Da Lat is located in the province of Lam Dong in central Vietnam, and while on the map it doesn’t seem that far from the south where I live at the moment, being located fairly high up in the hills – around 1500m to be precise – it seems much further away from the big city of Ho Chi Minh than it really is. In fact, it seems to be some place other than Vietnam. No noise, no pollution, no traffic…none of the stuff I think of when I think about a Vietnamese city. It’s beautiful
It’s around an 8 hour drive by day (probably around 6 hours by night), and it can be quite tiring…and very, very boring. As half of my drive went on in complete darkness, I wasn’t able to say that the drive was scenic either. The dark hillside roads were narrow, and unlit, and some parts of the drive were rather precarious…all put together, I booked a flight for my return to Saigon!
Anyway, Da Lat, for the landscape photographer, is probably THE place to visit in this country. The rolling hills, pastures…ah, it’s all so green…add in many, many lakes, and it really is a wonderful place to see…and photograph. The year-round cool weather is lovely too
What I did was pretty much a guided tour…without the guide. Got a couple of tour programs, located the places I thought I’d like to see (Google helped me decide, of course) and hired a driver to head out to those places. The first place: Langbiang Mountain – the highest in Da Lat. 1950m. Considering the town itself is at around 1500m, it wasn’t much of a climb. From the base, a little jeep took us up in 10min. And from up there, you can seriously see all of Da Lat…and more
Next up, a sort of park area with a couple of large lakes…I don’t remember what it was called – but the place was great. Loads of flowers growing everywhere, like in every part of the city, but seriously…this place had flowers EVERYWHERE. Spread that among all the rolling green and this one particularly pretty lake and, yeah…well, have a look
So this place has like 5 different waterfalls too. Not the super tall types but beautiful anyway. I didn’t have time to visit more than one but this one, Datanla Falls, was set in a very nice way. A trail leads down to it from the place you drive up to (it’s quite a walk down) and following it, you get to this forresty little enclosure of sorts, that has the Datanla falls covering one half. The walk down the trail takes around 15min. Once you’re there, you can walk around pretty easily, although the damp rock could be a bit dangerous – watch your step! I didn’t have my tripod with me to take some long exposures of the flowing water – instead, I had to improvise a bit and find a steady bit of rock to place my camera for about a 2 second exposure for these shots…turned out fairly steady, I guess. Take the…I don’t know what you call it…a sort of pulley-train-system that pulls you back…take that, to avoid having to climb up to get out of the place. That’ll tire you no end
The night market in Da Lat is fantastic. It’s as big as the one in Ho Chi Minh City, but here, the vendors don’t annoy the tourists. They don’t pester you to buy something, eat something, try something…they just leave you be until you ask them something…and they don’t take notice of the camera. That, if you have been in this part of the world, is something a foreigner should really be thankful for! Because of this, I was able to enjoy the night market much more than I ever would in Saigon, or any other big city in Vietnam. This shot is probably my favorite out of all I took in Da Lat. It’s one of those shots…where everything just comes out right. No editing was done, straight from the camera
Hmm, so on Day 2…I took the cable car up to Truc Lam Temple. If you’re ever in Da Lat, do this. I didn’t see the cable car ride advertised on many brochures/websites – I read mostly about the (fairly modern) temple itself – but that ride really gives some of the best views of the region you could ever see. Truly magnificent
The temple itself is a beautiful building, although relatively new…and it’s location is amazing
One last thing I want to share before I wrap up for this post (and continue in the next) is the French Quarter, a beautiful set of old villas occupied by the French back in the day. The houses in Da Lat all have this French look about it – with the narrow, slanting roof, and brick walls and all that – and look far more attractive than the houses in Saigon…but this particular area, full of villas spread around beautiful green flower gardens, was absolutely stunning.
The weather was rather cloudy and made for a bland sky, so I decided to shoot in HDR…maybe I overdid it a bit…anyway, here are the shots
And that’s it for this part. Here, as on the first two days of my vacation, I covered all the scenic areas immediately surrounding Da Lat, and outside the town itself (apart from the market). The landscape photographer in you would love these areas…trust me. The weather is nice, cool, and pleasant…so you would have no trouble spending hours on end out there with your tripod set up, waiting for the sun to be perfect enough for you to get the shot you’ve been waiting for. The scenes are beautiful. The scenes are diverse. And it’s just a beautiful place to experience
Have a look at the next part – it is already up - for more of the town of Da Lat itself. If you’re into street shooting, any city in Vietnam is bustling and should give you plenty of these opportunities, and Da Lat is no except. It just has a lot more to offer than this, and that’s what makes it a great place to visit if you ever come to Vietnam. I’m already waiting for a chance to go back!
Anyway, thanks for looking. Hope you enjoyed these shots. Please leave a comment as usual – if you have any thoughts, ideas…or if you like (or dislike!) a particular shot itself. See you in the next post…until then
By Heshan Jayakody All content in this post is my own