Deep in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, Dalat is a former French hill station that sits high up in the mountains at around 5,000 feet above sea level.
Popular with domestic tourists, Dalat is a honeymoon destination nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring” on account of its consistent temperature of around 50-70 degrees. And the mountain air was undoubtedly chilly; Dalat’s weather had me pulling out my hoodie for the first time in Southeast Asia.
But I came to Dalat searching for traces of Indochine, the former French colony that once encapsulated Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I have a fascination with colonialism and nothing intrigues me more than the blend of my two favorite countries: France and Vietnam.
And you certainly could see the French influence in Dalat, in the wide boulevards, hill-top villas and butter cookies. Not as much as I had expected, but it was there.
From the pastries in the bakery windows…
To the turn-of-the-century French architecture.
But I soon realized what I really should have been looking for was right in front of me- the non-touristed Vietnam of the Central Highlands.
To the pristine, almost Alpine nature surrounding the city…
To hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving stodgy food that was perfect for the cool climate.
One of the more memorable dishes I tried in Dalat was cháo vịt, a savory rice porridge topped with boiled duck, duck liver and duck boudin noir. As Anthony Bourdain put it, chao vit was like “chicken soup and baby food at the same time.” Strange, but yummy.
As became usual in Vietnam, Dalat had me wondering, how can I feasibly fit all of this amazing food into my stomach? How can I squeeze all of this goodness into only three days?
Because soon I would be leaving Dalat on a two-day, 200-kilometer motorcycle trip that would take me all the way to the coastal city of Mui Ne. Stay tuned…
Have you ever explored Vietnam’s Central Highlands?
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