Truc Lam Pagoda is a Zen Buddhist monastery six kilometres south of Da Lat city centre. Set on top of a hill shrouded in pine forest, it’s a pleasure to take a quiet stroll through the grounds which are full of exceptionally pretty gardens.
Built in 1994, the main ceremonial hall is flanked by a drum temple and bell temple. What’s refreshing, aside from the fresh air and flutter of bird song, is that this is an active temple which means you’ll get a glimpse of monastic life. It is also free of nuisances such as aggressive vendors, a common issue you encounter at other temples in Vietnam – though be prepared to navigate your way around noisy tour groups.
The monastery is located at the southern terminus of the city’s scenic cable car ride, so it’s best to combine these two experiences before walking down the steps to tranquil Tuyen Lam Lake (ho Tuyen Lam), also known as Paradise Lake.
Tuyen Lam is actually an artificial reservoir but it still feels like a slice of wilderness. In fact, “tuyen” means stream, “lam” means forest, and you will see this name is apt as this is where the two meet. The lake is surrounded by green hills that seem to intensify the vibrancy of the waters.
If you want to get out onto those waters, you can hire a touring motorboat (300,000 VND) or a gaudy swan paddleboat (60,000 VND). Kayaking is a great eco-friendly way to explore all 350 hectares of the placid waters. Arrange a kayaking trip with Phat Tire Ventures. A daytrip including lunch and an optional 10 kilometre hike is US$43 per person. Their office is at 109 Nguyen Van Troi Street; T: (063) 3829 422; www.ptv-vietnam.com.
How to get there
To get to Truc Lam Pagoda, take the 2.4 kilometre cable car from Robin Hill (50,000 VND one way, 70,000 VND round-trip). This will bring you to one of two entrances. The other entrance is at the bottom of the hill at Tuyen Lam Lake. There are tree-shaded picnic tables in the public areas of the monastery should you want to bring a snack. The pagoda and lake are usually included in easy rider motorcycle day tours. If you’re on your own two wheels, then head south from the city and take either Tran Thanh Tong, or Highway 20/the Prenn Pass, turning right onto Truc Lam Yen Tu. Free admission.
By Cindy Fan.
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