What da What in Da Lat
Where was Rumpelstiltskin? Where were Hansel and Gretel? All I could find were Ha and Hang and Hung, all Nguyens. Something didn’t match.
In Da Lat everything you think you know about Vietnam is wrong. There are pine trees instead of palm. There are hills instead of beaches. People grow flowers instead of rice. And it’s cold. Actually cold. Ok, more like cool but definitely not brow-dripping hot like the rest of the country. Da Lat makes you stop and wonder, “What da what is going on?”
JD and I stayed in a Swiss Chalet overlooking gray gloom pine forests while we visited this strange Vietnamese Grimm fairy tale in November. It added to the mood.
We drove past old French mansions, now overgrown with rhododendrons on our way into town. The city itself was Vietnam again; scooters, chopsticks, (slightly) organized chaos with lots of color. But it was all happening in a French Alps town. Soy sauce was available for our baguettes and chopsticks came with pasta.
Throughout Vietnam are (more than) traces of the French. The food, the buildings even some names are touched. Da Lat, however, was more…je ne sais quoi . Where elsewhere there is Vietnam with a French supporting actress, here there were two main stars. The combination was often lovely, often interesting and sometimes funny. We bought owl and pig shaped hand knit hats for the chilly hill air. We were impressed by the area’s local wine, until we remembered that Da Lat wine is Merlot petrol. We rode a self-propelled Vietnamese roller coaster through ski town pines. We viewed the main Catholic cathedral from the top of the ever wonky Crazy House.
Besides our fun with France and Vietnam, we were in Da Lat for those trees. Just seeing them made me feel Fall. Driving through crisp Autumn air was a treat you thoroughly appreciate after living in a greenhouse for three years. We ate next to a lake that was really, actually quiet. If you squinted enough you could just pretend we were in Michigan.
Da Lat was interesting, somewhat strange, beautiful in parts and, above all, cool.