Outside Da Lat
What we say:
Take the road heading out of Da Lat south towards Ho Chi Minh City and within a few kilometres you'll come across the turning for Tuyen Lam lake. The most scenic lake in the area has 'putt putt' boats which take you to the far shore, where it's possible to ride elephants and visit the Nam Qua area, which has gazebos with reasonably priced BBQ meat including deer and wild boar. The cost of the boat trip depends on how many people travelling -- to reduce costs find others to buddy up. Prices are: 1-5 pax: 200,000 VND, 6-10 pax: 250,000 VND, 11-15 pax: 300,000 VND.
Overlooking the lake, and a five-minute drive from the ticket office car park, is Truc Lam pagoda. Built in 1993, it's Da Lat's best maintained and prettiest Buddhist shrine. The temple halls are immaculate and a very impressive cast bronze bell sits at the site, but the best thing is the location. The grounds are set on the hillside above Tuyen Lam Lake, and there couldn't be a more perfect place for a picnic. A sensible itinerary is as follows: take the cable car to Truc Lam one way, then head down to the lake from the pagoda. The cable cars cost 50,000 VND for a return journey or 35,000 VND one-way and are accessible from Ba Thang Thu (3/4 St) just past the city bus station in the south of the city.
A few metres after the turnoff to Tuyen Lam Lake is the entrance to Datanla Waterfall. Here you can stroll through the forest until you arrive at this medium-sized fall and rapids. Also at Datanla is a newly installed luge -- the ride to the bottom costs 20,000 VND for adults and 15,000 for kids.
Traditional silk centres are beginning to welcome tourists and one such place is the Cuong Hoan centre. Although very small, local workers use traditional methods to extract fine strands of silk. It's possible to buy embroidered silk from this centre and others such as XQ, which is on the road to the Valley of Love. At XQ you'll get a much more tailored tourist experience -- this is a 'historical village' after all. Here you can observe the silk being embroidered, or browse the museum of embroidered arts.
Nearby Cuong Hoan, about 20km from Da Lat, are the Elephant Falls. The climb down to this fall is over crude steps chiselled into the rock, and once at the bottom there is no special viewing platform -- you just make use of the rocks available. A small pagoda sits at the site (Linh An Tu pagoda) and includes a contented sitting Buddha statue.
By far the most impressive falls in the area, Pongour Falls are worth the 55km drive. Turn off Highway 20 at the sign and the unsealed road is a bumpy 8km away. This waterfall is 30m high and stretches 100m across in a semi-circular shape, presenting an impressive spectacle. It's also possible to have lunch here at one of the numerous small restaurants serving meat, rice, noodles and cold drinks.
Chicken Village is a place tourists are bound to be dragged to by their tour bus. It's dubbed an ethnic minority town but in truth it is a collection of huts just off the road to Nha Trang, 17km from Da Lat. Tourists get off their bus, take a picture of the big chicken statue, look around the stalls selling souvenir items and leave.
Also popular is Suoi Vang or the Golden Stream, around 18km from Da Lat. At around 12km towards the stream are some much better flower gardens than those in the city, and a beautiful picnic area. Suoi Vang is located at Dankia Lake which can be seen from Lang Bian Mountain -- the highest peak is 2,400m. Lang Bian is featured in the itineraries of the outdoor adventure companies in Da Lat -- undoubtedly the best way to explore the natural features surrounding the city.
Outlying areas contain a number of other waterfalls, lakes and ethnic minority village attractions, available via city tours or a good motorcycle guide.
Truyen Lam Lake Ticket Office - 15 Phan Nhu Thach St, T: (063) 510 612. Daily 07:30-18:00.
Truc Lam Pagoda - Daily - 06:00-18:00. Admission: free
Datanla Falls - Quoc Lo 20, Deo Prenn, Da Lat. T: (063) 831 804. Daily 07:30-17:00
Cuong Hoan Traditional Silk Centre - Nam Ban, Lam Ha, Lam Dong, T:(063) 852 338.
XQ Historical Village - 258 Mai Anh Dao St, Da Lat. T: (063) 831 343. Website: www.xq-suquan.com.vn
Elephant Falls - Lam Ha, Lam Dong, Daily 07:00-17:00, Admission 5,000 VND.
Pongour Falls - Highway 20. Daily 06:00-17:00, Admission: 6,000 VND.
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