My day started at 5am. Not because I needed to leave early, just woke up early cos I fell asleep earlier the night before. It did give me a chance to see a nice sunrise, where the sun slowly creeps across the horizon.
After breakfast, I took a slow walk to the office where I bought my bus tickets. This was going to be my first inter-city bus in Vietnam, so I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. The guy I bought the ticket from wasn’t very friendly either, which made me less enthusiastic about the whole journey. It wasn’t that he was rude, he just seemed more annoyed.
After sitting at his office for more than an hour, a little minivan showed up, and all of us were herded in. Needless to say, it was not the most comfortable being crammed in. I did half wonder if this was gonna be the whole journey.
After driving 15 mins out, we stopped at a much larger bus. It was a day-sleeper bus. This was going to be more comfortable that my initial concern. I very quickly forgot about the unhappy man, as the bus was very clean, and comfortable. For me, who is 1.76m and quite “broad” (read fat), I didn’t feel any discomfort on the journey.
Da Lat Inter City Bus Station
The journey took about 6 hours, arriving in Da Lat bus station around 5pm. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do next. When I bought the ticket, the guy (unhappy man), told me that I would be dropped at my hotel. So when I got off the bus, I sat on the benches first, wondering if another bus would come to pick me. There were few others from the bus who were waiting around there too.
The only other buses around there, were Futa buses. Neither the driver, the attendant, nor the other passengers could offer any advice. As time went, the other passengers got on to different Futa buses and left. When I was finally the last person there… I decided I would just walk to my hotel. It was only about 3 km away anyway.
Walk to QA Hotel
The walk from the bus station to the hotel didn’t turn out too bad. Da Lat has a cool, refreshing weather, and it was evening. It also gave me my first introduction into what to expect in the city too.
Although the hotel was only 3 km away from the bus station, I took well over an hour to reach, just cos there was so much to see. The path took me past the large square and lake that’s central to the city.
Just like the squares in all the other cities, here too, people gather in the evenings and most of them are fixated on getting the best photos. It is often quite amusing to watch them, but also annoying at times.
QA Hotel & Laundry Hunt
Looking through my photos, I’m surprised I hadn’t taken any for the rest of the evening.
I checked into the hotel, and was shown my room. The hotel is simple and located right in the centre, which made it convenient. The room was small, but it was clean and sufficient for my stay. Although the sign downstairs said they had laundry service, the guy at the front said they didn’t.
I decided to walk around the nearby streets, to find somewhere for a drink, and hopefully run into a laundry shop too. There were quite a few cafes and eateries around the hotel. Most of the cafes were modern, and definitely set up by people who have travelled outside Vietnam.
I walked along the winding streets, and eventually came onto a main street, where I saw a guy walking with a bag of clothes. I asked him if that was his laundry, where the shop was, and hurried over to them. The were closing in 30 mins. So began another Taxi Tango.
I took a taxi back to the hotel, which took a lot longer because of the one-way streets. Told the driver to wait downstairs while I went up and hurriedly packed my clothes into a smaller bag, then took the taxi back to the laundry shop.
The taxi driver tried to pull the “I haven’t got change for your note” trick. But I decided to get change at the laundry shop and paid him exact (without tip).
After giving my clothes, I walked back up the winding streets, stopped for a drink, then had an early night back in my room.
Breakfast & Walkabout
The next morning, I grabbed breakfast along the same winding streets I had walked down the night before. The breakfast was really good. From here, I continued on to the laundry shop, to collect my clothes and brought it back to my hotel.
From there, I decided to take a walk to a nearby tour office, to see if there were any options for a private tour I could do. Cos Da Lat does have a lot to see, but they are quite a ways out of the city.
When I reached the tour office, there wasn’t anyone there. So I dropped a message to the number I found on the signboard, and was told the team was having breakfast. I waited about 40 minutes, before I became bored, and left.
I decided to take a walk around the Xuan Huong Lake. It was really a beautiful and scenic place. You can very quickly forget that you are not just in Vietnam, but in Asia.
Cafe Bích Câu
At the far side of the lake, there was a nice looking cafe/restaurant. I decided to stop and have a smoothie, and enjoy the great view. The drink itself wasn’t that great, but the view made up for it.
When I finished and paid for the bill, the waiter tried to shortchange me – returning less than change I should have gotten. Thankfully I was comfortable enough with Vietnamese currency, to immedietly know the change was off, and asked him about it before he had time to walk away. So would definitely advice anyone coming here, to check their change when paying here.
After the drink, I continued walking around the lake. There was definitely some interesting wildlife (horses) and architecture to look at. I walked up towards the railway station too, assuming it was a proper functioning station, that you could visit and look at. But there actually is an entrance fee – just to go in. So I decided against it, and walked away.
Not really much to say about this place. It’s a park dedicated to Alexandre Yersin, who is credited as the founder of Da Lat. Though I would probably remember him more for his work towards understanding the bubonic plague.
Đài Phun Nước Dalat
I had now done a complete walk around the lake, and I thought I’d head back to grab a late lunch, then head back to the tour office.
I went through the same roundabout that I had the day before, but hadn’t realised it was decorated with some really cool vehicles that were covered in flowers.
The Final Straw – The Inflating Fried Rice
Just before going up to my room, I went to the small-ish restaurant next to my hotel, to take away some fried rice.
The price for this, went from 40,000VND at the front, to 60,000VND from the waiter, to 100,000VND from the owner. When the owner came to me to give me the packet, there was a short pause, before she told me to wait, and also gave me a banana, a small packet of soup and a wet tissue – almost to justify the higher cost.
When I finally got back to my room, I saw the dish wasn’t exactly that special, and tasted quite boring.
This became “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I gave up on Da Lat at this point. With the taxis that never have change, the waiters that pocket your change, the entrance fee to see almost everything, and the overpriced food – I just had enough. I was exhausted to always be on the lookout, and decided the city just wasn’t for me anymore.
I messaged the same tour operator from earlier in the day, and asked her about buses to my next destination – Mui Ne. I was originally intending to stay in Da Lat for 3 nights, but I was so upset that I cut short the trip, and wanted to leave the next day. This would mean forfeiting the last night of my current hotel, and paying an extra night at my next destination. This all still felt worth it to me, to be able to leave.
I spent the rest of the night just in my hotel. Nothing would’ve made me want to see anything else in Da Lat.
I really wanted to like Da Lat. From what I saw the first day, I expected it to be a wonderful, magical trip. But there is an air of “unrealism” about it. Like a large amusement park, a nice place to visit for a day, but not to stay. Just like in an amusement park, you would expect things to be overpriced, and every fun thing is going to have an admission charge to it. All of this, I could have still cope with. I wouldn’t have been happy, but I could have stayed.
But there is a difference between being ripped off by higher prices, and being scammed. And here, I just felt being scammed almost constantly. So I really don’t have any feelings of going back, or would ever recommend anyone to go there.