|Dalat was once called Le Petit Paris. True, it does have a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower, but you never really forget that you are still in Vietnam. The little streets and alleys go up and down throughout the city, with countless local businesses everywhere you look. There are hundreds of local coffee shops serving up anything from the truly syrupy black stuff to instant concoctions the locals believe the foreigners prefer. Walking up and down little alleys you feel like you're in someone's livingroom. Homes, store fronts, cafes, restaurants, barber shops, sewing shops and even little 'gambling rooms' line the length of most alleys; people spill in and out of them flooding the alleys, and making things difficult for scooters and bicycles trying to get through. We really enjoyed sitting at a little desert place watching the alley traffic. Food sellers often make their way through, balancing heavy loads on their shoulders. Cats and dogs abound.
We visited the 'Crazy House of Dalat' also known as Hang Nga Gallery and Guesthouse. It looks like a manifestation of someone's crazy dream. It was designed by no other than the daughter of Ho Chi Minh's successor, which explains how she was able to acquire a permit to build this rather 'antisocialist' structure in Dalat. It is completely out of character with the rest of Dalat, and the rest of what we've seen of Southern Vietnam so far. Some might call it tacky. I thought it was magical and inspirational - a grand work of art in progress. Mrs. Hang Nga is continually designing new additions to the existing structure, so you can almost be certain to see something new on your next visit.
While walking up and down the streets of Dalat the night before our departure, we suddenly realized that there was absolutely no traffic on the streets. Few people were actually walking their scooters. Several streets were blocked off for a night market. It was a rather unusual scene. Locals dressed in warm jackets, scarves, gloves, and toques were shopping at countless market stalls selling everything from treats, to jams, to strawberry wines to warm clothing. It was so different. We really grew accustomed to the constant noise of scooter traffic since we came to Asia. All we heard that night was people talking.