Dalat is home to a place called The Crazy House, but also some excellent sugary buns. London-based author, journalist and Flirt Diva hostess Sue Ostler visited during the rainy season, and simply thinks you’ll either love it or hate it…

Dalat is a crazy, kooky place – totally unlike anywhere else in Vietnam. Whether you like it or not totally depends on what you hope to get out of it. I legged it there with my guy after a fellow traveller whispered in my ear that it was the most romantic place in Vietnam. It was towards the end of our month long backpacking trip across Vietnam, which for the record can take the whizz-fizz out of any romance. “Where do I get my ticket?” was my burning reply.

Many trains, planes and automobiles later, we hit Dalat, home of the infamous tour hotspots from the Valley Of Love – filled with all sorts of kitsch and souvenir trash, to the Harley Davidson Easy Rider tour rides which whizz insanely around the hairpin bends towards the rugged terrain of Dalat’s jewel in the crown – the natural waterfalls. Neither of which we actually got to see or do – since it poured cats and dogs the whole time we were there. Well it was the rainy season after all.

That didn’t necessarily spoil our weekend visit though. Taking a tip from a local who we shared a cab with from the airport, we checked into a tiny privately owned guesthouse, located about ten minutes away from Dalat’s centrepiece, the famed Xuan Huong Lake. What it lacked in furniture and décor – and I mean really lacked – it made up for with views overlooking the stunning forestry all around us. The difference with this Very Quaint Guesthouse was that none of the staff spoke English.  Not that it mattered. We had our own kettle, locally grown coffee and home grown wine and – cable TV! If we were marooned in our cute little room for a day or two, surely it would only add to the ‘romantic’ reputation of the place.

Fortunately the rainy season rain (April to November) did let up, for a about half an hour, leaving us enough time to do the fantastic train ride up over the mountains and take a hurried walk through the rain forest before it started pelting down again. From there it was off to check out the Crazy House – a fantastical wonderland created by fame Vietnamese architect and super celeb who also happens to be the daughter of Ho Chi Minh’s third successor to the presidency of Vietnam.  It’s a totally bizarre structure with a dizzying array of rooms linked together by chain bridges, walkways, ramps and strange shapes and curves. For those who really like the vibe – and it’s a very niche taste – there are a variety of ‘honeymoon rooms’ available – it does have to be seen to be believed.

The next day it was off to the weekend markets where many a deal was to be found, including the most sumptuous home made foods, snacks and gifts. As has been well documented throughout this very website, a spot of retail therapy is always best followed by a bit of a treat. With that in mind, we headed to the lake to laze in the boathouse over a long afternoon tea made up of local treats and the house speciality – the Dalat jam spread thickly cross soft, sugary buns.

The town centre offered ample opportunities for cheap and cheerful meals in the local eateries – all of which were tasty enough, but none of which came anywhere near the sumptuous banquet affair served up by the privately run kitchen of our guesthouse where the owner’s allowed us to feast on the meal they had prepared for their own private function. We had no idea what we were eating but it was easily the best thing we’d eaten during our trip across Vietnam.

Dalat has a lot to offer – it’s just that what it offers is completely out of synch with the rest of Vietnam. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, is up to you to decide. For my money, it’s worth the effort.  And I’ll say one thing, if it’s romance you want, you got it.

Flights: Vietnam Airlines has daily short flights between Dalat with Ho Chi Minh City, and there is also one flight per day between Dalat and Hanoi. The airport is around 30 km south of the city.

Photo: Flickr CC: Tom Ravenscroft

Sue Ostler

About Sue Ostler

Sue Ostler is the associate publisher of "Rolling Stone" in Australia. She speaks on sex and relationships and hosts "Life in the Singles Lane" and "Vodka & Chocolate Therapy" singles seminars. She is the author of "Get Over It! "