The Cathedral of Dalat
Da Lat Travel Blog› entry 32 of 62 › view all entries
Though my city map from the hotel was in Vietnamese, I recognized the small sketch of a familiar church. The Cathedral of Dalat was a prominent landmark in 1970 when I snapped a picture of it as we flew an approach to the airfield one day. My Army maintenance team descended into the mountain retreat town not to attend church but to party after completing a month of work on one of our helicopters. A Lambreta (three-wheeled taxi) shuttled the four of us from the red clay airstrip to a pine-covered hillside villa where we drank beer and mingled with Vietnamese girls; a little in-country R & R. The Central Highlands made for an ideal getaway from the heat, humidity, and stenches of jet fuel exhaust, hydraulic oil, and burning shit at our helicopter base down near the coast. I only had an instamatic camera then and most of the pictures are faded now.
To minimize time standing on a street corner studying the map, I refolded it to only show the area between the hotel and the sketch of the church then slipped it into a leg pocket of my cargo pants. Lost travelers are easy targets. As it turned out, I didn't need the map at all as it was easy enough to visualize crossing the second bridge then go left on the second street which showed wider than the others. The map displayed curvy streets but not the hills. Only one hill, just after the bridge (visible in the 1970 photo), had me huffing into a light sweat that was refreshing - nicely chilled by morning mountain air. People paid me no mind and scurried on with bustling lives which made the walk even more pleasant.
Shortly after turning onto a four-lane boulevard, the church came into view. Built by the French in 1942, the Cathedral of Dalat - with its 47-meter high steeple - still stands fully intact. As for Madam Tai's Villa, the city now blankets most surrounding hillsides and no other map sketch rings a bell.