At the end of a perilous dirt track to the east of Dalat, the Tiger Cave Falls seem to have fallen off the city’s tourism radar. During our visit, there was nobody else there… and we got the feeling that it’s been that way for a very long time.
A couple kilometers north of the city center, we found the XQ Embroidery Village, a bizarre mashup of a gallery, factory, museum and theme park. While exploring the village, we also felt somewhat mashed-up. Were we supposed to be confused, amused, creeped out, or impressed? Because we were feeling all those things at the same time.
Dalat has three palaces, or “Dinh”. The Dinh III is the summer palace of Bao Dai, which we had visited earlier in the day. The Dinh II is the Governor’s Mansion, closed to the public. And then there’s the Dinh I, the “King’s Palace”, built in 1940 by French millionaire Robert Clement, and purchased by Bao Dai in 1949.
When I heard people talking about Dalat’s “Crazy House”, I wasn’t entirely convinced. I assumed it was going to be like some clown who promises “craziness” at your kid’s birthday party, but then he’s actually kind of normal. And while you’re glad that he didn’t kill anyone, part of you is disappointed that his definition of “crazy” was balloon animals.
Until he left in 1954 for permanent exile in France, Bảo Đại kept a summer palace in Dalat. Today, the palace is open to tourism. Little has changed since his departure, so visiting provides an excellent glimpse into the life of Vietnam’s final emperor.
Conceived and constructed as a resort by the French, Dalat is distinguished by its colonial architecture and leisurely atmosphere. Today, it’s the unofficial capital of the central highlands, and a favorite place for both locals and foreigners to escape Vietnam’s otherwise tropical heat.