Flavours of Saigon – Day 3 : Serenity & Day Trip Around DalatDecember 16, 2012 | 1,881 views
Wow. It felt like forever since the last chapter of Flavours of Saigon back in September! Blame it on procrastination, sheer laziness and the numerous Travel Ideas posts in between, plus the undercurrent of another paradigm shift from a career POV. Since it’s a Sunday,
bloody beautiful Sunday, let’s skip the crap and dive in.
Van Hanh Monastery, Dalat
As always, here’s a summary of where we are now.
Day 3 started off with a local street side breakfast of Bun Rieu (crab noodle soup flavoured with tomatoes and pork) and Banh Mi (the ubiquitous Vietnamese baguette sandwich), then a walk around Dalat Market where you should not miss the magnificent sights of fresh strawberries, avocados and artichokes.
For the second half of the day? We went day-tripping to pagodas, temples, flower gardens, waterfalls, church and more.
Van Hanh Monastery, Dalat
We hired a cab dedicated to ferrying us around Dalat for sightseeing for VND800,000 (RM120/USD40) for a stretch of roughly 6-8 hours journey, inclusive of stop overs, time for our meals and more. The vehicle (more like an MPV) was meant to fit more than 4 pax, as was the case since we went in a group of 8. For roughly RM15 per person, the fee paid was well worth it.
A brief overview of where we went:
1. Van Hanh Monastery (read more HERE) featuring a 24 metres tall sitting Buddha
2. Truc Lam Monastery (read more HERE) with a beautifully-landscaped garden with colourful flowers.
3. Datanla Waterfalls & a ride on the Alpine Coaster! (read more HERE)
4. Stopover at a random farm for strawberries and various vegetables (sadly, strawberries not in season and the ones bearing fruit were extremely tiny)
5. Lunch of Ca Kho To (claypot spicy fish) and local delicacy of fresh artichoke soup at Cuong Thien Huong Restaurant, Dalat town
6. Linh Phuoc Pagoda (read more HERE) a MUST-visit site about 8km from town.
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7. Swan Boat rides @ Xuan Huong Lake (VND60,000/RM8.80 per boat of two pax, about an hour’s worth of peddling around the vast lake in the centre of Dalat town)
8. Coffee break at Cafe Nguyen near to Ngoc Lan Hotel
9. Dinner of Vietnamese style steamboat near to Dalat market
Truc Lam Monastery, Dalat
Floral Power @ Truc Lam Monastery, Dalat
Cable car ride option to reach Truc Lam Monastery (read more from TripAdvisor)
Datanla Waterfalls in Dalat – A very refreshing spot to hangout and listen to splashing waters and screaming children.
Alpine Coaster ride @ Datanla Waterfalls! Definitely worth a try for you adrenaline junkies out there. A coaster can sit two pax, and the one seated behind controls the speed of acceleration and yeah … feel free to bump into the coaster in front of you. Like bumper cars albeit in a daredevil, souped up manner. (about VND60,000/RM8.80 for two ways)
No strawberries for plucking and munching, though always a gratifying notion to feast your eyes on green plantations that stretch beyond the hills.
Lunch @ Cuong Thien Huong – clockwise from top left – Batter-fried Calamari, Claypot Spicy Fish (Ca Kho To), Artichoke Soup and Chicken Salad with fresh, local vegetables.
We had to ask the driver to stop over for lunch after the several stops prior to this. Suggestion from a Vietnamese friend was this restaurant situated a stone’s throw away from the main lake of Dalat (Xuan Huong Lake) on Bui Thi Xuan street. Fairly popular with the tourists, the prices could be slightly higher than the streetside stalls, but definitely more hygienic and presentable dishes and extensive menu.
The fresh artichoke soup was very mild in flavour, but the creamy centre of the locally-grown artichokes with a mild sweetness was very inviting. The claypot spicy fish was delicious, albeit the small bones could be unsettling for non-fish lovers. The salad with chicken or beef (We had both) appeared bland, but the piquant dressing coupled with fresh, crunchy greens from the local market nearby made us sat up and took notice.
The meal for 8 pax came to VND1,239,000/RM180/USD60 inclusive of rice and drinks.
CUONG THIEN HUONG RESTAURANT
2C, Bui Thi Xuan, Dalat
*Very near to Dalat lake, definitely walkable if you don’t have transportation with you.
Linh Phuoc Pagoda
The breath-taking sight of Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) statue made of dried flowers standing tall @ Linh Phuoc Pagoda
Make a wish and ring the giant bell @ Linh Phuoc Pagoda
Linh Phuoc Pagoda
Sweet caramel pudding and soya bean pudding from a streetside stall outside of Linh Phuoc Pagoda
Something fresh, hot and savoury? Try this thin and crispy sheet of rice paper laden with dried shrimps and chopped scallions
Fresh berries to be juiced and sold in bottles of 500ml each @ Linh Phuoc Pagoda. But a bit too sweet for my liking.
An old, abandoned structure opposite the entrance of Dalat Cathedral
Swan Rides @ Xuan Huong Lake for VND60,000 per boat for two pax, for about an hour. The soft and pleasant breeze blowing at our faces was more than enough reason to take up the ride. The peddling for an hour was good enough of an exercise though.
Doughnuts, cream puffs, cakes, tarts and various confectioneries greeting us after a tiresome ride around the lake. Various roadside stalls line the path to Dalat market.
Shopping and haggling our way (our Vietnamese counterparts did their job, of course) at Dalat market. The dried fruit chips and various sweetened, preserved fruits are very cheap and make for great souvenirs.
Cafe Nguyen was the place for us to kill time before dinner. Our bus ride back to Saigon was much later, about 11pm or so. Needless to say, a piping hot cup of Vietnamese coffee deserves all the limelight amidst that chilly, relentless wind.
This was our initial intended place for dinner; a hot pot specialist named Lau Mot Nguoi situated on the raised land behind Cafe Nguyen. But the individual portions (single hot pots) were not suited for a large group of 8 like us.
And thus, we settled for a simpler dinner of steamboat for 4 pax per pot at a nameless stall by the street leading to Dalat market. There are various restaurants along the way, and this was one of them. The awkwardly-shaped steel pot was laced with fresh prawns, fish, shellfish, tomatoes and leafy greens, in a spicy broth that resembled tom yum. VND500,000 (RM75/USD25) for 8 pax, a very cheap price to pay. Though the taste was nothing to shout about, actually.
That ended our two days in Dalat; which to me, was a highly recommended visit much like how you should not miss Sapa when you visit Hanoi. The ordeal of an 8 hours bus ride was scary but the relatively smooth and comfortable ride was not a jarring cultural shock. At least to us.
Next chapter? We shall see more on the famed Cu Chi Tunnel, and street snacks around Saigon city. Til then, see ya ………