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Dalat is For Lovers

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Vietnam is a busy whirl of constant surprises. One day you’re learning about the American War another you seem to have walked into a postcard, and then one day, you wake up and you’re in Paris.

Well, sort of. “The Paris of Vietnam” is the nickname of the city of Dalat. And boy are they commited to maintaning their image. I’ve known lost of places call themselves the Paris of this or that, but this is the first place I’ve been that actually erected their own Eiffel Tower:

Dalat is a unique place for sure. It’s tucked up in the mountains of the Eastern highlands and a good 10 degrees cooler than the surrouning area. It’s where Vietnamese people like to go on vacation- particularly on their honeymoons, hence the commitment to all things love-related.

It’s got good french credentials as well: for years the french used Dalat as their vacation grounds- building giant European villas up in the hills. Even now colorful european architecture permeats the place, making it look less like Vietnam then some Swiss mountain town. The town is filled with adorable coffee shops and the surrounding fields are home to strawberry and dragonfruit farms. At the heart of Dalat is a pretty blue man-made lake where couples pilot paddle boats shaped like swans. Pretty damn adorable.

Also trying hard to be adorable (but falling a bit short), is the Valley of Love. This is the name of a tourist attraction/theme park/photo op dedicated to all things pink and heart shaped. The several acre park looks like the Valentines section of Hallmarks threw up on it. It caters solely to Asian tourists, because westerners would find it cheesier than a box of nachos.

At the Valley of Love you can walk through flower gardens filled with cupids, or get your picture taken next to a stunt cowboy. There’s a bunch of US Army Jeeps for some reason. There are carnival rides and a fake menagerie- although what a big plastic dinosaur has to do with love is beyond me. Finally there’s the actual valley, which is startlingly pretty.

Mike and I had a great time taking goofy pictures and observing the awkward teenage boys scouting for girls. Later on we had a lovely picnic lunch by the lake, and of course, couldn’t resist taking a spin in a swan boat:

More cramped and exhausting than romantic as it turns out. Fun though!

One constant that I’ve noticed in all of the (East) Asian countries I’ve visited up to this point is a single minded obsession with romantic love.. My theory is that it’s a reaction to the new-found modern freedom of being able to marry for love and not duty. In any case, love is almost a hobby to teenager and young adults. And when I say romantic love I mean sappy-hallmark-hearts-and-flowers-and-air-supply-songs type love.

Dalat is a fantasy land for this fascination. And it’s funny because even without all of that syrupy sweet icing, it’s still a pretty romantic place. By that I mean a great place for candle-lit dinners of amazing food, or walking late in the evening while the city lights up. Or just a good place to hide out with someone special and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. That’s the stuff *I* find romantic.

But then, what do I know. My description didn’t even involve plastic dinosaurs.

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15 Responses to Dalat is For Lovers

  1. amber February 10, 2011 at 9:14 AM #

    for a moment there, i thought u were referring to a place in my country.

    dalat in the state of sarawak in malaysia is a rural village. there’s folklore associated to it too, that we learned in school.

  2. Odysseus February 10, 2011 at 11:26 AM #

    Ah, the plastic dinosaur puts me in mind of the classic romantic film “Jurassic Park.” :)

    • Steph February 13, 2011 at 11:35 AM #

      You know, I actually went on my first date EVER to see Jurassic Park 3. So there.

  3. Michael February 10, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

    I’ve never heard of Dalat before…it looks really pretty! I’m hoping to go to Southeast Asia in 2012 so I’ll have to check it out. Riding in one of those giant swan boats is reason enough ;)

    • Steph February 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM #

      Vietnam is a must visit if you come to SE Asia. Super cool place! The swan boats are a bonus :)

  4. Scott February 11, 2011 at 12:34 AM #

    Nothing says “I Love You” like a Velociraptor.

    • Steph February 13, 2011 at 11:29 AM #

      Sigh… maybe in a perfect world.

  5. Theodora February 11, 2011 at 3:35 AM #

    This is very sweet, and very Vietnamese. We never got up to Dalat when we were in Vietnam — nice to see the pictures of the cheesy tourist stuff they love.

    • Steph February 13, 2011 at 11:27 AM #

      I think you can learn a lot by watching the locals on vacation.

  6. Connie February 11, 2011 at 7:45 AM #

    Isn’t Dalat just a weird, random and kitschy place? So unexpected for Vietnam! Nonetheless, my boyfriend and I had a lovely few days there. We tried to rent a tandem bicycle but unfortunately, it rained on us us. That would have been the ultimate romantic activity we could have possibly done in Dalat!

    • Steph February 13, 2011 at 11:23 AM #

      Oh man, I saw a few people on tandem bicycles and had a good chuckle. Definitely a very unique place.

  7. Amanda February 11, 2011 at 2:40 PM #

    I second Scott’s comment — love is all about the carnivorous dinosaurs. Obviously.

    It looks like both a cheesy and a fun place. Those swan paddle boats are awesome!

    • Steph February 13, 2011 at 11:15 AM #

      There were a ton of other animals there as well but the dinosaur REALLY stood out for some reason.

  8. thao nguyen August 18, 2011 at 3:09 AM #

    dalat is the most beautiful paradise in vietnam.why don’t all you try to come here and enjoy yourself?i am sure that you visits will be the most memorable thing in your life!!!

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