Around Dalat

Prenn Falls - best avoidedDon’t bother with the oversold Prenn and Datanla waterfalls. The former is packed with tasteless extras – imitation wooden walkways made of cement, faux rope bridges, tiny yachts, and a wholly unnecessary cable car.

The water is polluted, and a small army of avaricious vendors make for a depressing experience. The Datanla waterfall is better, but nothing like the promotion suggests.

The Valley of Love – what’s in a name?
Serenity, gentle strolls through shady forest, trailing fingers in the water as your boat glides silently across the still water? Forget it! The reality is blaring music, a proliferation of cheap souvenir stalls and the noise and smell of motorboats. As it is, it’s best left to those who like that sort of thing.

The Lake of Sorrows
It’s an appropriate name, but not for the weepy lover’s suicide legend from which it’s derived. The lake is fine, and the forest is OK, but the souvenir shops selling stuffed wild animals and a whole posse of Dalat cowboys is enough to make any responsible tourist weep.

The chicken is interesting, but that's allFowl play!
The last of the downside of Dalat’s strange idea of tourism attractions is the Chicken Village. Once a KoHo ethnic minority village, it’s now a heavily-commercialised operation making inferior woven material to sell to tourists.

Authentic? The five-metre high cement chicken that stands in the middle of the village says it all.

The tiger reigns supreme!
And so it should, considering it’s about six metres high and made of concrete! Accompanied by a much smaller primitive hunter, it guards the way down to the Hang Cop (Tiger Cave) waterfall. Once the concrete tableau is behind you, the falls are impressive and you can scramble around on the rocks to your heart’s content (at your own risk, of course). It’s a good place for picnics.

Image by John Cryer and Diane Lakeman

An oriental extravaganza
Much closer to Dalat city is the Linh Phuoc Pagoda. It’s an impressive building both inside and out, a whimsical example of the art of tessellation. The expansive central hall is dominated by a large Buddha with a colourful neon halo.

However, the best feature is a superb concrete dragon in a garden beside the pagoda. Its lifelike scales are fashioned from thousands of carefully cut La Rue beer bottles, many still complete with the familiar tiger motif.

There’s no indication of what happened to the contents of the bottles, but the monks are a jolly lot!

A patchwork of small fieldsBack in the real world
A recommended excursion is a trip to Trai Mat village, either a short car journey, a pleasant bike ride or about a four-hour gentle hike there and back.

The object of the exercise is not the village, which is unremarkable, but the intensive market gardening around the city. It’s a fascinating visit for anyone interested in serious gardening.

If you travel with Haivenu, we’ll find you an expert local guide to explain some of the more arcane techniques used to harvest nature’s bounty.

Still touristy, but with some merit is the Tuyen Lam Lake and the Truc Lam Pagoda. The best way to approach them is via a recently installed cable-car which offers excellent views of the forest and the lake.

The pagoda is a Buddhist meditation centre, and hence not open to visitors, but the gardens are well designed and a riot of colour. The far side of the lake is dense pine forests that contain a small eco-lodge ‘tree house’ development.

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