Dalat Vietnam: The French-Inspired City of Eternal Spring

Deep in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, Dalat is a  former French hill station that sits high up in the mountains at around 5,000 feet above sea level.

Popular with domestic tourists, Dalat is a honeymoon destination nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” on account of its consistent temperature of around 50-70 degrees. And the mountain air was undoubtedly chilly; Dalat’s weather had me pulling out my hoodie for the first time in Southeast Asia.

But I came to Dalat searching for traces of Indochine, the former French colony that once encapsulated Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I have a fascination with colonialism and nothing intrigues me more than the blend of my two favorite countries: France and Vietnam.

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And you certainly could see the French influence in Dalat, in the wide boulevards, hill-top villas and butter cookies. Not as much as I had expected, but it was there.

From the pastries in the bakery windows…

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To the stained glass in the Catholic churches… e4

To the turn-of-the-century French architecture.

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But I soon realized what I really should have been looking for was right in front of me- the non-touristed Vietnam of the Central Highlands.

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From the incredible street food on Nha Chung street… (No really, go there if you’re looking for a good meal.) IMG_9588

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To the pristine, almost Alpine nature surrounding the city…

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To hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving stodgy food that was perfect for the cool climate.

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One of the more memorable dishes I tried in Dalat was cháo vịt, a savory rice porridge topped with boiled duck, duck liver and duck boudin noir. As Anthony Bourdain put it, chao vit was like ”chicken soup and baby food at the same time.” Strange, but yummy.

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As became usual in Vietnam, Dalat had me wondering, how can I feasibly fit all of this amazing food into my stomach? How can I squeeze all of this goodness into only three days?

Because soon I would be leaving Dalat on a two-day, 200-kilometer motorcycle trip that would take me all the way to the coastal city of Mui Ne. Stay tuned…

Have you ever explored Vietnam’s Central Highlands?

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14 Comments

  1. As with like everywhere I didn’t go in Vietnam, I was so sad I didn’t have time to see Dalat. Your pictures make it look stunning and the food… I need to get back to that country!
    Amanda @ Farsickness recently posted..Burma: The Greatest HitsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Well let me know if you need a travel buddy, I’d love to go back!

  2. Terrific to read your adventures; and the food mention was particularly fun – especially the local haunts! Great stuff!!!!!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the support, Leah! The food in Dalat (as in the rest of Vietnam) was truly outstanding!

  3. I would love to see all of this beautiful looking country one day. But I’m particularly entranced by the places that have beautifully preserved vestiges of their colonial era days.

    Have you ever seen the French movie “Indochine” starring Catherine Denuve? It’s one of my favs.
    Julie recently posted..Applesauce Cake with Kentucky Bourbon FrostingMy Profile

    Reply
    • Wow, how have I not heard of that! Definitely next on my list, thanks for the tip :)

  4. looks great. it’s fun when a city has the influence of somewhere else. Goa used to be Portuguese, so you’ll see lots of indian families living in these gorgeous stone mansions instead of typical indian brick houses
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Kicking Back on Koh Lanta IslandMy Profile

    Reply
    • I would love to see Goa! I went to Macau and enjoyed seeing the Portuguese influence there :)

  5. Interesting history. Sometimes it’s nice to see the familiar in places that are unfamiliar (if that makes sense). Dalat looks beautiful and delicious. Great writing, by the way.
    Blakeley AeroSea recently posted..top ten tuesday [2]My Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks! The Central Highlands were definitely worth visiting :)

  6. Great photo Ashley! I spent 3 months cycling the full length of this country and I’ve seen so many amazing places there. The food was so good and I loved the temples!
    Agness recently posted..Why 2013 Has Been So AwesomeMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s so amazing you spent so long traveling Vietnam! I’d love to do a similar trip someday :)

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