Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Landscapes of Dalat highlands

Dalat, a highland city about 257 km in from the coast, reminded us of Toowoomba. It has the cooler temperatures and the red rich soil that has made the area a huge production area for coffee, vegetables and flowers.

This town was also at one time the town where the French escaped the sweltering summer months along the coast to enjoy the cooler highland air. As a result it has many beautiful homes and hotels.

In the Dalat highlands

On a long walk around the town we saw a number of the 2500 lovely houses the town is famous for. It is quite amazing the place developed so much as even now the road we took in the bus from the coast is a very narrow winding road in fairly poor condition.

Dr Alexander Yersin, a protégé of Louis Pasteur apparently spread the word to Europeans about the liveability of the town in the summer months. The town was also spared damage in the Vietnam War as officials of both sides were still using their villas here for relaxation. Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace is in a pine forest here and is not far from the tacky ‘Crazy House’ a guest house designed by a Vietnamese woman from Hanoi who did her architecture degree in Russia.

The building is like a tree, and rooms are decorated in various styles eg the Bear Room has a large bear with glowing eyes. Not the best place to sleep, especially as you would have to be up and out early before the paying sightseers arrive…

In the Dalat highlands

The coffee farm was first. I didn’t know that Vietnam is the world’s second largest producer of coffee, Brazil produces the most and Columbia comes after Vietnam. The French started the plantations. We were shown three types of coffee plants – the older type ‘cherry’ trees, which are tall and not handy for picking etc, and then ‘Robusta’ and Arabica’. They didn’t tell us so but I read that currently they mostly grow Robusta beans which are not as good a quality as the Arabica, so they are starting to change over.

In the Dalat highlands

Last stop was Elephant Falls. Our guide told us a tale of a prince and princess who wanted to marry but were from different ethnic group. As marriage was impossible (this is the Romeo and Juliet story) they killed themselves. The elephants living here heard the story and their tears made the waterfall. We had to walk/climb down a precarious track of steps and rocks with rusted out railings at a few points.

We made it up and back but a bit scary. Occupational health and safety not very developed here. It was however much better than the falls we visited in town. Cam Ly Falls turned out to be a polluted canal type stream that flowed through a small amusement type park. We did see our first ‘horses painted as zebras ‘here however so that was a new experience.

Soon it is our last night in Dalat. For dinner we had a Beef Hotpot where a pot of stock was put over a little burner on the table, and we gradually added and then ate the thin beef slices, green vegetables, herbs and noodles. No complaining about the food in Dalat.
Jannettek (From Australia)

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