It’s July in Viet Nam. We’re hot. We wanted a cool getaway. Da Lat was our ideal destination.
There are many online lists of the sights and sounds of Da Lat, they all say “this is the real Viet Nam” or “Must try Vietnamese food” and it makes us roll our eyes. We eat real vietnamese food every day; we’re in the real Viet Nam every day. We’re torn when finding a place to see in Viet Nam. We want both worlds, authentic Vietnam and global access. Da Lat was that for us. Fused between celebrating traditional flower markets and catching up to modernity, Da Lat was easy to navigate and readily available to share its new and old ways with a visitor.
The best part for us was the cool temperatures because it’s nestled in the central highlands. It peaked at 76 degrees at the end of June. We actually wore coats, people! It’s known as the city of Eternal Spring for a reason. We were able to walk upwards of 10 miles in a day, gawking at the French architecture left behind by colonialism. There are plenty of things to do there including flower gardens, waterfalls, but you can do a google search for that.
We had our fill of international and asian fusion dishes, but also tried to find food unique to Da Lat too. Joe tried the ‘infamous’ nem nuong as we were told it was different than southern nem nuong. The big food takeaway, literally and figuratively, was the fresh vegetables at the night market. We ended up buying a basket so we could bring food back to Tra Vinh with us. We bought artichokes, which the area is famous for—especially atiso tea, broccolini, asparagus, and tomatoes. We also purchased coffee and fruit candies to share.
We were just in a constant state of peacefulness. It energized us, calmed us, comforted us. In other words, it had everything we needed: adventure, food, relaxation.
So our favorites?
Locally Sourced Food: Biang Bistro
Not an easy place to describe but it was the most delightful restaurant. A large wooden fence blocks the entire view and we were greeted by a security guard so for a moment we wondered if we walking into a resort. The restaurant was massive, with terraces of tables along the hillside. Our servers were pleasant and friendly and the food blew us away. In fact the broccolini was so delicious it inspired us to buy some at the night market. Justine had vegan gnocchi and Joe had duck complemented with roasted pears, plums, and asparagus. Everything from the restaurant was harvested by local farmers in Lam Dong province. The meal was pricey for Vietnamese costs but worth every penny.
International Meal: Ichi
Imagine a 1930s speakeasy: intimate, with dark wooden tables and dim lights. Instead of bootlegged alcohol it was Japanese spirits. This hidden gem had seats for no more than 16 people. What you need to know is it is the best sushi Viet Nam has to offer.
Bar: The Woody Bar
A local hangout that brought us much joy— hipster youth smoked, played pool, brought their dogs and listened to every version of Toploaders ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’. It was the perfect marriage of two competing worlds, old and new, traditional and modern. We felt right at home.
Farm: Tùng Hạ
We hiked to a random lavender field because our AirBnB host had some of their essential oil. It was down a rocky narrow road that reminded us of Ireland. Once we reached the farm, we were met with rows of lavender that weren’t necessarily awe-inspiring, but we felt mindfully content: the satisfaction of a good hike combined with fresh air, beautiful views, and peaceful happiness. It was a moment to take in and appreciate what it takes to produce a flower.
Experience: Harry Potter Cafe
That’s right! You read that correctly. When you’re too old to dress up but you want to anyway because it’s Harry Potter then this is the place for you. A Butterbeer, juice, order of fries, and two Gryffindor outfits to rent cost a whopping $6.00. It felt right to pick Gryffindor although we both know we’d be sorted into other houses. (Care to guess which ones?) Located on the outskirts of town, this coffee shop is decked out with Hogwarts items and surprisingly sad quotes from Severus Snape. Ironically, the day before someone without any prompt stated Joe looked like Hagrid.
Bicycle Up Coffee
Vintage cafe with great coffee and a healthy mix of expats and locals.
Great views of Da Lat from here. It’s a tourist attraction so be mindful. We still had a lot of fun finding nooks and crannies all over this fun site. You can even stay in one of the themed-rooms.
100 Roof Bar
Not actually a runner up, but worth a shout out. You pay for your drink first then explore. But! you start in the musty basement so if you’re a but claustrophobic or like being in control, rethink and just go straight up to the bar room.
An Australian burger joint with cheap but tasty beer. A nice place if you’re craving a burger.