HCMC Dining Guide

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mountain Escape

Last weekend I was lucky enough to go on another trip for AsiaLIFE, this time to the beautiful Ana Mandara Villas Resort in Da Lat. Fortunately this one wasn't a solo trip, as I went with Dana, our managing editor (and long-time friend of mine). We took the 'night' bus from Saigon, which actually arrives in Da Lat around 5am, leaving us with a few hours to kill before we could check in. The weather was a welcome relief from Saigon - the cool, fresh air up in the mountains of the Central Highlands was a delight, and I loved being able to wear a sweatshirt. (Also, not sweating constantly is quite nice.)

The resort sits atop its own hill and is absolutely gorgeous. Mustard-yellow villas are spread around the area, separated by footpaths and countless pine trees. (When the French ruled Vietnam they turned Da Lat into a retreat for the wealthy from Saigon, cutting down the native forests and replanting them with pine.)

We had two nights in one of the villa suites (which go for around $400 per night!), featuring a bedroom, bathroom and living room; wood flooring and two (functioning) fireplaces.
We used the fireplace in the living room both nights, as it got down into the 60s in the evening - which is absolutely frigid when you're used to Saigon, where it never gets below the upper-70s. (FYI, this wasn't some romantic getaway, the angle of the story was celebrating Christmas in Vietnam.)

The resort's restaurant.
We got one lunch and one dinner each, plus the amazing breakfast buffet.
As badly as we wanted to stay in our amazingly comfortable beds all day, there is a ton of stuff to do in the outdoors around Da Lat, so we hiked up Lang Biang mountain, which is just outside of town. It takes a couple of hours and is very manageable, although the last stretch goes up a series of very steep steps that leaves you winded.
Upon arrival at the summit it was very foggy, but it soon cleared and we were treated to fantastic views of the area.

The hike up had been overcast and a bit misty, but the trek back down the mountain was gorgeous, with brilliant sunshine keeping us warm and a brisk breeze whistling through the pines. I love living in Saigon, but you simply have to escape the concrete and get into the outdoors every now and then.

We also made a trip into the center of Da Lat, where the huge market offers a dizzying array of produce grown around the city. The country's strawberries and apples are grown in the area, as are green vegetables like lettuce and cabbage.
Most of the fresh flowers you find in Saigon are also grown in Da Lat.

After a refreshing smoothie on the lake we returned to the resort, and in a depressingly short amount of time we had to board another bus for the bumpy ride back to Saigon. I'd give an arm and a leg to have a couple of months' worth of weather like that.


  1. have you seen this guy around town Mike? He was in Vietnam a couple weeks ago.

    1. I didn't see him but my boss at AsiaLIFE interviewed him for our next issue.