Exploring Dalat

Da Lat Travel Blog

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Main reference point

I got a map from the hotel, rented a motorbike for the day, and set out to explore Dalat. The city can seem very confusing when riding in by bus on hilly winding streets, but was not so difficult by motorbike. A communications structure that resembles a narrow Eifel Tower with a big ball on top and two church steeples made perfect reference points since they could be seen from far off in most any direction.

 

My primary objective was to find the old U.S. Army airfield that I had visited several times forty years ago. The map showed an airport to the west and I headed off in that direction. The road passed the Cam Ly Waterfall so I stopped and paid the 10,000 Dong admission. The falls were more a wide spill over smooth rock than a thundering cascade. But the park was well worth the visit with its pine-shaded trails meandering along both sides of the narrow Cam Ly River.

Cam Ly Waterfall
The place had an American west motif with rustic-looking wooden shacks of various venders, statues of deer and eagles, and saddled ponies with western-dressed guides complete with cowboy hats. But real cowboys don't squat. I couldn't tell if the two zebras, also saddled, were genuine or white ponies painted with black stripes, I suspect the latter.

 

Back on the road, I found the 'airport' and sure enough, it was the old army airfield. Long abandoned, I couldn't understand why it would be depicted on a map. The runway looked like it could easily be put back into service. Even its markings were faintly visible and the old control tower still stood. I cruised its length from end to end looking for anything recognizable but my memory was faded more than the runway markings.

 

I rode back into town to familiarize myself with its winding streets.

Festivities at the Cathedral
I had already made a post-war visit to find the Dalat Cathedral three years ago so wasn't going to stop there again. But some kind of colorful activity was taking place so I stopped. The large churchyard was filled with carnival-like gaming booths where youngsters tossed darts, rings around plastic water bottles, and other games which were mostly manned by nuns. Prizes were small, usually sweets. The church itself was closed so I could not get a peek inside.

 

A cool-looking railroad station was also pictured on the map. I found my way there to see if they had trains to Saigon but the line only ran north to Hanoi and points between. I'd rather travel by train than bus, especially coming down the mountains.

Flowers at the railroad station
The station had some nice displays including a retired steam locomotive and some old railroad cars. As everywhere in Dalat, its grounds were covered with colorful flower gardens. There was a twenty minute tour ride available but I set off to circle the city's Xuan Huong Lake instead.

 

The lake is drained for another year or so while a construction project takes place at one end. Normally the picturesque Xuan Huong Lake is the crown jewel of Dalat. Much of the city is centered around it but most of the lakeshore and surroundings are well preserved in their natural state. In hills near the far end I stumbled onto the impressive Cuan The Am Pagoda and stopped for a picture. From there I was able to find my way around the far end and headed back toward the center of town.

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Main reference point
Main reference point
Cam Ly Waterfall
Cam Ly Waterfall
Festivities at the Cathedral
Festivities at the Cathedral
Flowers at the railroad station
Flowers at the railroad station
Buggy at the Cam Ly Falls
Buggy at the Cam Ly Falls
Pony or zebra?
Pony or zebra?
Runway 28
Runway 28
The old control tower
The old control tower
Dalat Cathedral
Dalat Cathedral
Setting up a gaming board
Setting up a gaming board
Ring toss
Ring toss
Dalat railway station
Dalat railway station
Old railroad cars
Old railroad cars
Railroad car
Railroad car
Cuan The Am Pagoda
Cuan The Am Pagoda
Entrance to the Dalat flower park
Entrance to the Dalat flower park
Clock tower near the center of town
Clock tower near the center of town
Clock tower
Clock tower
Dinner time
Dinner time
Da Lat
photo by: Biedjee