Return to Da Lat

“A veteran Vietnam correspondent revisits the romantic retreat where he, and so many others, sought respite from war in Indochina.”

Stanley Karnow in Smithsonian Magazine:

Da20lat2052010When I was reporting on the Vietnam War for Time, the Washington Post and NBC News, as a respite from the relentless sweat, grime and danger of my assignment, I occasionally flew up to Da Lat, the resort that the French carved out of a misty, pine-covered plateau about 200 miles northeast of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Apart from a brief clash in 1968, the retreat was hardly affected by the fighting. When I recently returned there, I found that Da Lat still retains much of its old-fashioned charm.

I checked into a meticulously remodeled 1920s luxury hotel, the Sofitel Dalat Palace. The Palace, majestically perched on a crest overlooking placid Xuan Huong Lake, served as my base for exploring the town. Parks and broad avenues are shaded by acacias, cedars, palms and mimosas.

Today, Da Lat’s thriving outdoor market reflects a new prosperity: huge crates overflow with a dazzling array of fruits and vegetables.

Guidebooks publicize the mansion where the country’s last emperor, Bao Dai, dallied with his favorite concubine until he was exiled to the Côte d’Azur in 1955. Not far from the royal mansion lies a mildewed cottage concealed in a bamboo grove: here, at the Stop and Go Café, writers and artists gather to swap ideas and discuss works in progress. Not far away, another landmark, the Han Nga Guesthouse and Art Gallery, embodies a fusion of Surrealism and Dada.

More here.