From Vietnam with love: it's all about people - Dal Vietnam con amore:la gente soprattutto

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Tourists – Vietnamese and foreign alike – visit Dalat in the dry season, to escape the heat of the city and enjoy the cool, sunny, spring-like weather, the blooming flowers and hikes in the nearby hills. Although the town has some interesting features, the drizzly, chilly rainy season weather put a damper on things (ha ha), and we couldn’t hike because my ankle was hurt. So we’ll have to visit in the right season to fully appreciate the area.

The town itself is not that special, except for some outlying roads lined with old French villas. There’s a pretty lake, though, and some oddball places to visit, such as a guest house designed by an imaginative architect in a sort of free-flowing, soft, curvy, organic style. There are a lot of cafes, since this is a coffee-growing region. We went to one in an old pink villa, famous for its owner, a poet with a long white beard and a beret. He brought us artichoke tea for Marco (it’s supposed to have some health benefits), and homemade cherry tea for me, along with delicious moist spice cake. Maia was thrilled when the cat jumped up and took a big piece of cake away in her mouth and the man chased after her. She wanted to discuss that for a long time afterward.

There are few decent restaurants, which is a real shame since this is the region where most of the country's fruits and vegetables are grown. However, on our last morning we visited the bustling and colourful market, where Maia ate some delicious vegetarian pho – finally a good meal in Dalat!

One day we visited some beautiful waterfalls with a colleague of Marco’s and his family, who were also there on vacation, and another day we hired a guide and went to a Lat village. The Lat are one of the myriad minority groups here. Although the minorities are very poor and marginalized, the visit was interesting rather than depressing. They have a fascinating matriarchal society and are artistically gifted – they weave beautiful fabrics and have lovely singing voices. We peeked into a meeting hall where women were cooking rice stuffed in bamboo poles over an open fire and singing sweetly.

Then we visited an elder in a traditional home, and tasted some of the local brew made of some kind of roots. I figured if other tourists before us drank it and survived, we would too. The elder and Marco knew some of the same French mountain songs, which they sang together after a few swigs of that root brew. (They also make wine in Dalat, which is surprisingly drinkable!).


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