For fall break, my plan was to find a place that was green, quiet, and had land formations to hike. A pretty simple list of requirements in a country that I chose because it was green and had mountains and beaches aplenty. Initially, I thought that I would go to Sapa via Hanoi, but when I was invited to chaperone a Model United Nations conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I realized that my Sapa plans were too ambitious since coordinating timing with night trains and flights was a bit tricky. So, after hearing a few people rave about DaLat, I was excited to make that quick little 40 minute flight. Dalat is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because it has a cooler climate thanks to its elevation.
The flight that I booked out of HCMC was for 6am which meant that I had to wake up around 4am to get ready and make it to the airport. No problem except I spent Saturday night meeting up with friends in D1 and then came home to pack and catch up with some friends on FaceTime. So after getting about 3.5 hours of sleep, I was off to the airport. When I arrived, I went to the ticketing counter. I can do online check in, but because I have a foreign passport, I have to go to the ticketing counter no matter what. This time though, I hadn’t even remembered to do web check in. Big mistake. At the ticketing counter, the helpful young trainee scanned my passport and entered the confirmation number that I gave her. Then she printed my boarding pass which said Gate 7 at 7:50am. What?! I showed her my confirmation again and pointed out that I should be on the 6am flight. She called over her trainer who informed me that the flight changed time due to an aircraft change. Thanks for the notice. So, in my tired state, I got to spend multiple hours in the airport for the shortest flight ever. Oops.
When I got to Dalat, I took a taxi to my hotel, checked in, and set off to find something to eat. This was perhaps a mistake as I was already hungry, and I know from plentiful experience that I don’t often enjoy trying to navigate unfamiliar roads while experiencing hanger. So, I took off the way the cab drove in because we had passed the lake that is near the center of town. My hotel was decidedly away from the action, and while there were cafes galore, I wasn’t sure about food. I did stop in one adorable cafe and had a coffee which at least worked to make me less grumpy. Unfortunately, that cafe did not have a food menu. So I kept on walking toward the lake. When I got to the lake, I couldn’t decide which way to turn. Of course, as it turns out, I went the wrong way. Though the end I walked toward looked closer, there was very little to eat in that direction. I did manage to find some glorious scenery and some food, and I was a renewed being.
After lunch, I continued walking around the lake to discover what was on the other side. Answer: center of the city. However, as I walked rain clouds were blowing in. Luckily, I managed to make it around the lake and despite the drizzle, I enjoyed the beauty of the town. After my walk, I decided to head back to the hotel for a nap. I am really a party animal on vacation. My nap was longer than expected and glorious, so I woke up for dinner and another wander and then turned in for the night.
On Monday morning, my plan was just to explore the city more. I didn’t have any real plans except to head downtown and check out the huge produce/flower market, see the French architecture of the old section of town, visit the botanical gardens, etc. I set out on foot and conquered most of the town in a 5 plus hour walking tour. Because I was not hungry or tired, I adored everything I saw and had a great time getting lost and found. I stopped a couple of times for coffee and a snack, and when I was heading back to the hotel after a full day, I realized that a road that I was on earlier in the day to see the old French buildings actually would have connected to my hotel if I climbed up 2 more hills. To confirm my newfound understanding of how this was connected, I decided to add another hour of exploring. In this time, I found the second, and smaller, fresh market, a hospital, and new neighborhoods. By the time I returned to the hotel, my feet were quite tired. After a bath and a bit of rest, I was ready to go in search of a train car cafe that I had read about. I couldn’t find it, so I settled for another restaurant instead, ate, and returned home to sleep in preparation for my early morning start to canyoning on Tuesday.
So, my first 2 days of solo vacationing pretty much consisted of resting, eating, and walking aimlessly. Exactly what I needed. My next 2 days…not as restful. Stayed tuned.