for a long-dysfunctional water system, which used to crow as the water was pumped. The symbolism of the chicken probably relates to yet another local legend involving i doomed romance ending in a dead heroine. Though the residents of Chicken village are extremely poor. we'd suggest that you don't give sweets or money to the children. If you want to help the villagers, there are a couple of shops where you can buy simple things like drinks and biscuits. There are also beautiful weavings for sale near the highway.
Waterfalls
DATANLA FALLS
The nice thing about Datanla Falls (admission 5000d) is the short but pleasant walk to get there. The cascade is 350m from Hwy 20 on a path thai first passes through a pine forest and then continues steeply down into a rainforest. The other good thing is the wildlife - lots of squirrels, birds and butterflies. To get to Datania Falls, turn right off Hwy 20 about 200m past the turn- off to Quang Trung Reservoir. It's well signpostcd.
TIGER FALLS
These falls (Thac Hang Cop; admission 4000d) are named after the local legend of a ferocious tiger living in a nearby cave. There's a huge ceramic tiger statue here, as we'll as one of a hill-tribe hunter. The falls themselves are set in a quiet pine forest, and are very photogenic. There are good hiking trails in the area. Tiger Falls is about 14km east of Dalat and can be easily reached by bicycle or motorbike, Follow Đ Hung Vuong to Trai Mat village. From the train station there, continue for another 3.5km to a left-hand turn (signposted). From here it's another 3km along a dirt road to the falls. It is also possible to trek to the falls from Dalat but you'll need to allow a full day.
ANKROET FALLS & LAKES The two Ankroet Lakes were created as part of a hydroelectric project. The waterfall, Thac Ank-roet, is about 15m high. The .Ankroet Lakes are 18km northwest ofDalat in an area inhabited by hill tribes.
ELEPHANT PALLS
A popu.lar stop on the Easy Rider trail, these imposing curved falls (admission 3000d) are best seen from below; a hazardous path heads down to the base - expect to get wet. Nearby, the Linh An Pagoda (2004), has been built to take advantage of the good feng shui of having water in front and a mountain behind. Inside, the large central Buddha is flanked by two multi-armed Buddhas. The one on the right has eyes on his hands, making him all-seeing, while the one of the left has extra arms to help people in need. Around the back is a particularly jolly giant - a Happy Buddha with neon halos and a room built into his ample belly. The falls are situated near the town of Nam Ban, 30km west of Dalat. You can combine this with a visit to Cuong Hoan Traditional Silk Centre .
PONGOUR, GOUGAH & LIEN KHUONG FALLS
The largest in the area, Pongour Falls (admission 6000d) forms a semicircle during the rainy sea-son, but even when it's dry the stepped forma¬tion is impressive. Make the most of it, because these falls could dwindle to a trickle when a hydroelectric dam further up the river opens in 2008. A great viewpoint is the pavilion built for Emperor Bao Dai’s hunting expeditions. The surrounding area has been badly deforested by slash-and-burn agriculture. The falls arc signposted on the right about 50km towards HCMC from Dalat and 6km off the highway. Gougah Falls (admission 5000d) is 36km from Dalat towards HCMC. It is only 500m from the highway so it's easy to get to. At Lien Khuong Falls, the l1m-wide Dan Nhim River drops 15m over an outcrop of volcanic rock. The best view is from the cafe, where buy-ing a coffee covers the admission. Sometimes, when the dam upstream is closed, the water disappears completely. The falls are visible from the highway, not far from Lien Khuong Airport, 28km towards HCMC from Dalat.