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vietnam: adrenaline and adventure in dalat

Dalat Moutain

Though when written in local tongue, the name 'Da Lat' may seem uncompromisingly Vietnamese, the name actually derives from the Latin phrase 'Dat Aliis Laetitiam Aliis Temperiem', which means 'giving pleasure to some, and freshness to others'. This picturesque, high altitude town couldn't be endowed with a more appropriate name. Its temperate weather makes it seem like spring all year 'round, and its nearby cliffs, lakes, and waterfalls make for adventurous fun for the adrenaline-fueled visitor.

After the warm coastal beaches, Dalat offers something different. Many are shocked to be able to see their own breath at night, and jackets are a must in the evening, making it a refreshing retreat for those looking to escape Vietnam's at times searing heat.

The city offers many charming tourist sights, including the man-made Xuan Huang Lake, which makes for a lovely walk. The beautiful Tuyen Lam Lake features a scenic tram ride that whisks you over top of its sparkling green waters. It's worth taking a trip over to the Crazy House, which is a bizarre but fun attraction designed by the daughter of Ho Chi Minh's third successor to the presidency. It's an Alice In Wonderland-type structure that visitors can actually stay in (though the constant stream of visitors that trek through the abode daily may get tiresome after a while).

If you like Crazy House, but have a hankering for some coffee, you’re in luck: 100 Roofs is a funky, jungle-like, multi-leveled café, where the service is excellent, and the coffee unbeatable.

But save your energy for Dalat's real treasure: the topography on the outskirts of the city. As you walk around the town, you’ll see endless ads for 'Adventure tours'. Don't ignore them. YouthAction provides an excellent canyoning tour that many tourists claim to be the best thing they did on their entire trip. Their enthusiasm is well earned. The tour begins with a self-controlled rollercoaster ride down a mountain. You control the breaks, and can go as fast or as slow as you like. It's much more exciting than climbing down the mountain to the walking path. After a bit of a hike, you'll find yourself hopping down cliffs (after a thorough canyoning training session), balancing carefully on a log over top of a river, using a waterfall as a waterslide, and free-jumping off a six-meter cliff. The big event is canyoning down a 30-meter waterfall, which may seem daunting, but is totally doable. Adrenaline will fuel your body with more than enough energy to hike back to the top of the mountain at the end of the day. You should have a few scrapes and nicks to show off at the bar that evening.

Many tourists also opt to try out the local Easy Riders to see the peaks and valleys of the Central Highlands. This is a great option for those who don't feel comfortable riding their own motorbikes. That said, even if you do ride a motorbike perfectly well, Easy Riders usually speak excellent English, and being themselves from the local villages, often know an exceeding amount of information about the sights you'll be seeing. Make sure to see their comment book, usually full of praise from tourists who have done their tour.

After a few days (or maybe a week) in Dalat, you'll find yourself cooled down and possibly physically exhausted from all the adventures you’ve been having. Best to head back to the beach – Nha Trang or Mui Ne – for some R & R.

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