There’s a wonderful place nestled in the central highlands immune to the hot and humid tropical climate of Vietnam, called Đà Lạt, the city of eternal spring. Here the temperate climate is a marked contrast to the rest of central and southern Vietnam and averages in the highs 70’s F compared with the 90-100F of other parts of the central and south lands. It reminds us of Seattle and the great Northwest with lush green vegetation and beautiful flowers everywhere. Mountainous lakes and many waterfalls dot the surrounding countryside around Đà Lạt and make for nice day trips upon entering or leaving the city.
We spent 3 days here breathing in the cool crisp summer air, a welcomed departure from the smog polluted air of Saigon. It was the first night since arriving in Vietnam that we weren’t awaken by the incessant horns of motorbikes and taxis, which was equally refreshing. Originally built as a resort town during the French colonization, Đà Lạt is a small urban town of 200,000 compared with the 10 million of Saigon, and still remains a popular vacation and honeymoon destination for the Vietnamese.
Aside from the beautiful scenery. We made several trips the central market of Đà Lạt, a vital hub of the city and a street photographer’s dream. Inside the market are many dry goods stalls tightly packed together, but surrounding the market on all sides is abuzz with activity and interesting food scenes. The narrow side roads around the market doubles as a market stall for vendors and route of transportation for bicycles, motorbikes, cars, and pedestrian shoppers alike. Watch your step as you might just run into a fresh load of durian freshly plucked from the trees and brought to market by motorbike.
You will find vendors of all ages, from stout wrinkled grandmotherly types to lithe teens flexing huge bundles of hot from the oven banh mi on their hips as easily as if they were carrying their newborn. Since there’s traffic on all four side streets around the market, the more mobile vendors will constantly move their wares, either carrying this load of banh mi like this girl or hitching it to a bamboo stick.
You can find everything from fresh durian, rambutan, and pomelo to fresh fish and meats. Unlike here in the States, Vietnamese shop for the day not the week. There are many families that don’t even have refrigeration to stock up so daily trips to the market for produce is common place.
Above the market on the second level are many food stalls, but by late afternoon as the market closes, the front entrance to the market comes alive with street food vendors of all varieties. Since the temperature tends to be cool in the evenings, hot chicken congee with appropriate offals as well as hearty beef stews, bo kho are on the menu to warm the soul. Grilled meat on sticks and betel wrapped beef skewers tinge the cool fresh air with it’s smoky salivating aroma. It’s a fantastic way to spend an afternoon immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of Đà Lạt with the locals.