Within Da Lat

Distractions more than attractions

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What we say: 3.5 stars

In the words of one local restaurateur, Da Lat's tourist sites are more 'distraction' than 'attraction'. The best way to orientate yourself for a solid day of distraction is by using Xuan Huong lake. The lake's circumference is 7 km and all or part of it makes for good walking.

The Flower Gardens sit at the lake's northern edge and are average at best. Marble walkways lead through the flower displays and some comment that the design is not fantastic.

Not too far away from here, also past the lake to the north, is the Cremaillere Railway. An old Russian steam engine lies dormant here on the line that once ran from Da Lat to Thap Cham. Now it's only possible to take the train 5 kms down the line to Trai Mat where you have 30 minutes to explore a nearby pagoda before returning. Total journey time is 90 minutes and costs 70,000. Departure times are at 06:30, 08:00, 09:30, 11:00, 14:00 and 15:30. The train needs a minimum of three people before leaving. The nearby Linh Phuoc pagoda in Trai Mat is a complex containing one temple with a five-metre high Buddha and one tower which holds a huge bell -- it is one of the most interesting pagodas in the area and worth a short look-in. You can also get there easily by motorbike.

Over towards the south of the city is the Crazy House. Designed by the daughter of Ho Chi Minh's third successor to the presidency of Vietnam, this may explain how she was able to get away with it. It's crazy in the sense that a kid's adventure playground is crazy. The bizarre structure has a number of rooms all linked to together by walkways, ramps and steps -- entertaining for a very short length of time.

A few minutes from the Crazy House is Bao Dai's Summer Palace. Bao Dai was the son of Emperor Khai Dinh. The palace, built in the 1930s, remains in it's original state, furnishings and all. Palace may be a tad misleading -- the building is more an elaborate French villa. It's full of interesting artefacts relating to Bao Dai's life and is worth a visit despite there being little information in English.

A few kilometres north of Xuan Huong lake is the Valley Of Love. It's not worth visiting unless you're in the market for some terrible kind of kitsch product, or taking a canoe out onto the totally unimpressive lake. The Valley Of Love has been turned into a bus drop off point for tourists, as the constant coming and going of tour coaches will show.

Last updated: 16th August, 2007

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