In case anyone missed me, I am spending a 3-month visa period back in Viet Nam to chill out and re-charge the batteries. I decided to spend more time in two of my favorite places in order to get a better idea of the vibe and if this could be a more permanent spot for me. I spent all of November in Da Lat. Da Lat is a mountain town in the Central Highlands, about 1500 meters. Accordingly, it is cool when the rest of the country is hot. It is also beautiful; the nickname is “The City of Eternal Spring”. The area is a agricultural center for the rest of the country, so the eating is good and there is more fresh fruit and vegetable than the rest of Viet Nam It has a lot of Sonoma County, California-type of feel to it. It even has a wine industry; the wine is not bad but has a long way to go to compete with California.
Da Lat was developed as a French “hill station” back in the early 1930’s, a cool-weather getaway from the administrative center in Sai Gon. There was an obvious land-rush to the development of the area. There are a ton of French mountain chateau-style homes and buildings along with lots of Art Deco embellishments. It’s clear that the French elite of the day chose Da Lat as their place to show off. The only 5-star hotel in the country is here, grand and empty on the shores of the central lake.
Da Lat was one of the few places in the country that received a tacit “hands-off” from both forces during the American War. Indeed, there are many stories of cadet officer training schools for both sides co-existing in the same neighborhoods. There was no bombing here and the beautiful buildings from the 1930’s exist with no more than typical urban decay. Here it is: