The church bells ring at 5 AM, 5:30 and then they stop. It is just enough to time to wake up and go back to sleep before the second round.
This morning we first visit the Dao Dai’s Summer Palace. It is located on the opposite side of the lake along with the more upscale neighborhoods of Dalat. Built in the 1930s, it has many moderne touches but none of the high end Art Deco artistic architectural elements of a true collection. The King and his wife and 4 children (1 boy-crown prince) used the Palace until his wife picked up the children and moved to Paris. The King brought in his concubine to inhabit the Palace until he too disappeared to turn up again in Paris with a new wife. Basically, he was a figurehead during his reign. The grounds and setting are picturesque for this hill town. However, there are a number of hucksters offering pony rides, pictures in old MG car, falcon on your arm picture, flowered Vespa ride with picture, etc.
Proceeding on to the rail station, we are going to take a small train to an adjacent neighborhood to visit the Linh Phuoc Pagoda, or Ve Chai Pagoda. The rail system is virtually non-existent in Dalat but this remnant remains as a reminder. Our 20 minute ride brought us to a small station where we disembarked and walked up to the Pagoda. The complex of buildings are covered with decorative mosaics from broken ceramics inlaid on every imaginable surface. The Mother Buddha composed of flowers is 25 m and inside the temple another statute of the Mother is even taller. Surrounding the hall of the temple are golden statutes of the same Mother Buddha donated to the temple. In between the statutes are live size replicas of monks who previously were associated with the temple. They are lifelike including hair and dress- a form of Madame Trousseau monastery style.
We leave this area and drive up to a Lac minority village. While the people still live in traditional wooden houses, they have traded the base level for concrete. Passing through we continue to the base of the Lang Biang park. Here we transfer to a park jeep, Soviet vintage, for a ride to the summit. We are able to get a good view of Dalat’s system of hills and valleys from this vantage point. Again there are a number of people waiting to sell things including pony rides on a pseudo zebra (peroxide dyed stripes on chestnut horse). It is a picnic destination for local people as well.
Returning to the city, we lunch by the lake and enjoy the cool weather. Amazingly a group came into the cafe with 4 Siberian Huskies. Although originally from Thailand, the Dalat climate is more suited for their coats
We visit the new public park performance area around the lake. Both of the architectural elements on the mall are in “renovation” after only 1 year of opening. The retail space underneath the plaza has not been adopted as planned.
After a stroll around the Flower Park – Dalat is called the “City of Flowers” – we finish our sightseeing at the Crazy House. Designed by the daughter of a Vietnamese official who studied architecture in Russia, it is an organic presentation of Gaudi meets Disney themed. Some of the rooms are rented for those who want to experience the thematic bedrooms (ant, tiger, bear, honeymoon, etc). Navigation is tricky and narrow ladders and stairs make it difficult to move very quickly through the spaces. The owner continues in the same vein to develop and add on to the original house while selling tickets for tourists and lodgers to subsidize the building.