Da Lat City (VietNam)

Affectionately called as the ‘Alps of Vietnam,’ Dalat is a delightful mountainous settlement hence a cooler temperature compared to other parts of the country. At approximately 1, 500 masl, it is an area that’s very reminiscent of my home in the Philippines (Baguio). After spending a day at the coastal town of Mui Ne, I decided to see this highland city. Indeed the scenery along the way is beautiful and quite unlike anywhere else in Vietnam, making it a rightly inimitable destination.

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My local guide told me that there is so much to see in Dalat – from various flower parks, old French mansions, natural wonders like waterfalls and lakes, monasteries and temples, and much more. So it was obvious that my planned day trip wouldn’t be enough. Nonetheless, I have truly enjoyed my Dalat experience. Here are the places I have visited in Vietnam’s City of Flowers.

For lovers of the outdoors, go chasing waterfalls or maybe spend sometime boating in on of the city’s lakes.

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Prenn Waterfalls (Khu du lịch thác Prenn) — the gateway of Dalat. This 9m high, 20m wide body of water, lies on the stream of Prenn. The water flows down over a cliff of basalt rock creating a white curtain of water like the hair of a fairy.

Pongour Waterfalls (Thac Pongour) – about 40 kilometers south of Dalat is the lovely Pongour Waterfall. One has to go through a steep walk down in order to see it. It is a very wide waterfall (I don’t know but it looks like Merloquet Falls to me. Merloquet is a waterfall in Zamboanga Philippines). The view in Pongour is undeniably worth it. Just be extra careful on the slippery rocks.

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Tuyền Lâm Lake is a man-made lake in Đà Lạt city. It is one of 21 National Tourism Areas. Also called Paradise Lake, this lake was created by Tia stream (the main water from Da Tam river). Tuyen means stream while Lam means forest. Literally, it is a place for water and tree meeting each other.

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Truc Lam Monastery is beautiful monastery near Tuyen Lam Lake, perched atop the Phoenix Mountain. It was built in 1993 by 3 Vietnamese architects with new style of Buddhism architecture. One major feature of this modern monastery includes a rectangle shaped sanctum. The surroundings are a lot of traditional Vietnamese pagodas made of ferroconcrete. Adding up to its charm is the beautiful natural landscapes around the monastery. Making it not only a place of worship and meditation but also a perfect spot to admire Vietnamese culture.

Cock Church (Con Ga Church) is an interesting cathedral located on Tran Phu Street. It features Rome architecture and is regarded as the oldest colonial building that the French designed in Vietnam. The name “Cock” is used by the locals to refer to a man-made cock found atop the tower. Near the church is a notable landmark in the city – a seeming replica of ‘the Eiffel Tower’.  Dalat, also being dubbed as the little Paris of Vietnam, has this Eiffel-like communications tower owned by a telephone provider Vietnam, Viettel Mobile. You can just walk around the area and you’ll be surprised to see other sights like gardens and city parks.

The temperature in Dalat is pleasantly warm during the day and quite cool at night. Because of this, Dalat is a provider of pleasant harvest for all over Vietnam, from vegetables to flowers. So do not be shocked if you happen to see flower farms. And just like most parts of Vietnam, Dalat also has an abundance of pretty coffee shops. Truly, Dalat City is a breath of fresh air.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’…

Mui Ne (VietNam)

I once saw a photo of a friend of mine posing happily in what it seems to be a desert. I looked into its caption and I was surprised to read – “Vietnam sand dunes”. I never knew Vietnam have such beautiful natural wonder. My nosiness got the better of me hence I did a little more research. And voila! Vietnam indeed is home not only to one sand dunes but two!

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When an opportunity to visit the Land of the Ascending Dragon came about, I did not have second thoughts of putting the red and white sand dunes experience on top of my list (even displacing my desire to see the world-renowned ha Long Bay).

Mui Ne – a large fishing community and is regarded as a burgeoning coastal resort town in Phan Thiet Vietnam. It is also bounded by distinctive natural formations, lush mountains, and fragments of the ancient Champa Kingdom. So it isn’t really surprising that this once quiet town is now gaining the interest of both local and foreign travelers. My short visit gave me a chance to see the following wonders at this side of Vietnam.

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Suoi Tien or more commonly called “The Fairy Stream”. This is a small watercourse that goes perpendicular to the main road of Mui Ne. The walk through the stream is best enjoyed if you take off your shoes and stride through the water. It is said that the flowing water comes from Ham Tien’s Dinh Mountain. The stream’s depth is just about an ankle-deep so it’s pretty safe.

The Fairy Stream walk is such a camerawork hotspot. I love how histrionic the landscape can be as various hues of reds, oranges, whites, and greens flash before your eyes. This nature weathered formation looks to me a water crevice that is fringed by a mingling of red and white sand at one side and a sprawling greenery at the other side. Some interesting rock formations are also found along the way, adding up beauty to the place. There is even an ostrich farm where one can do ostrich riding (which I personally do not recommend, please be kind to animals folks). It isn’t surprising though that some food stalls are set along the way.

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Next stop is Mui Ne’s fishing village. This is a good place to observe the local’s life. They say that the best time to visit the Fishing Village is in the morning (as people sort and sell out the catch of the day). It can be pretty chaotic they say. It was just past mid-day when I got there so I wasn’t able to witness such scene. Nonetheless, I was fascinated to see a bird’s eye view of its coastline with innumerable, colorful fishing boats seemingly fixed on the water. (Later that day, on the way back to the hotel, I stopped by the lookout and took some sunset photos too.)

The highlight of my Mui Ne trip – experiencing its Sand Dunes! These are geological spectacles I have been excited about. These Saharan-like red and white sand dunes are such sights to behold.

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The White Sand Dunes or Bau Trang (White Lake) to most locals. These are the larger dunes compared to the red counterpart. It is also farther from Mui Ne town center. From the highway, one will be amazed as to how expansive the dunes are. Several lakes will greet you as well. I think these bodies of water adds splendor to these natural wonders.
They say that the best way to experience the white sand dunes is through a four-wheeler. These are available for rental and cost is 400,000 Dong or $16 USD for 30 minutes. I, however, chose to walk my way. Atop the ridges, I was pleasantly stunned because the place is really mesmerizing. It was like standing in the middle of the Gobi or Sahara desert. I can feel the sand brushing off my legs as the wind blows. This also caused the sand dunes to be changing hence they tend to look downright different from time to time.

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After enjoying my time at the White Dunes, I went to see its Red equivalent. The Red Sand Dunes are much nearer to the town center. As its name implies, sand dunes in this area are reddish-brown that becomes more vivid during sundown. Hence, the best times of the day to come visit are during sunrise and or sunset. I have noticed that this seems to be a more popular place from among visitors (maybe because it is easier to reach). If White Sand Dunes offer 4-wheel driving, the Red Sand Dunes is a place for sand-sledding. I have tried sandboarding in the Philippines’ so I thought sledding would be much more fun (and dirty).

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I spent several minutes sand-sledding as I wait for the sunset. More and more people start to flock the area as they seem to be eager to see the sun drift. After an hour of waiting, the sky becomes more magical. The view from the sand dunes is really gorgeous. It was something worth waiting as the setting sun starts to bathe the dunes with a more radiant hue.

My day ends with a sumptuous meal of scallops and seafood pizza. Being in a fishing town has added perks like abundant and fresh seafood at a very low cost. It was a short but very satisfying experience. If you want to stay a little longer in Mui Ne, there are other places to explore (which I hope to see next time). Some of these include Linh Son Truong Tho Pagoda atop Ta Cu Mountain (this houses Vietnam’s largest statue of a reclining Buddha), Mui Ne beaches (which are perfect for kitesurfing, and surfing), Van Thuy Tu Temple (the largest and oldest whale temple in Phan Thiet) and much more.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”juan”…