Da Lat, Vietnam: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Da Lat, a.k.a as Dalat is a city located in the South Central Highlands region of Vietnam. It was founded in the 19th century by the French physician Alexandre Yersin. The city was the favorite destination of the French colonists in Indochina era due to its milder climate. In its beginnings, Dalat possessed only a mountain resort and a mental sanatorium, but nowadays, Dalat has a lot to offer to a curious traveler. It is a home of the legend of Lang and Biang, the Vietnamese Romeo and Juliet.
It used to be a leisure place for the French where they built villas to enjoy the clear mountain air and escape the heat and crowd of the coastal areas. It is not a really big city but what makes it a great tourist location are its beautiful surroundings. The city is surrounded by hills covered with pines, lakes, mountain peaks, all of which make for an incredible idyllic scenery. If you are into adventurous sports such as mountain biking, hiking, and other this is a great place for you.
History of Da Lat
In the beginning, the French set up a few experimental bases in Dankia, which is about 13km to the northwest of Dalat. Nevertheless, after continuing to explore Dankia and Dalat in 1900, Governor-General P. Doumer selected Dalat.
In 1914, the road from Phan Thiet , on the central coast, to Dalat through Djiring crossing was opened and automobiles could reach Dalat for the first time in only half a day’s journey.
Dalat during the period of its founding was not yet a city, but rather just a cursory vacation spot reserved for the French.
As for administrative establishments, at that time, only a few wooden buildings were set up, like the Governor-General’s residence, the hospital, the envoy’s residence, and the Indochinese Guard building. In 1907, the first tavern was established, which later became the Hotel de Lac and which today is the Information Office.
Starting in 1923, Dalat’s population was about 1,500 people. By 1938, the population had risen to 9,500 people and by 1939 it reached 11,500 people, among them 600 Frenchmen.
When World War II occurred, it created a favorable opportunity for Dalat to transform itself again. The war made it impossible for the French to return to their mother country on holiday and they flocked to Dalat. The war also made it impossible for commodities from France to be brought over to Indochina. The French administration in Indochina had to apply a policy of self-sufficient production.
In 1942, a large-scale program for vegetable cultivation was implemented. Formerly, Dalat had to purchase vegetables from neighboring areas like Don Duong. After the program, in 1944, Dalat not only had sufficient vegetables for consumption, but also surplus vegetables to sell, especially in the winter.
With these developments, Dalat crossed over into a stage of prosperity and reached the pinnacle of its prosperity under French colonization in 1944. For nearly half of the year, Dalat was the real capital of Indochina as the Governor-General and virtually all important government offices relocated to work in Dalat. By April 1944, Dalat had up to 5,600 Westerners, a record number. In 1954, the French left Indochina, and Dalat began a new period of development.
Da Lat’s attractions and landmarks
Da Lat is one of the most visited cities in Vietnam. Although not big in size and population, it has a very rich history and nature surrounding it. Some of the most famous landmarks in and around Da Lat are:
Dalat Waterfalls- there are several waterfalls and cataracts in the vicinity of Dalat, the most famous, Datanla cataract; Xuan Huong Lake- crescent shaped lake located in the heart of Dalat; Dalat Cathedral- Christian cathedral in honor of San Nicolas built by French settlers in 1942; The Lang Biang Mountain- Nature Park 2167 meters high a mountain named after the legend of lovers and Biang Lang; The Valley of Love- located 5 kilometers north of Dalat; Dalat Railway Station- old railway station of the year 1936, whose art deco architecture is a replica of the station of trains of Normandy (France) located in the street Nguyen Trai. After the Vietnam war, this station was obsolete, since the train lines were destroyed by bombing. Converted into a Museum of the train, today one can enjoy a short walk of 17 kilometers in a Russian locomotive that will leave them in the nearby town of Trai Mat; The Dalat Flower Garden- located in one corner of the Xuan Huong Lake, the Dalat flower garden has more than 300 different species of flowers; Truc Lam Pagoda- huge resort located in the mountains, very close to the Tuyen Lam Lake. The Truc Lam Pagoda was built in 1990, and although it lacks the old Buddhist touch, is a popular tourist spot; Linh Phuoc Pagoda- peculiar Asian style pagoda built in 1952. The main building has a statue of Buddha sitting in lotus position 5 meters high; Bao Dai Palace- the Bao Dai Pacio was the summer residence of the last emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty of Vietnam.
Nowadays, Da Lat is rapidly developing, but it still keeps its past and its traditional spirit alive by preserving old villages, landmarks and building new ones. Da Lat has a lot more to offer, these are only a few attractions that we thought would be interesting and useful to mention.