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.