Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Da Lat - Wonderful Highland in Vietnam

More than 1,220 meters above sea level, the highland city of Da Lat basks in a region of magnificent lakes, waterfalls, and a 2,135-meter mountain peak to the north. One called the "summer capital".

Da Lat has a mild climate year round (16oC) and is reminiscent of the alpine areas of Europe with its pine forests, rolling hills, and small lakes. The sky in the high plateau is a deep blue. Some of the many lakes in the area are Xuan Huong, Than Tho (sorrowful sighs), Me Linh, Van Kiep, and Suoi Vang (Golden Brook).

Da Lat was founded around 1920 by French physician, Alexander Yersin, who felt cool climate would make an ideal therapeutic retreat for his European patients who suffered from the debilitating effects of the tropical climate.

The area was originally inhabited only by highland ethnic minorities, called Montagnards by the French. Lowlander Vietnamese, however, did not enjoy living year-round in the highlands. They considered the "climate" to be unhealthy because of uncharted jungle, savage tribes, and dangerous wild animals.

As the French began settling these areas, they brought in Vietnamese as servants, merchants, transporters, and laborers. The French built homes reminiscent of alpine cottages and initiated experimental agriculture programs for growing rubber, coffee, and European vegetables.

After 1954, many Vietnamese Catholics left the North and settled in the Da Lat area, and established more experimental farms. The Vietnamese population in the area gradually increased.

In addition to its agricultural importance, the natural beauty of Da Lat soon made it the honeymoon capital of the country. Even now, newlyweds enjoy walking among the gently rolling hills and having picnics on the rocks near the falls or beside the romantic lakes. Strolling or riding horseback around the lake is an invigorating experience.
by Pham Xuan Thao