Au Lac Bar and Hostel, Dong Hoi

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, Dong Hoi accommodation, Vietnam accommodation, Vietnam hostels
Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

Au Lac Bar and Hostel is more than your average Vietnamese hostel

This was our second visit to Dong Hoi and it was for pretty much the same reason. We wanted to visit the Phong Nha caves. While researching accommodation options, we found that not only was Dong Hoi cheaper than Phuong Nha, it had more to offer too.

Leon and Tash Vlog

The famous Phong Nha National Park Caves

On our first visit we found one hostel, Buffalo’s Hostel and all the foreigners were raving about. Everything else, was either in Vietnamese or way out of our price range, so we went with it.

We chose to book it as they offered accommodation and cave tour options, which at the time, was just what we needed. While our stay there was a fun experience, it wasn’t the warmest or most comfortable experience.

This time round we did the same thing and found the same result. Phong Nha just didn’t offer value for our money so we went back to looking at Dong Hoi.

I’m going to be honest and say that I wasn’t completely thrilled by the idea of staying at another party-hard hostel. What saved the idea was that it wouldn’t be for long and I could work with that.

Our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip!

 

How we found Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Our regular readers will know that Hotels Combined is our ‘go to’ for finding a place to sleep and so far, it has been good to us. Though when it gave us another hostel option in Dong Hoi, I was a bit hmmmm.

As it turned out, Au Lac Bar and Hostel is now a new addition to our favorite accommodation list. Not to mention our first option for future visits to the super funky city of Dong Hoi.

Affiliate disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links for our accommodation partner, Hotels Combined. We trust and used them for most of our trip and we are happy to recommend their services (especially since they were so easy to use and found us really good choices too.) Now, you don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use these links but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

 

Location

Au Lac Bar and Hostel

Au Lac sits at 68 Dong Hai, Dong My, Dong Hoi.

The area boasts plenty of restaurants, bars, hole-in-the-wall eateries and you can walk to the city center or river front in no time.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Facilities

The first thing we noticed about Au Lac was the awesome decor and welcome feel when you step inside.

The massive pool table greets you at the entrance then leads you to the bar/reception area. before sweeping you up the stairs to the rooms.

The communal area extends from the comfy couch by the window with a great view, across to the the row of small tables and chairs on the opposite wall leading to the bar.

There’s no lift but thankfully it’s only three levels so you don’t have far to go. The staircase is nice and wide too, so you’re not wrestling your luggage to the room.

 

Parking

Au Lac Bar and Hostel does offer parking and at first, we thought the parking facilities were a bit silly as there wasn’t much room in front of the building.

We soon learnt thought that they use the parking space across the street as well as the space out front.

The staff also bring the bikes inside round 11 PM and then wheel them back out at 7 AM the next morning. We thought that was super courteous of them, making our stay so much more enjoyable.

 

Socializing at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

The ground floor area is great for mingling with other visitors or just doing your own thing.

We had a blast playing a few games of pool and chatting to Thao who was manning the bar. Not only was she awesome to hang out with but she had great taste in music and was happy to find a few of our favs too. Thanks Thao!

We met a few of the other visitors in passing, though we got the feeling it wasn’t fully occupied.

 

Our booking bonus

Another bonus for us and booking via Hotels Combined was that we got a free breakfast out of this deal.  Kien delivered our breakfast as soon as we were ready for it and it consisted of the most delicious banh mi. Freshly made by the local banh mi legend and we loved every bite.

Au Lac also has a proper coffee machine too! You can order a choice of Vietnamese or western coffees at very reasonable prices.

 

Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

If you’re looking for somewhere to to eat, then head on over to Red Peppers Restaurant and Pizzeria.

Au Lac guests receive a 10% discount on their food bill. Extra bonus, whahoo!

The food selection is a good combination of western and Vietnamese food. The ingredients are fresh, the dishes are really yummy and reasonably priced.

Red Peppers is a short walk from Au Lac and like the hostel it has a very welcoming vibe to it too. It is a sister property to Au Lac and you’ll receive the same high level of hospitality there.

It’s not unusual to see Thao, Binh or Kien floating between the two either.  Good company guaranteed!

 

Where to eat in Dong Hoi

If you’re looking for something of the more local variety, then head right out the front door where you’ll find plenty of options to choose from.

A short stroll across the bridge towards Cang Dong Hoi takes you to an area that is full of eateries with mouthwatering selections to chose from.

Dong Hoi also sports a lively night market. On of the main features is the selection of local delicacies and crowd favorites, which we miss out on thanks to the wet weather and of coarse a good reason to come back. HA!

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

We tried a local spot at the other end of Đông Hải that had a lovely little old couple running it. While communication was almost non existent between the four of us, Leon and I were quietly confident they would deliver a superb meal, which they did of coarse.

Our order turned out to be beef and noodle soup dishes that were absolutely divine, not to mention a great find as it cost us next to nothing at VND80,000 (~USD3.50 / ~AUD4.80) for both bowls.

The most enjoyable part of the meal was watching the old couple get excited about their foreign visitors, finding ways to converse which ended in a fun and hilarious conversation via Google Translate that still makes us laugh.

 

Our Room

Our room was a basic but lovely and comfortable space where everything felt and looked bright and fresh and the private bathroom was huge (compared to previous places we’ve stayed).

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

The queen size bed was a dream with a Western style mattress, crisp sheets and a super warm and comfy duvet.

The first bonus was the balcony with a view over the Cau Rau river and out over towards the Nhat Le river. It was a great spot to have a beer and watch the world go by.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Two special mentions.

One, there is no TV. We weren’t bother as we were too tired after exploring and touring. Two, there is no wardrobe as such but they do offer coat hooks. Still if you’re only there for a few nights, you won’t even notice it.

The bathroom was clean and modern with the traditional all-in-one set up and was big enough to swing a cat in. We love it!

It had a western toilet, basin, double head shower which was perfect for Leon and stocked with basic toiletries as well as plush towels.

 

Au Lac Bar and Hostel Dong Hoi, vietnam, vietnam tourism, phong nha, places to stay in vietnam, vietnam hostels

 

Service Experience

Can’t fault the service in any way. Owners Binh and Kien, along with their team did an amazing job of looking after us. They give us heaps of insight into Dong Hoi and some great recommendations too. Then they hooked us up with a great tour to Paradise and Dark Caves, assuring us it would be both value for money and memorable.

We enjoyed hanging with these guys so much so that we’ve become friends and stay in touch regularly and it’s experiences like this that make us love this country so much!

 

Cost

We paid VND 200,000 (~USD 8.50 / ~AUD 12.00) per night for our three nights at Au Lac Bar and Hostel. It was an awesome deal and one of the best we’ve come across in our travels so far.

 

That’s our stay at Au Lac Bar and Hostel

We really enjoyed our stay. In fact, we enjoyed it so much so that we almost considered extending our trip to spend just so we could spend more time with Binh, Kien and Thao!

If you are thinking of doing the Phong Nha caves, don’t feel obligated to stay in Phong Nha. Dong Hoi has so much more to offer and Au Lac is the ideal spot for a base.

Check them out guys, you won’t be disappointed!

They are locals who know Dong Hoi well. They have a ton of recommendations that you will never find on TripAdvisor. Or any other review platform for that matter. (*Hint: Ask Binh about the hot springs.)

Thanks for reading and see you in the next one…

Two days in Cam Ranh

Two days in Cam Ranh things to do in Cam Ranh

Two days in charming Cam Ranh 

After a fantastic stay in Tuy Hoa, it was time to hit the road and head to the next destination on our list. Cam Ranh was a planned overnight stop. On the ride down though, we discovered there was more to what we thought was a sleepy little coastal town.

We ended up staying two nights to do a bit of exploring and found some interesting things along the way.

First impressions of Cam Ranh

We thought Cam Ranh sat on the coast, next to Bai Dai beach. As it turned out it was a bit inland and right next to main highway, QL1A, instead. It happens to be one of the busier roads in Vietnam and the traffic is insane! More on that in our travel vlog.

Despite the unexpected location, Cam Ranh is full of charm and authentic Vietnam. Our visit here turned out to be a bit of fun on a short stop.

Accommodation in Cam Ranh

Location

We opted for a budget hotel that wasn’t far from our intended route. Motel 42 Cam Ranh (Nha Ngi 42) sits just off QL1A, at 42 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Cam Loc, Cam Ranh. The two nights cost us VND400,000 (~USD17.20) all up. Not a bad deal at all. (PS: that is an affiliate link.  You don’t pay extra to use it but we do get a small commission and that helps keep us on the road longer and to tell you about more awesome places like this one!)

On arrival we met the colorful Loe (pronounced Lo-E) who had plenty of questions and a few stories to tell us.

He was most intrigued by our age and state of childlessness and had a lot of questions about why we chose Vietnam. Loe will certainly be a fond memory for us.

The room

 

Cam Ranh

The room was bigger than expected for a budget option and that’s a bonus for us. It was modestly furnished with a queen bed and small table and chairs. For comfort we had both an AC and fan, as well as a decent sized TV with ALL the cable channels.  (It means we get to catch up on some MotoGP action where possible.)

The bathroom was spacious too but unfortunately didn’t have any hot water. This was the first time we experienced the infamous Vietnamese cold shower. But it didn’t bother us much. We were expecting it based on a few reviews we’ve read of accommodation around Vietnam.

 

Cam Ranh

 

Our stay

The location and room were perfect for a short stop. We had no gripes except maybe for the constant traffic noise coming from the main highway.  The excessive honking all ours of the day and night got a tad irritating.

But that was the only negative!  Overall, we enjoyed our stay and Loe was an absolute treat!

What to eat in Cam Ranh

When planning our overnight stays, we also look for locations for food and supplies. This included things like meals, coffees, gas station, drinking water, etc. When riding motorcycles for four to six hours at a time, the last thing we feel like is running around looking for food and supplies.

Com Ga

Cam Ranh not only gave us an option for com ga (our favourite dish!) but it was chicken and rice with a new addition!

Our meal arrived in a colorful combo of broken rice, chicken and a heap of pickled veggies and fresh herbs.  Nicely finished off with a dollop of mayonnaise.

The surprise was the cute little bowl of soup that came with it. It was a lovely light chicken broth with fresh herbs and a poached quail’s egg in it. We haven’t come across this combo before and it was delicious! And for VND50,000 (~USD2.15) for both meals, it was a absolute score!

We enjoyed it so much that we ended up going back on our second night. If you’re ever in Cam Ranh, we recommend the com ga (chicken and rice) at Com Ga Hai on Huyinh Thuc Khang.

Cam Ranh

Roadside Banh Bao

We also tried a roadside banh bao vendor located on the corner of Duong Le Duan and Hai Muoi Hai Thang Tam. They were fresh, fluffy and super tasty! Not to mention a steal at VND20,000 (~USD0.85) for two of them.

Where to find coffee in Cam Ranh

Trying to order a hot coffee

No visit is complete without trying a local coffee and there were plenty of options to choose from in Cam Ranh.

Our first visit was to this tiny hole in the wall next to the hotel. There was no English available so we tried our hand at ordering a drink in our limited Vietnamese.

We ended up with another iced coffee. It wasn’t bad, except for the fact that it was absolutely pouring down with rain and cold as anything. At a cost of VND24,000 (~USD1.00) for both coffees, we weren’t complaining and they were good too, for a cheap coffee.

Cam Ranh

Cafe Phin Cam Ranh

The next morning, we went for a wander and found a huge café around the corner and right on the highway. Not sure of the name as we didn’t get a menu or a receipt and there were several names up on the building itself.

This time round we managed to order a hot coffee with milk and when it arrived, we had a good giggle about it. Because in front of us were two glass cups, sitting a tiny tin bucket of hot water and a phin on top of each.

We’ve never seen coffee this way before and it was funny. Ingenious but funny. That round set us back VND30,000 (~USD1.30) and again a cheap, good local coffee!

Cam Ranh

Trying our first milk tea

We did try something new this time round and that was the infamous milk tea that we see everywhere.

It took us a long time to get use to cold coffee and we definitely couldn’t see the appeal in cold tea. Tra Sua SIP is this hip little spot on Nguyen Thai Hoc and they were hopping!

We got there just as they opened and it didn’t take long for people to start piling in. Before we knew it, motorcycles were adding to the madness, queuing up for take away orders.

The teas were amazingly yummy too and looked very pretty. Not how I ever thought I’d describe a beverage, but there you have it.

They only cost VND32,000 (~USD1.40), which makes them a great and cheap alternative to coffee and we can see why they are popular.

Cam Ranh

We are now on the lookout for more of these milk tea shops.  If you want to see what we find, then keep an eye on our #snackingourchops hashtag on Insta for more updates.

Bai Dai Beach

Apart from the fact that Cam Ranh was within our 200km/day travel distance, it was also home to Bai Dai beach. You don’t hear much about this beach as it’s more famous cousin Nha Trang is a short distance away and usually in the lime light.

On day two we decided to go for a tiki-tour to check it out and see if we could actually get to the beach. (See our travel day blog for more on this.)

See, when we rode past it on our way into Cam Ranh, we couldn’t see this famous landmark at all. All we could see were the scores of gigantic hotels and resorts in different stages of construction. Every site hidden behind tall barriers. At that point we thought we’d never see the beach which was a little sad.

Cam Ranh

Found the beach!

We did find a way to it in the end and it was an amazingly beautiful beach! It was as beautiful as all the fuss we’d read about.

Pristine powdery white sand with the clearest blue water we’ve seen in a while. We didn’t think to take our togs before we went out there. A swim would have been amazing!

Sadly, it is slowly being overtaken by large resort companies and we fear it may disappear in a sea of resorts soon. It’s still worth a look if you’re out that way. If you do, go for a swim and let us know if it is as amazing as it looked!

Cam Ranh

The unusual memorial

One of our other finds was this huge memorial located at the northern end of the beach. We’re not sure what it commemorated as there was no English available and no one to ask.

We believe it may be a memorial to fallen soldiers but not sure from which war or what year.  It would have been nice to tell you more about it.

The grounds and statues were beautifully done and it was a very peaceful spot to visit.

Cam Ranh

Overall impression of Cam Ranh

For a small town it does offer a lot on a short visit!

Besides the endless options to eat and have a coffee at, there are also two full sized supermarkets.

Finding someone to help us out with Xorf’s flat rear wheel was a little harder. The kind man we did find in the end, was super efficient, honest and did a great job of getting us back on the road.

Cam Ranh

How much did it cost?

Below is a simple breakdown of costs for our two day visit.

Expenses VND USD (approx.)
Accommodation (2 nights) 400,000 17.15
Food and groceries 168,600 7.20
Beverage (non-alcoholic) 86,000 3.70
Motorbikes  fuel and repairs 325,000 13.90
Total 979,600 41.95

What’s next

We’re heading to Phan Rang next! We will spend a few days to explore a famous ancient Cham village and try some local legendary food spots. Make sure to tune in for more on that visit.

And don’t forget to hit the road with us on travel days. We cover those in our LTXtraordinary page as well as our vlogs.

Thank you so much for experiencing this adventure with us!

See you in the next one…

Delightful Da Lat

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Da Lat, a city of beaty and spoils

The second stop on our motorcycle adventure around Vietnam was Da Lat and we knew little about it.

We knew it was coffee country, has spectacular scenery and some historical value. It’s also a much-loved domestic holiday destination, but other than that, we didn’t know much more about it.

None the less, we couldn’t wait to encounter this new destination and our first real piece of Vietnam. One that isn’t bursting at the seams with foreign tourist.

One thing I will say is that riding those last ten kilometers into Da Lat, was one of the most enjoyable roads to ride.

Cool air breathed new life into our tired bodies as we wound through the wide easy-going roads. Carving through dense jungle covered peaks, peppered with produce of all sorts.

It was a spectacular welcome, that’s for sure!

Leon and Tash Vlog

When your planned five hours of first day riding a motorbike in Vietnam turns into a 16 hour battle against traffic, exhaustion and almost getting killed.

Arriving in Da Lat

Our smiles were soon replaced with furious concentration as we hit the city dead on peak hour traffic. It was almost like we were back in Ho Chi Minh!  It came as a bit of a shock and we weren’t expecting a city this size, not the chaos of heavy congestion.

One of the first things we noticed was how clean and beautiful the city was. Precisely manicured gardens in all shades and sizes. Even a topiary VW Bug sitting in the city central round about proud as a peacock.

The other was the noticeable difference in temperature. It was the first time since February we can remember being cold. Actual, ‘I need a jacket and jeans’ cold and we loved it!

But first things first. We had to find our hotel and hit some much-needed hay. For us, and the bikes. They did a tremendous job of delivering a couple of newbies to their destination and without so much as a sputter. Respect earned!

We were incredibly well looked after at Maxim Hotel and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.  Have a read of our full review here.

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Not sure where to start looking for bus tickets, time tables and the like?

Da Lat is the transportation hub of the Vietnamese highlands. Everything from buses, trains and private transport scoots in and out of this busy city, making it easy to get to and from!

Affiliate disclosure: The information in this posts contains affiliate links for our travel partnerships.  You don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use them but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

Showing the beasts some love

After an epic 400 kilometer or so trip up from Ho Chi Minh, it was time to show the Waves some love.

The plan was to get them washed, followed by a much-needed service. Ha gave us some ideas on where to find bike wash places and we had Honda dealership lined up for servicing.

Rua Xe (bike wash)

The rửa xe we chose was a short push from Maxim and the Honda dealership a short five-minute ride from there.

When we arrived at the bike wash there was a bit of a language barrier to get over. But after a few laughs we managed to convey what we wanted and set off to find a coffee.

Within an hour we had two shiny bikes back and made another new friend. The hospitality was simple but great and we didn’t expect that for a man sharing yard space with a beauty salon.

(On a side note: Before we left Da Lat, I went and had a pedicure done at that very same beauty salon. I couldn’t help but giggle as I watched Mr. Bike Washer expertly drying a customer’s hair while entertaining the waiting customers.

It’s moments like that I look for. That pure why of life, uncut, uncensored and you just melt into the medley with those in the moment.

My half hour pedicure turned into almost two hours of chatting, and laughing. I almost forgot I was in a foreign country all together. All from a ‘two chair out the front of the family home set up’. And it was the best thing ever!

Another memory that will stay with me forever.)

Washing the bikes cost us VND 50,000 (~USD 2.00 / ~AUD 3.00) per bike.

 

Genuine Honda service that didn’t break the bank

Servicing didn’t quite go to plan, but despite that, we still had a great experience with the team at Thang Loi 1 Head Honda.

We wanted a full service but due to the language barrier we only got an oil change and brake check on both bikes and my tail light fixed. Still for the VND 180,000 (~USD 8.00 / ~AUD 11.00) it cost us, we weren’t complaining.

Da Lat Attractions

It was hard not falling in travel-love with Da Lat. It has a lot on offer, both in the city and the surrounding areas.

We arrived at the beginning of the wet season and thought we’d be okay with it being the start but we wrong.

Wet season is wet season and when it kicks in, its long downpours and lots of cold, cloudy spells in between. But mostly rain.

We wanted to go to a few things like Elephant Waterfall and visit to a well-known coffee plantation. (The latter offers weasel coffee and you can meet the famous critter in person.)

Plus, a number of other things. Sadly, we missed out on much of the outdoor attractions due to the wet weather.

I caught a nasty cold three days into our visit and was finding it hard to shake it. Ending up in a doctor’s room was not happening either.  We had travel insurance but I’d prefer to not have to use it.

While it was a nuisance, it wasn’t the end of the fun. Oh no, there was still plenty of that in the city itself.

Below are some of the things we did get to experience.

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Affiliate disclosure: The information in this posts contains affiliate links for our travel partnerships.  You don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use them but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

DA LAT CENTRAL MARKET

If you love fresh fruit and veg then Da Lat is your haven! The best place to find all the best fresh goodies, was the Da Lat market. Or better known as Cho Da Lat by the locals. The varieties on offer looked mouth-watering.

Situated in the heart of the city and you can find anything and everything needed for everyday life here. The stalls and shops weren’t limited to food either.

Clothes, shoes, hardware, homeware, wet market, dry market you name it. The best part was they were all within a ten to fifteen-minute walk of each other.

The markets came in handy for our preparations of the next leg of our ride.

At night, the market transforms into food stalls of every kind with a delicious selection of local and well-known treats on offer. We didn’t get to try the night market due to bad weather but will try it out on our next visit if it’s drier.

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XUAN HUONG LAKE

At the heart of Da Lat is a large man-made lake called Xuan Huong Lake. It’s named after a famous Vietnamese poet of the mid-19th century.

The lake sits in the general area where several of the indigenous people of the central highlands use to live together. Da Lat got her name from one of these ethnic groups, the Lat. In their language, Da Lat means “Stream of the Lat”.

The lake offers a few of its own attractions. You can take a paddle boat out onto the lake or a ride around it in a horse-driven carriage.

If gimmicks aren’t your thing then there is plenty of green grass on offer to chill or have a picnic.  You don’t even have to pack food, there are snack vendors everywhere.

Heck you can even go finishing if you have the gear.

DA LAT LAKEFRONT

One of Da Lat’s most recognizable icons is Doha Café and the unique lake front she sits atop.

From a distance it looks like nothing but a large paved area with two strange looking structures on it. As you get closer, you realize one of the structures resembles a flower bud made of glass.

We’re a couple of natural curious cats and decided to go check it out. We have a vlog and blog about the experience, feel free to have a read and a look.

There’s a what, where?

After Doha, we headed over to the other strange shaped building and never actually made it there lol. Turns out there is a whole underground mall below the two glass buildings. The entrance was cleverly disguised as a glass spiral ceiling coming out of the ground.

There we found three levels of shops, a very large supermarket, an arcade and kid’s playground area and a food court.   We later found an underground cinema too. You’d never know all this was there just by looking at the area from a distance.

We decided to leave the mall to head back to the hotel, only the torrential rain had set in and for the night by the look of it.

No taxi, no worry

Trying to hail a taxi turned out to be a little harder than anticipated.  So, we opted for a movie instead.

The Cinestar cinemas were lower in height than we’re used to but it didn’t take away from the experience. If anything, it felt really cozy.

As luck would have it, it was cheap Monday and we only paid VND 90,000 (~USD 4.00 / ~AUD 6.00) for the two tickets. Then decided to splash out VND 105,000 (~USD 5.00 / ~AUD 7.00) for a two drinks, medium popcorn and M&M’s combo. Score!

It turned out to be a fun night, despite the weather and we had to catch a taxi back to the hotel as it was still raining. For the VND 30,000 (~USD1.00 / ~AUD 2.00) we paid, it didn’t break the bank and kept us dry!

UNIQUE TOURIST SPOTS

These two experiences were so unique that we gave them each their own blog.

The first is the 100 Roofs Cafe with a strange labyrinth of nooks and crannies wedged into a tiny four level building with a pretty spectacular view from the rooftop.  If you can find it!

The second was Crazy House, also known as Hang Nga Guesthouse.

One of the craziest experiences you’ll ever have in Vietnam, for sure!

ALL THE KING’S PALACES

If you follow our vlogs you would have seen our visit to the Imperial Palace in Hue and the reference to Boa Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam.

Boa Dai was an avid hunter and pleasure seeker and Da Lat was his favorite playground. So much so that Da Lat boasts three of the late emperor’s palaces.

Two of the three palaces are open to the public. The third is for dignitaries visiting Da Lat and while the public are welcome to roam the garden, they cannot enter the palace building itself.

We create a blog with all the juicy bits on these two soon, so keep your peepers peeled.

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DA LAT ART DECO RAIL STATION

French influence is evident across Da Lat and none more so than the Da Lat Rail station.

Designed in 1932 by two French architects, Moncet and Reveron. Then built and completed by Swedish engineers in 1938.

The story goes that the French were great at design, but in this instance, the Swedes were better at building it. They could build rail lines at an altitude and landscape like that of the Da Lat plateau.

The design was unusual for a building of this period too. It was both art deco and traditional Vietnamese communal house. Very clever!

At inception, the line connected Da Lat with two daily runs to Nha Trang and Saigon respectively.

Like so many other icons, it got destroyed in latter part of the Vietnam war.

In 1991 the rail station reopened to the public after 7 kilometers was rebuilt. The new line takes visitors to nearby Trai Mat and back in an hour round trip, five times a day.

We got there a bit late and missed the last train for the day.  But we were still able to walk around the rail station and see some the carriages and fixtures. One of the original locomotives is still on display and you can enjoy a coffee inside a carriage for a bit of fun.

Only thing we found bothersome was the hawkers clogging the old platform. The fact that they were trying to make a living was fine. It was the fact that they were selling wares that had no connection to the rail station and her history.

But if you can look past that, it’s still a neat hour’s visit to a piece of Da Lat history.

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EATING LIKE A LOCAL IN DA LAT

As we mentioned before, Da Lat is famous for her produce.

Hà, again was kind enough to take us to some of his local favorite eateries. He introduced is to some very different kinds of dishes and we loved them all!

We tried so many new things that we’re writing another blog piece covering all our favorite morsels from Da Lat.

We’ll leave you with a hint of what we experienced for now though.

There were the sweet smelling fried balls from the side of the road, the deep fried pig’s lung (yeah, we had that look on our face too), and a green rice porridge with salty boiled eggs.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Pig's fried what now?? Find out how to eat like a local in Da Lat

THE GOOD STUFF – DA LAT COFFEE

We love the coffee shops in Vietnam it’s not secret. Da Lat was an exception to our usual experiences in that we were IN coffee country.

The fact that there was no Cong Ca Phe or even a Highlands Coffee had us intrigued at first. But, the more we explored the local coffee shops, the more we realized what was on offer was amazing in its own right. Coffee in its most delicious form.

We tried different coffees from different cafes and they were all good.

At one cafe, we attempted to order using the words on the menu only as there were no pictures. We had a good laugh as we ended up with a cà phê đá which is basically a cold coffee mixed with condensed milk and poured over ice.

Not so great on a cold, wet day ha-ha!

 

Stand out coffee moments

There were two stand out coffee moments during our visit to Da Lat.

The first was the Da Lat Nights special coffee. We’re not sure what was in it as it seemed to be a guarded secret lol. It was strong, slightly sweet and had something extra in it, but we’re not sure.  It was a thick, slow coffee and it was very enjoyable. We do recommend giving it a go!

If you’re ever in Da Lat looking for something to do at night, go visit Da Lat Nights Café. It’s worth the trip up there to enjoy a view of the city from a different perspective (wink).

The second was more of an experience (thanks to Hà again) as we went to a café owned by actual coffee grower. At Là Việt you can enjoy an expertly made coffee, and also learn about their beans and the roasting and blending processes they undergo.

We were also lucky enough to walk away with two of their blends. Leon’s favorite is the 100% Arabica Traditional blend which is a bold, dark roast that is suitable for most methods of brewing.

I preferred the 100% Arabica Classico blend which is a slightly lighter roast and again suited to most methods of brewing. Great choices to take on the road with us. We’ll let you know what they are like once we cracked those bad boys!

A huge thank you to Hà and Là Việt for a great evening.

What we thought of our visit to Da Lat

Our overall impression of Da Lat is nothing but happiness. We extended our stay here twice, despite the weather, that’s how much we enjoyed it.

Even then we didn’t get to do it all.  We will definitely try to get back to this amazing slice of heaven tucked away in the Vietnam highlands. If we do, we’ll let you know what we find next time.

From a practical point, the city is easy to navigate, foreigner friendly, relatively cheap with plenty of amenities. It was a winner for us.

On offer is loads of fresh air (a godsend after Ho Chi Minh City), and plenty to keep you busy. You can enjoy amazing food and refreshing beverages at an array of cool, quirky and unique venues.  Da Lat has it all!

Leon and Tash Blog

Things to do in Da Lat

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

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Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…