While it’s likely you haven’t heard of Da Lat before, it would be a shame to pass through this city on your way to the south of Vietnam without stopping. Unlike any other city I’ve visited in Vietnam, Da Lat (ironically) offers tourists a bit of an escape from most things “Vietnamese”. While there is still a lot going on, its structures (thanks to the French) and movements feel different. Da Lat is also considered a wealthier part of Vietnam due to its export of flowers and coffee. There are lots of things to do in Da Lat: many travelers rent motorbikes to explore the surrounding countryside, but there is also plenty to see within the city center if you’re not wanting to risk your life maneuvering through the hectic streets.
1. Browse Through The Da Lat Market (Cho Da Lat)
While this market doesn’t come close to the other markets throughout South East Asia, what makes it quite unique is that it’s catered mainly to locals, giving it a much more authentic feeling. On the top floor you’ll find a random assortment of clothing, trinket, and leather goods stalls. On the bottom floor, which is basically all outside, there is a selection of vegetable, and fresh and dried fruit vendors.
2. Taste The Fresh Strawberries & Mulberries
A few steps away from the market (where the roundabout is), you’ll see lots of vendors selling fresh strawberries and mulberries. Because Da Lat has lots of strawberry farms, you can expect the strawberries to be cheap (still be sure to haggle!) and fresh. Alternatively, you can pay a visit to a strawberry farm yourself.
3. Da Lat’s Very Own Eiffel Tower
Da Lat has been called “the Paris of Vietnam”, which may sound a bit odd until you notice the large replica Eiffel Tower in the middle of the city. Designed as a telecommunications tower, one of the reasons it resembles the Eiffel Tower is likely due to the former French influence on the city. Just like the real thing, it’s much nicer at night when it’s lit up.
4. Rent A Motorbike
Though I didn’t end up renting a motorbike in Da Lat (after a rough experience in Bali, I refuse to ever do it again), this is a great city in which to go out for the day and explore the hilly countryside. There’s much to see and do on the outskirts of the city, and renting a motorbike is the easiest and cheapest way to get around.
5. Go On A Countryside Tour
Despite not giving the Countryside Tour the best reviews in my last post, I am glad I went on it simply for the fact that I was able to see basically every main industry and historical piece that makes up Da Lat. On this tour we saw: a flower village (unimpressed), Cil Lat People village (awkward), coffee plantation (awesome), cricket farm (weird), rice wine distillery (not much going on), silk factory (a bit gross but cool), Linh An Pagoda (cutest Buddha I’ve ever seen!), Elephant Waterfalls (disappointing), Crazy House (very odd, but interesting), and the Old Railway Station (bit of history, but also a bit boring).
6. Eat The Regional Food
There were a few stand-out food items in Da Lat that I didn’t see elsewhere in Vietnam. One such item is banh can: rice flour cakes that are baked in small clay bowls over hot coals with a quail egg inside. You should also try “Da Lat Pizza”, known to locals as banh trang: a thin piece of rice paper is cooked over charcoal with simple toppings like shrimp, quail eggs, and onion. If you’re looking for a little treat, you can head to Lien Hoa, an extremely popular bakery in Da Lat.
7. Buy Cheap Flowers Just Because
Since Da Lat is well known for growing flowers and distributing them to other parts of Vietnam, you might as well take advantage of the incredibly cheap flower prices at local markets and buy a flower or two. It’s not often you can buy a rose for pennies, so whether you’re traveling with a friend, significant other, or solo, go ahead and treat them (or yourself!).
8. Visit A Local Wet Market
Though not very big, it was fascinating to walk around and see the exchanges between customer and seller. There were large colorful buckets set up along this small river that were filled with fish and shellfish. Though the smell wasn’t entirely pleasant, it was quite the sight to get a glimpse into the every day life of the locals here.
9. Try Some Unique Dessert
In Da Lat you’ll find a few dessert shops that specialize in selling ice cream concoctions. One of their more popular flavours? Avocado. While I didn’t try the avocado, the dessert I did have was fresh and delicious. You’ll also see shops later on at night when it gets cold selling soupy desserts in massive simmering bowls that they glop into a little baggy for you to take away.
10. Grab A Beer And Relax By The Lake
If you’re in need of a few hours to sit back and recharge (without breaking the bank), then grab a Saigon beer at a local convenience store and make your way down to Da Lat’s lake. Head to any of the numerous benches found around the lake and take it easy. If you’re feeling a bit more fancy, there’s a few restaurants along the lake that you can grab a bite to eat at.