Places - December 6, 2020 | 11:57 pm PT

Experience the wild and adventurous side of Da Lat

A different Da Lat emerges through activities like camping in the forest, kayaking, or scaling waterfalls.

Da Lat is known for its year-round cool weather, flowers, beautiful valleys and lakes, and villas built in the French colonial times. It is called "the town of love", "the town of enternal spring" or "the Little Paris".

To make their Da Lat trip totally different from previous occasions Chau Yen Nhi, 25, and her friends from Saigon decided to discover the wild and adventurous side of the Central Highlands resort town.

Day 1: Cloud hunting, camping overnight

The group arrived in Da Lat's center at 4 a.m. About half an hour later, on rented motorbikes, they traveled 27 km to the Cau Dat tea hill to watch the sunrise.

The winding pass, with the first rays of the sun creeping through the pine forest and a cool breeze, immediately caused a sense of relaxation and calm in the group, Nhi recalled.

"The clouds floated as high as my eyes and gradually melted away amid the sunshine, a stunning experience."

Arriving at Cau Dat around 5:30 a.m., they encountered many other young people already assembled to enjoy the break of day.

After returning to the downtown, the group had breakfast and sat at a cafe to take a rest, discussed and prepared for the afternoon, and an adventurous trip the next day.

Chau Yen Nhi (middle with a blue scarf) and her friends.

At 3 p.m., they set up camp in the pine forest beside Tuyen Lam Lake. The camping package included tents, sleeping bags, chairs, rechargeable lights, evening barbecue, breakfast, drinks, and an inflatable with life jackets.

The fire was lit as twilight arrived. The group chatted merrily as music played in the background. "Without rain, this is one of the most ideal places to watch the sunrise in Da Lat," Nhi said.

Later on, they enjoyed a barbecue, played music and sung amid the rain dropping on the tent roof.

At sunrise the next day, the group took an inflatable out onto Tuyen Lam Lake to enjoy the mountainous surroundings.

Day 2: Waterfall canyoning

At 8 a.m., the group departed on a canyoning trip to six Datana waterfalls, expecting to traverse rugged terrain along the way.

The trip consisted of descending a 15 m dry waterfall, ziplining down an 18 m cliff, crossing a 25 m high waterfall, free jumping from a 7 m high fall, and crossing a 13 m high waterfall.

The 25 m high waterfall scared Nhi the most, with the cold, torrential rain providing a teeth-clenching, though thrilling experience.

"Thinking back, the first 20 m swinging on a rope was not as scary as the remaining 5 m. After that, I turned my head to look at the instructor and saw people screaming "jump," that’s when I knew I had to jump into the lake," Nhi said.

Thanks to the enthusiastic cheers and encourage of her friends, Nhi was able to forget her fear and successfully conquered the waterfall.

Before starting the tour, the group was instructed on the necessary skills and supervised carefully by their guides to guarantee safety. Believing in yourself and following your own intuition are key lessons Nhi learned on the trip.

Day 3: Relaxing in nature

After two days of wilderness and adventure, the group spent the last day relaxing. They decided to stay at a villa on Le Hong Phong Street of Ward 4.

The French-style building is nestled amid an emerald garden, complete with a fairy-tale-like path weaving through the pine trees back toward the house. In the middle of the yard lies a lotus lake, along with fragrant rose and rosemary bushes.

"Waking up in the morning with the clear and soothing sky, the group felt peaceful, unlike anywhere else," Nhi said.

The only disadvantage that the group experienced on this trip was the cold rainy weather. The rain made the rowing and stargazing at the lake impossible, the forest way was slippery and the adventure of conquering the waterfalls became more difficult.

The three-day and two-night trip for the group of seven costs about VND3.8 million ($164) per person, of which, the camping service is VND650,000, waterfall tour over VND1 million, and return bus trip Saigon-Da Lat, VND500,000.

Story by Tam Linh

Photos courtesy of Chau Yen Chi