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Dalat overview

Photo of Entry:  Dalat overview

Code: 063
Popilation: 188,400
Elevation: 1475m

Dalat is quite different from anywhere else you’ll visit in Vietnam. You would almost be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the French Alps in springtime. This was certainly how the former colonists treated it - escaping to their chalets to enjoy the cooler climate.

The French feel is compounded by a radio mast shaped like the Eiffe! Tower and the local bohemian artists’ predilection for swaning around in berets. Dalat is small enough to remain charming, and the surrounding countryside is blessed with lakes, waterfalls, evergreen forests and gardens.

Local products include silk, garden vegetables and flowers (especially beautiful hydrangeas), which are sold all over southern Vietnam. But the biggest contribution to the economy is tourism: more than 800,000 domestic tourists and another 80,000 foreigners visit here every year. It’s the country’s favourite honeymoon spot and still retains the final word in Vietnamese kitsch.

The Dalat area was once famous for hunting and a 1950s brochure boasted that “a two-hour drive from the town leads to several game-rich areas abounding in deer, roe, pea-cocks, pheasants, wild boar, black bear, wild caws, panthers, tigers, gaurs and elephants”. So successful were the hunters that all of the big game is now extinct. The closest you’ll get to the formerly diverse fauna are the taxidermied specimens about town.

The city’s population includes about 5000 members of hill tribes, which make up 33 distinct communities in Lam Dong produce. Traditional dress can occasionally be spotted in the market places. Hill-tribe women of this area carry their infants on their backs in a long piece of cloth worn over one shoulder and tied in the front.

The City of Eternal Spring, Dalat’s temperature hovers between a pleasant 150C (average daily minimum) to 240C (average daily maximum). Effectively Dalat has two seasons - dry (December to March) and wet (April to November). Despite the mild temperatures, by the end of the dry season the lush green surrounds torn to brown. Even in the wet season, morning normally remain dry - allowing time for sightseeing before the deluge begins.

History
This area has been home to various Montagnard (hill tribe) groups for centuries. In the local Lat language, Da Lat means “River of the Lat Tribe”.

The first European to ‘discover’ Dalat was Dr Alexandre Yersin in 1893. The city was established in 1912 and quickly became fashionable with Europeans. At one point during the French colonial period, some 20% of Dalat’s population was foreign, as evidenced by the 2500-odd chateau-style villas scattered around the city.

During the American War, Dalat was spared by the tacit agreement of all parties concemed. Indeed, it seems that while South Vietnamese soldiers were being trained at the city’s military academy and affluent officials of the Saigon regime were relaxing in their villas, Vict Cong cadres were doing the same thing not far away in their villas. Dalat fefl to North Vietnamese fences without a fight on 3 April 1975. There is no problem with leftover mines and ordnance in the area.

Orientation
Dalats sights are spread out and the terrain in and around the city is hilly. Still, trekking or cycling is made easier by the cool temperatures. The Central Market, set in a hollow, marks the middle of the town. To the south-east the “Effel Tower” of the main post office is a useful landmark, rising above the southern shore of XuanHuong Lake.

Information
INTERNET ACCESS

The main post office (right) has fast, cheap connections.
MEDICAL SERVICES

Lam Dong Generaf Hospital
Tel: 821369 – Add: 4 PhamNgocThach Str
MONEY

Agribark
Tel 827 740 – Add: 36 Hoa Binh Sq
Incombank

Tel: 822 586 – Add: 1D Le Dai Hanh
No ATM, but this big branch exchanges travellers cheques and foreign currencies.
Vietcombank
Add: 7 Tran Phu Str
ATM outside the Novotel Dalat

POST
Main post office
Tel: 822 586 – Add: 14 B Tran Phu
Opposite the Novotel Dalat - has international telephone, fax and email (2000d per hour).

Source: Bike Da Lat


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