Da Lat city is certainly the most well known and popular vacation destination during the Tet holidays for both Vietnamese as well as foreigners. It is the unofficial honeymoon Mecca of Vietnam.
|Thung Lung Tinh Yeu (Valley of Love) in Da Lat( Photo: SGGP)|
Located on the Lám Viên (Langbian) highlands, part of the greater central highlands of Vietnam (Cao Nguyen Trung Phan), the city is 1500 metres above sea level and 305 km from Ho Chi Minh City.
The main city has many homes built of wood, much like the Swiss chalets found in the Alps. It also has many grand villas built by French officials during the early part of the century.
Tourists flock to Da Lat to see its famous waterfalls and lakes; the Xuan Huong Lake, which is shaped like the crescent moon and Camly fall leading to Suoi Vang (Gold Stream). They enjoy horse riding in Thung Lung Tinh Yeu (Valley of Love) or take a ride on a swan-shaped boat on Lake Da Thien, Lake of Sorrow.
Lake Da Thien is quite small and it has both peddle and motorized boats for rent. Prenn fall is located at the foot of Prenn pass and is about 10 km from Da Lat. Around the fall area was once a thriving wild life refuge. Visitors to the fall can visit the various habitats of animals of this region.
Another popular tourist spot is Yersin Park, which has been developed by the local government to attract tourists.
According to the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Binh Thuan Province, from the 28th day of the 12th month of last lunar year until the first day of this New Year, Binh Thuan has welcomed 18,000 foreign tourists (an increase of 59.5 percent against the same period last year). This year, authorities in Binh Thuan organized a fireworks display to welcome New Year in Ham Tien- Mui Ne tourist spot, for the hordes of tourists.
Since the 2nd day of the New Lunar New Year, 145,000 visitors have visited the beaches of Binh Thuan Province, such as Hon Rom, Bau Trang, Tuy Phong, La Gi and in Phan Thiet City.
Visitors also swamped Sa Pa in the North, enjoying adventure tours in the villages of Ta Giang Phinh in Sa Pa town and Nam Tam in neighbouring Lai Chau Province, where the local people fiercely cling to their traditions.
The tours are particularly popular in spring, the best season to visit the mountain areas. But Sa Pa is popular from August to April, with many foreign tourists flocking to the region.
Ta Giang Phinh is 25km from Sa Pa and home of the Mong and Dao people. The 3,000m tall Mt Ngu Chi Son is nearby and the second highest peak in the area, after the famed Mt Fansipan.
The village connects with Sa Pa by a narrow road which snakes through the mountains. The mountains and valley of maize and terraced rice fields are best seen on sunny days when the sky is clear.
As the village is nudged by the large Sin Chai Valley, 500m above sea level, tourists can easily find the local Mong people farming the terraced fields or trekking through forests of cardamom. Locals often invite visitors with maize and perform the khen (bamboo pan-pipe) dance to express their hospitality.
The women often stay at home to weave brocade cloth. With families scattered in isolated spots around the valley and no means of transportation, the only way to get visitors to explore the village is on foot.
"We set up the village to represent the typical life of the Mong and Dao people," said Green Sa Pa product manager Phung Gia Cao. "Tourists can explore the interesting culture of the Mong and Dao themselves."
Nam Tam Village, in Binh Lu District in Lai Chau is another hour's drive from Ta Giang Phinh and is in the heart of one of the largest granaries of northwest Vietnam. The village of ethnic Lao, Thai and Lu people, with a population of 2,600, sits on a bank of the Nam Mu River on low terrain and amid fertile paddy fields.
The scenery along the 45km route from Sa Pa to Nam Tam fascinates tourists. On sunny days, clouds dot the blue sky over the mountain ranges.
"Our van often takes many stops along the roadside for tourists to grab a quiet moment on sunny days," said Phong.
|Sa pa view (file Photo)|
As Nam Tam lies along a 20km stretch of the Nam Mu River, rafts are the most popular vehicle for locals to fish or transport rice during harvest time.
"You can easily find a raft on the river as the locals often fish in the daytime," said Phong. "We have already set up a local service, so tourists can board a raft as soon as they arrive in the village. They can paddle themselves along the river and stop at any village along the bank."
Phong said his agency can also arrange rubber rafts instead of bamboo.
After a short stop on the river bank, visitors can mount bicycles for a 20km ride around the area.
"Cycling is a change after a few hours of rafting," said Nguyen Anh Manh, a guide from a Hanoi-based travel agency. "Tourists can stop at several points in the village. They can even leave their bikes and keep walking if they want."
"I've been assigned to take tourists to Sa Pa town for years," Manh added. "Nam Tam and Ta Giang Phinh are actually the best places to stay for the night."
Nam Tam Village, which includes three hamlets, is a recognised place to make a home stay. Tourists can spend the night in a hamlet of the Thai ethnic group and view traditional folk dances around a campfire at night. The Thai people hosting the visitors offer grilled fish and meat as the tourists relax after a hard day of rafting and cycling.
"Travellers’ can dance with the locals, and roast fish over a wood fire for dinner," said Manh. "A night in a stilt house will refresh you for your next day's journey."
Many tourists making a home stay in the village during the Lunar New Year when Thai people celebrate with exotic food and wine to welcome in the New Year.