Vietnam has such hot summers that, back in the colonial days, the French, in a similar manner to the British in India, took to the hills where the weather is cooler. In doing so, they established the town of Dalat up in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, in the Annamese Mountain Range. Being 1,500m above sea level, Dalat has a temperate climate that gives welcome relief from the hot sticky weather closer to sea level.
Perhaps because the season always seems to be spring, Dalat has become Vietnam’s romantic capital, and top destination for young Vietnamese honeymooners, although there is perhaps just a bit too much kitsch for most western tastes. In keeping with being a romantic capital, Dalat has a Valley of Love, which once went under the name of Valley of Peace, which is a forested canyon full of romantically inspired sculptures, such as white swans with their necks entwined, Venus, the goddess of love, a love swing, and a lake where couples can pedal swan-shaped craft.
It may be due to the cool weather, and its popularity with university students, that Dalat seems to have become a bit of a home for those of an avant garde and bohemian persuasion. There is a local guest house, Hang Nga Guesthouse, which has also been dubbed The Crazy House, which has plenty of offbeat sculpture and art on display.
The area is also renowned for its silk, and you can go on a visit to a silkworm hatchery. The silk is made up into a variety of silken goods, including pyjamas, lingerie and ties, which make great gifts and souvenirs.
If you want to take a look at a feature of natural interest, then one of the local must-sees is Elephant Falls, a mighty cascade of water, which is pretty deafening too.
Another hangover from colonial days is that the area was once popular for its big game hunting, which has led to Dalat being famous for stuffed animals. I don’t mean soft toys, but actual taxidermically stuffed animals, and definitely not to everyone’s taste.
If you visit Dalat, your kitsch detector alarm bells may definitely go into overdrive, but it could just be the place to cool off and see something a bit different.