36 hours in Da Lat, Vietnam

36 hours in Da Lat, Vietnam

I have been trying to figure out a good way to summarize places we have visited, to give my readers an overview of a place and help you determine if a destination should be added to your travel wish list.   I finally decided that imitation is the highest form of flattery and I would review cities in 36 hour periods just like my favorite travel section, The New York Times.  As much as I love the New York Times, I just don’t think they cover all the small towns and off the beaten track locations we will be traveling to.  My first review will be, Da Lat, Vietnam in the Central Highlands and I hope to get back and give my 36 hours for other cities we’ve visited.

Da Lat is located 4900 feet above sea leavel n Liangbiang plateau.

Da Lat is the unofficial honeymoon mecca for the Vietnamese for good reason as it is also known as “La Petit Paris.”  The title is appropriate considering the many European influences including an Austrian imported gondola and a small Eiffel Tower replica.  This charming, seemingly European town in the Central Highlands is growing fast, the population has doubled in the last four years to 300,000 residents.  The cool climate attracts many and is a nice reprieve from the tropical climate of Southern Vietnam.  The cooler air and fertile soil also make for the perfect coffee growing conditions.  Even with the influx of both residents and tourists from Vietnam and abroad Da Lat has plenty of room for more visitors.

5 p.m.

The bus will deliver you to a large hotel near the central market in Da Lat and while it has a great location it does not have the best price so beat the bus at their tourist game and shop around.  There are several options for accommodations in the immediate area, in fact it seems that every storefront doubles as a hotel.  We were able to find a lovely tea shop that was also a hotel, Thanh Truc, and had rooms for just $6 a night (Thanh Truc hotel Lo B1 Duong 3 Thang 2- Tp. Da Lat).

6:30 pm

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup made with rice noodles and served in a steaming hot broth with either beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga).  The best part of pho is customizing it to your tastes with items from the abundant garnish plate, which typically comes with basil, lime, peppers, bean sprouts, garlic, lemon grass and lettuce.  Delicious Pho eateries abound in Da Lat and you simply seat yourself and when asked what you want specify pho bo or pho ga, the place just next door to Than Truc hotel is an easy stop after  unpacking.

A delicious bowl of hot pho on a cool Da Lat night will warm you up.

9 pm

Head up Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street just past the roundabout and you will find several pastry shops with every type of sweet treat you can imagine.  Donuts, egg tarts, cakes and stuffed pastries in every shape color and size are available.  Order a ca phe sua da or coffee with milk to wash down your pastry and you should be caffeinated for the remainder of your evening.

Scrumptious pastries for mere pennies in Da Lat.


10 am

The morning is the best time to catch the market in action with farmers delivering their vegetables and ducks still quacking via Motorbike.  The market (Cho Da Lat) is a great place to get breakfast as well, all of your favorite Vietnamese dishes are available including fried noodle, beef salad and chicken with lemongrass.  If you just can’t stomach non-breakfast food early in the morning grab a fresh baguette at one of the stalls and a jar of Da Lat’s culinary claim to fame, strawberry jam.

Fresh duck being delivered to Cho Da Lat market


To enjoy all that Da Lat has to offer you really need to explore the city on wheels.  While you will find many “Easy Rider” motorcycle drivers swarming the city center waiting to trap the next tourist, resist their sales pitches and head to Green Adventour Co., Ltd.  Ask for Nguyen Thanh Cong directly as he speaks superb English and is happy to answer all your questions.  He is willing to bargain, but he will remind you of a common American phrase “I wasn’t born yesterday,” proving his command of the English language.  His extensive knowledge on the history of Da Lat was impressive and he would continuously remind us “not to keep a question in our heart as we paid good money for this tour.”  Our tour took us to Prenn Falls, Truc Lam shrine and monastery, a coffee plantation, the gondola over the Central Highlands, XQ Embroidery artist village, traditional weaving village and Xuon Huong Lake.

Truc Lam shrine and working monastery is one of the stops on your Green Adventour of Da Lat.

The Prenn waterfalls is another stop on your tour where you can hike or take the roller coaster down to see the falls.

5:30 pm

You’ll feel as if you have won the jackpot once you try the delicious chili chicken sold by a street vendor tucked away in an alley off Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street.  Once you go to pay you will realize that you did in fact hit the jackpot as the meal, which is a generous portion is just over two dollars.

Chicken jackpot for dinner in Da Lat

7 pm

Every weekend the roads around the Central Market are closed off to allow tourists and locals to enjoy the City Center sans motorcycles and without threat of death due to traffic.  Take advantage of the open streets and stroll through the clothes markets that seem to pop up wherever there is room.  You might be inclined to purchase any number of light up or glowing items to enjoy the evening with as many of the Vietnamese children do.

Da Lat closes the streets on weekends to encourage gathering in the City Center

9 pm

Once you have had your fill of chicken and clothes markets, head out of town a little ways to enjoy some fresh air.  Be mindful of the street names as you pass them by as it is easy to find yourself up in the Highlands among the greenhouses and coffee plantations with no street lights.  Due to the hills in Da Lat getting your bearings again can be difficult so don’t wander too far, we offer this advice based on personal experience.


9 am

Before you  bid farewell to the Central Highlands and the charms of Da Lat grab a cup of deliciously sweet Vietnamese coffee.  It is less than a dollar on the street and you can get it to take away if you prefer, but don’t wait lest you miss the bus (just ask thinkCHUA).


Grab a quick snack for your next bus ride, because it’s 14 hours to Hoi An, Vietnam.  I of course couldn’t resist the popcorn, a perfect snack anytime!


Da Lat is a short, read four hours, but very uncomfortable bus ride from Mui Ne in tropical temperatures with no air conditioning and roughly four inches of personal space.  According to a recent web search the fee for said bus is twelve dollars, but we only paid four dollars by booking on the ground in Vietnam.

Thanh Truc Hotel (Thanh Truc hotel Lo B1 Duong 3 Thang 2- Tp. Da Lat, Vietnam, 063. 3821214) Combines a tea shop with a hotel and provides clean, affordable rooms with small balconies that overlook dirty alleyways.

Green Adventour Co., Ltd. (3 Thi Sach- Da Lat- Vietnam, 01689570080) Provides excellent English speaking guides, transportation and allows you to enjoy a Tiger Beer or two along the way if you choose.

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» Mom A :
Jan 12, 2011

Great format! Not only what you did but how you did it with specifics people can use on the road! You sure crammed a lot into a day! Whatever happened to the idea of staying more than a day? Thought you wouldn’t have wanted another bus ride quite so soon. Although I can see why you didn’t in some of the smallest places you have been. At this rate, you will get to Hanoi way before Tet!

Now that you have the format down for your place reviews, have you been able to refine your one line in your 5year diary?

Mom A

LOCAVORista Reply:

Mom, we have been staying in places longer than just 36 hours, I just stole that format from The Times and put our best experiences into that time frame. Some places we have been staying less than I thought though, this way we spend more time in our favorite places. Right now we’re in Hoi An and I have fallen in love, so we may stay longer.

» Rebecca :
May 21, 2012

I googled “36 hours in Dalat” hoping to find the NYtimes one (without much optimism) so thank you! This is wonderful

LOCAVORista Reply:

Rebecca, glad you found the article helpful and have a wonderful time in Dalat and Vietnam as a whole- it’s a fabulous country!

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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