Da What? Da Lat!
Da Lat is a perfect long weekend getaway from Da Nang—especially because there are now direct flights between the two main Da ____ cities of Vietnam.
Phil surprised me with plane tickets to Da Lat for my birthday, and we made the trip about a month later. Our experience was made because of our decision to stay at Villa Vista. The adorable bed and breakfast is run by a couple—his “passport says Australia” and she’s Vietnamese—and I’d recommend it to anyone. The views were stunning, and it was beautifully decorated, with guests’ every concern considered.
We bonded with Tim right away because he’s a jazz pianist and we wanted to go check out some live music at a bar we’d heard of called Escape Bar, in the basement of a hotel. When we asked Tim for a phone number for a local cab company, he said, “you know what, let’s all go,” and joined us. We got to the bar, and Tim went on stage and started jamming with the band right off the bat. He made sure Phil got up there for a couple songs on the bass, as well.
Villa Vista is up the hill and around the corner from the Crazy House, which is worth a trip and holds true to its name. It wasn’t a highlight for us, but we were glad we took the time to walk through it. Note: wear good walking shoes as there are some narrow, steep walkways, and get there during sunlight hours as the place is not well lit at night.
On the whole, Da Lat is high in the mountains and is quite hilly. Sneakers are the way to go. And because of the altitude, it can get relatively chilly, particularly at night and especially on a motorbike. We were glad to have layers. We also noticed ourselves getting winded more easily than usual—but we’re sea level creatures!
Per Tim’s recommendation, we went to the vegetarian place on the same road as the Crazy House. It was called something like Nhat Lien, and there’s an interesting garden out front. I can’t find a good link for it, but it’s on the same side of the road as the Crazy House, toward Villa Vista. The guy who runs it is Viet Kieu—he lived in Da Lat until he was 5, then moved to Texas, where he lived until his early 20s before moving back. He recommended a combination for meal for us, and it was fantastic—I loved the sweet and sour soup. His fiance was our server, and we felt good about supporting the two of them.
The next day we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast on our balcony at Villa Vista before embarking on a motorbike tour of the countryside. Tim again assisted us with the bike, escorting us to the gas station and through an old landing field that’s now covered with greenhouses, then telling us where to go. Thac Voi—also known as the Elephant Waterfall—was our ultimate destination. The drive was one of my favorites we’ve done through Vietnam so far. It often felt like we were in California, particularly when we were in the countryside, away from signs written in Vietnamese.
We stopped at a local silk factory to watch the process before heading off to the waterfalls. There were a couple of tour groups there, but we didn’t find it to be overcrowded and we enjoyed trekking through the grounds—Phil a bit more than me as I was recovering from a clumsy sprained ankle injury. Definitely wear good shoes if you plan on making the trip to the waterfalls, as well.
Heading back to the city from Thac Voi, we stopped at Me Linh Coffee Garden for some good ol’ weasel poop coffee with a stunning view of the coffee farm below us. (More information on their process can be found here.) It was a highlight of the trip for me.
Phil’s favorite moment came later that night. Per a recommendation from his sister and brother-in-law, we went to Artist Alley for dinner. The unassuming restaurant is actually tucked into an alley and its walls are covered with the owner’s paintings. We sat in the cosy upstairs section and were pleased with the live acoustic guitar that started around 7pm. The owner himself waited on us and everyone else in the restaurant. We ordered a bottle of their red for 300,000 VND (~$13.50) and were presented with a 1997 Bordeaux and a huge loaf of garlic bread on the house. Too bad we had already both ordered soups and mains. Our pumpkin and broccoli soups were incredible and left us with little room for our entrees. While we were finishing the bottle of wine and feeling guilty about how much food was left on our plates, the restaurant owner asked us if he could do a table-side painting for us. Did he think we would say no? In less than ten minutes, he created us a custom piece of art showing some bamboo in a typical Vietnamese landscape using just his hands (rather than brushes), an ink pad, some water, and a wash cloth. We got it framed for less than $10 at a local frame shop and we hope to get it up on our wall soon. Check out the artist's fingerprint "signature" near the bottom of the painting:
Full to the gills and rosy cheeked from the wine and the sweetness of our experience at Artist Alley, we rambled up the road to a ramshackle dive bar, a square room with a pool table in the middle, called the Hangout. We were the only people there for the first 20 minutes or so, until an entire hostel’s worth of travelers joined us. Interesting that the phenomenon of the giant backpacker crew hasn’t hit in Da Nang yet, though it seems to be well on its way. Anyway, Phil happily ran the pool table for the next couple of hours, and we returned to Villa Vista quite pleased with ourselves.
The next morning, we grabbed one more cup of coffee at One More Cafe, and then went on our way to the airport. On the ride there, I laid my head on Phil’s shoulder, tucked my hand in his and told him that we’re doing things right—which is probably what many of you think after a flawless vacation, too.
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I quit a job I enjoyed at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and left my family, friends, and beloved dog to join my boyfriend in moving across the world, in search of adventure and new experiences. I arrived in August 2015.