Hop off the bus in Da Lat and you might feel like you’ve stepped into a different country. Located in the south-central highlands of Vietnam, this small city has a distinct character and cooler climate compared to much of the rest of the country. The city originally expanded as French colonists built villas in the region to escape the intense summer heat.
Step into the grounds of the Hang Nga guesthouse, and you might feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale!
The Hang Nga guesthouse, also known as Da Lat Crazy House, was designed by Dang Viet Nga, the daughter of a famous Russian-educated architect named Truong Chinh. The house’s design was inspired both by the natural landscapes of the city of Da Lat and the works of a Catalan artist named Antoi Gaudí. To my eye, the Crazy House felt like a mix between a Salvador Dali painting and a classic fairytale. With a dizzying array of twisting staircases, organic shapes, animal statues, and narrow, elevated walkways, this is not a place for the faint of heart to visit! The construction of this sprawling, treelike house put Dang Viet Nga into debt. To help cover these costs, guests are able to stay in one of ten animal-themed guestrooms. Just be sure to be out of the room fairly early, before the hordes of visitors show up – this is not a guesthouse where one can easily sleep in late!
For backpackers in Da Lat, I can recommend staying at the Dalat Family guesthouse. Although the place was a little difficult to find initially, I found the owners to be very welcoming and helpful. Communal dinners are offered a few times a week, and the staff are happy to help guests with arranging bus or train tickets as well as local sightseeing. In fact, the owners took a handful of guests on what is hands-down my most memorable experience in Vietnam- rappelling down several rock faces and waterfalls! I really wish I could have taken pictures of that outing- one more reason I need a waterproof camera, stat!
The owners even had a relative who was getting married, and invited guests who would be around for a few more days to pick out traditional clothing for wedding photos! Unfortunately, I was headed south to Ho Chi Minh the next day, but it would have been an interesting photoshoot to be involved in.
What’s your favourite thing about Vietnam? -or- What most intrigues you about it? I’d love to hear what you have to say 🙂