Where would you like to go with Indochina Pioneer?
Please click on the countries below to read more about your desired destinations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These pages provide first-hand local travel information regarding transportation, accommodation, attractions, food & drink, entertainment ... together with some suggestions on ready-made tours to and from those places.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is frenetic Asian city of markets, street clogged with scooters, street side food stalls, as well as foreig…
The name Nha Trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran means reed. According to the loca…
This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port -- quite picturesque and goo…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc l…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of t…
Taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. eas…
The ancient town of Hoi An is located 30 km south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early western traders, Hoi An was one o…
Siem Reap Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in…
A small market town that has been a gathering spot for many local hilltribes for nearly 200 years. Hmong and Dao people, among others, still come h…
Vietiane With a troubled recent history, Laos has only recently openned to the outsite world and is one of the most untouched countries in Asi…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colon…
The fourth-largest city in Vietnam, is one of the most important seaports in the central region, and the current booming Vietnamese economy has see…
Located 173 kilometres from Saigon, Can Tho is considered as the heart of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The city, regarded as "Western cap…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwel…
Vang Vieng is a tourism-oriented town in Laos, located in Vientiane Province about four hours bus ride north of the capital. The town lies on the N…
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the …
Setting in a green valley, Mai Chau is a wonderful collection of farms, villages and stilt houses surrounded by verdant rice paddies against a back…
Located at one of the many branches of the Mekong river and about Vinh Long is the gateway to river islands and some worthwhile sites, includ…
Extremely mountainous, Dien Bien is one of the newest provinces in Vietnam, having been split off from Lai Chau further to the north. The province …
Phong Nha - Ke Bang is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site which is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves…
Phom Penh Cambodia’s capital city is awakening from a turbulent recent past to become a busy and fernetic Asian city of Southeast Asia. …
Situated 250 km west of Ho Chi Minh City, Chau Doc is a district and town in An Giang province, bordering Cambodia, in the Mekong Delta region of V…
The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels situated in the Củ Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vi…
Built on both sides of Highway 1 and the railroad connecting Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City, Ninh Binh is a fairly uneventful place with only a few mi…
Sihanoukville is all about the ocean, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The pristine beaches, the sparkling clear water, the cooling sea breeze, the…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwellers and tourists tired out from trudging along sultry coastal Vietnam. In Dalat you can play golf on one of the finest courses in Indochina, visit beautiful temples, and enjoy the town's honeymoon atmosphere with delightfully hokey tourist sights.
At 1,500m (4,900 ft.), Dalat is mercifully cool year-round -- there's no need for air-conditioning. The town is a unique blend of pastoral hillside Vietnam and European alpine resort. Alexander Yersin, the Swiss geologist who first traipsed across this pass, established the town in 1897 as a resort for French commanders weary of the Vietnamese tropics. In and around town are still scattered the relics of colonial mansions, as well as some serene pagodas in a lovely natural setting; you've escaped from big-city Vietnam for real. A few ethnic minorities, including the Lat and the Koho, live in and around the picturesque hills surrounding Dalat, and you can visit a number of rural villages on local tours.
Dalat is a top resort destination for Vietnamese couples getting married or honeymooning. If the lunar astrological signs are particularly good, it's not unusual to see 10 or so wedding parties in a single day. Many of the local scenic spots, like the Valley of Love and Lake of Sighs, pander to the giddy couples. The waterfalls are swarming with vendors, men costumed as bears, and "cowboys" complete with sad-looking horses and fake pistols. A carnival air prevails. It's a "so bad that it's good" kind of tacky that is definitely worth the trip. There are also some picturesque temples and hillsides lined with the crumbling weekend homes of French colonials. Emperor Bao Dai, the last in Vietnam, had three large homes here, one of which is now the Sofitel Hotel.
Airport: There is no international airport in Hoi An. The Domestic Da Lat Terminal center is roughly 30km from the centre of the capital city. You can be connected either at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi or Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Taxi is available outsitde the airport. The Journey should cost approximetly $15 U.S.
Clothing: Lightweight cotton and linen clothing is advised for much of year. The average temperature is 17°C, and does not exceed 25°C in the hottest season. Warmer clothing is usually needed. Rainwear is advisable in any season.
Electricity: Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz AC (some 110V, 50HZ AC). Two-pin plugs are in use, however sockets are different from those found in most countries and an adapter socket may be needed. Outlets for 110 volts for small appliances are found in most hotels.
Health: A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers over one year of age arriving within 6 days of leaving or transiting countries with infected areas. For the latest immunisation requirements please contact your GP.
Language: Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn. Based on tonal variations, it is difficult for a short term traveler to speak easily. It comes from the Chinese, although the two languages have diverged. Vietnamese has six tones, so a word can be said six ways, imparting six different meanings. There are also regional variations, so what is polite in Saigon may be just the opposite in Hanoi. In the 17th century, Alexander de Rhodes. Jesuit scholar and missionary, created the romanized script which was used only by the educated. In 1954, under Ho Chi Minh, the romanized script became the official written script for the Vietnamese language. Today, English and French arethe most common second languagesin Vietnam, so someone is sure to help you out. And, even though it is a difficult language, give it a try. your efforts will be appreciated!
Tipping: If you are happy with services provided by your local guides and drivers, a tip, though not compulsory, is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, it inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across destinations. Here are our suggestions;
- Meals (restaurants):the average amount is $1
- Guides: We recommend $2-$5 per day for local guides (depending on group size),
- Drivers: You will have a range of drivers on your trip. Some will be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for few days. We would recommend a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of $1 to $2 per day would be appropriate (depending on group size).
- Bellboy: the average amount is $1
- Chambermaid: the average amount is $1 per day. For larger groups and adventure trips you may want to increase this. But please remember that it’s totally up to you, these are guidelines only
Visa Requirements: Almost all visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country, although some qualified exemptions apply for citizens of those countries with bilateral reciprocal agreements with Vietnam. Depending upon the nationality and passport of the applicant, a tourist visa may be granted for either a fifteen (15) or thirty (30) day stay in Vietnam.Click here for more details…
Best Buys: The list of bargains is endless, but to whet your appetite, here are a few examples: Tea, Local wine, dride fruits and the famous XQ emboidery pictures can not be missed.
Places to see
Bao Dai's Palace
Completed in 1938, this monument to bad taste provided Bao Dai, Vietnam's last emperor, with a place of rest and respite with his family. It has never been restored and, indeed, looks veritably untouched since the emperor's ousting and hasty exile. On a busy weekend in high season, you might get a rush by imagining you're there to liberate the place and are part of the looting masses -- that's not hard to imagine, with the crowds ignoring any velvet ropes and posing for pictures in the aging velvet furniture.
(Cho Da Lat)Huge, crowded, and stuffed with produce of all varieties, this is the top stroll-through destination in Dalat. Here's where you can see all the local specialties -- and even have a try! Some of the vendors will be happy to give you a sample of some local wine or a few candied strawberries. Dalat in general is low on the hassling tourist touts that plague the big towns and tourist sights in Vietnam, and entreaties from the merchants are friendly; you can walk around without too much hassle here because the locals are doing all the shopping. The top floor of the market now houses a high-end embroidery studio, and shops catering to tourists are on the rise, but mostly what's for sale are good local wines, preserves, and produce. Just outside the market, a number of vendors sell anything from sweetened soy milk to affordable dinners. The place is busy night and day, mostly with domestic tourists wandering the town. A fun vibe pervades it.
Dalat Railway Station
(Cremaillaire Railway) Built in 1943, the Dalat station offers an atmospheric slice of Dalat's colonial history. You can see an authentic old wood-burning steamer train on the tracks to the rear, and stroll around inside looking at the iron-grilled ticket windows, which are now empty. Although the steamer train no longer makes tourist runs, a newer Japanese train makes a trip to Trai Mat Street and the Linh Phuoc Pagoda. A ride costs $5 (£2.75) and leaves when full.
Hang Nga Guest House and Art GalleryOtherwise known as the "Crazy House," this Gaudí-meets-Sesame Street theme park is one not to miss. It's a wild mass of wood and wire fashioned into the shape of a giant treehouse and smoothed over in concrete. It sounds simple, but there's a vision to this chaos; just ask the eccentric owner/proprietor and chief architect, Ms. Dang Viet Nga. Daughter of aristocracy, Ms. Nga is well-heeled after early schooling in China and has a degree in architecture from the university in Moscow. In Dalat she has been inspired to undertake this shrine to the curved line, what she calls an essential mingling of nature and people. The locals deem her eccentric for some reason, but she's just misunderstood; don't pass up any opportunity to have a chat with the architect herself.
Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) Zen Monastery
The complex was completed in 1994 with the aim of giving new life to the Truc Lam Yen Tu Zen sect, a uniquely Vietnamese form of Zen founded during the Tran dynasty (1225-1400). Adherents practice self-reliance and realization through meditation. The shrine, the main building, is notable mainly for its simple structure and peaceful air, and there is a large relief sculpture of Boddhidarma, Zen's wild-eyed Indian heir, at the rear of the main temple. The scenery around the monastery, with views of the nearby man-made lake, Tuyen Lam Lake, and surrounding mountains, is breathtaking. Truc Lam can now be reached by a scenic tram ride from a hilltop overlooking Dalat.
Lake of Sighs (Ho Than Tho)
This lake has such romantic connotations for the Vietnamese that you would think it was created by a fairy godmother rather than French dam work. Legend has it that a 15-year-old girl named Thuy drowned herself after her boyfriend of the same age, Tam, fell in love with another. Her gravestone still exists on the side of the lake, marked with the incense and flowers left by other similarly heartbroken souls, even though the name on the headstone reads "Thao," not "Thuy." The place is crammed with honeymooners in paddle boats and motorboats.
Cosy and Quaint
The Empress stands near the riverside upon the hill behind Nguyen Thi Hoc St. It's a villa hotel, meaning the rooms are housed in a building reminiscent of a large Swiss chalet. Built around a quaint courtyard, four rooms face the lake and are therefore Deluxe, while other rooms face the courtyard and are deemed to be only Superior. But don't get too excited because even from the Lakeview rooms it's a stretch to see the lake as the panorama, although very nice, is half obscured by trees. The view is best from the shared balconies, which all rooms have access to. Inside the decor is stylish with sleek wood panelling and a cosy chalet feel that makes you want to sit by the log fire. This place has a fantastic location is a popular choice in the upper mid-range.
5 Nguyen Thi Hoc St, Da Lat. T: (063) 833 888 F: (063) 829 399
Golf 3 Hotel
Located bang in the centre of town just 30 seconds walk from the market, this is one of three 'Golf' hotels in Da Lat. This one is four-star, and has a comfortable first floor lobby. Rooms include a TV, minibar and cable TV, and are well planned. They have a standard sleeping area, but below this is a kind of lobby slash seating and living area, a nice touch unseen in other hotels. Bathrooms are extremely spacious with good tubs, and safes in the wardrobes. There are two restaurants in the hotel and also a nightclub -- don't get too excited, it closes at midnight.
4 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Da Lat. T: (063) 826 042 F: (063) 830 396
A touch of class
The Sofitel is a five-star wonder which oozes refinery. Dubbed Da Lat Palace, it's easy to see why. The steps to the hotel via Ho Tung Mau St lead through impressive gardens that command a fantastic view across the lake -- you may feel like a visitor to Buckingham Palace. Once inside the grandeur doesn't cease, from the elegant hotel walkways to the tasteful dining area and courteous staff. The rooms are spacious and the balconies in the lakeview rooms are enormous, with enough space for a table and chairs that seat four, two sun loungers, and plenty more to spare. The bathrooms also have a stately feel to them, including a Victorian-style bathtub with brass taps.
12 Tran Phu St, Da Lat. T: (063) 825 444 F: (063) 825 666
Villa Hotel 28
Old French villa with rustic rooms
Up in the hills overlooking Da Lat is Villa Hotel 28, one of a number of old French houses that line Tran Hung Dao. This place is really like staying in an old farmhouse -- a certain rustic charm oozes from the building, despite the fact the outside could do with a lick of paint. The place is due to become a more high-end hotel sometime in 2007 after expected renovations. Inside, a shared living room is a great place to meet other guests and share stories around the fireplace on a chilly Da Lat winter evening. Rooms are very basic but have an authenticity about them that makes up for it. Guests sang the praises of the Villa's breakfast, which is included in the room price.
28 Tran Hung Dao St, Da Lat. T: (063) 822 764 F: (063) 835 639
Hoang Anh Resort
Chalets in garden setting
Hoang Anh is a four-star resort set just away from the city centre. Set in large Swiss-style chalets that line a neat forest garden, rooms are decked out in synthetic wood, from the floor to the lamps, the desk to the wardrobe. The appointments are excellent, with two wardrobes sandwiching a roomy makeup table with huge mirror -- across the other side a desk awaits. The resort has four restaurants -- Western, Asian, Thai and Seafood, and also a business centre with wireless access, as well as a massage service sauna and Jacuzzi, and a single tennis court. On the downside, they don't have a shuttle bus to town and it's a 10-minute ride by taxi.
3 Nguyen Du St, Da Lat. T: (063) 810 826 F: (063) 549 036
Good all rounder
Dai Loi, more commonly known by its English name Fortune Hotel, is a big pink building halfway up Bui Thi Xuan St, a good location considering the centre of Da Lat and the lake are five minutes' away. Staff are friendly and rooms spotlessly clean. They retain some character with their black and white chessboard floors and old-fashioned wooden furniture. Bathrooms are a good size and rooms come equipped with cable TV, fridge with mini-bar, a phone, and also a different painting of an attractive woman in each one. Be wary of the lift. It makes an annoying ding-dong sound every time it stops on your floor, which is often.
3A Bui Thu Xuan St, Da Lat. T: (063) 837 333 F: (063) 837 747
The best way to get around Da Nang is by motorcycle or taxi. If you are not confident of braving the chaotic traffic yourself, or riding pillion on Xe oms (motorbike taxis), taxi is a better choice. Be sure to negotiate a price in advance. With rates at just over $1 per 2 km, taxis are definitely worth considering for hopping about the city. Note the prices are metered in Dong, though it looks like dollars.
Peak hour is from 6:30-8:00am, midday and from 5-6pm in the evening.
XQ historival village- Headquarters ( 258 Mai Anh Dao St. , Dalat City, Lam Dong Pro. Viet Nam)
Starting from motive power of self seeking, self mediation, and return to origin of national character, married couple artist, artisan Vo Van Quan and Hoang Le Xuan researched, drew out new trend of embroidery aimed to restore traditional career falling into oblivion.
Mrs.Hoang Le Xuan was descended from Hue family inherited all of high precise skill of embroidery. Mr.Vo Van Quan, an artist with creative brain and patient attempt already together with Mrs.Xuan drew new trend for career, combined between embroidery art and painting art to create new color for Vietnamese embroidery.
Food and drinks
Dalat House (Asian, Western Cuisine)
About 4 km/2 1/2 miles east of town, past the railway station, Around Town
It's out of the town center, so it can be reached by cab, but that somehow adds to the experience of this dolled-up new Western restaurant, a place where local businessmen go to impress clients -- it evokes the theme to The Godfather. It's a mix of Asian and Western cuisine served on fine white china on candlelit, linen-draped tables. The best local choices are the good stews that take the chill out of a cool Dalat evening: hot-pot dishes great for sharing, or baked clay-pot specials. Western meals are all country-club standbys: meat and potatoes, fish filet, and pasta.
Ngoc Hai Restaurant Review (Vietnamese, Chinese cuisine)
Just down the street from the market, this local spot is two floors of bright, clean, indoor/outdoor dining. It's nothing spectacular, but the staff at Ngoc Hai is friendly and the menu is ambitious; ask for anything, and you'll hear hearty replies of, "Have. Have." Selections from the Western end of the spectrum include roasted chicken with potatoes and a mock-up of British fish and chips, but go for the Chinese-influenced Vietnamese stir-fries, one-dish meals, and soups. Reasonable set menus vary daily and are a good bet. Good veggie selections, too.
Xuan Huong (Vietnamese cuisine)
Two new restaurants sponsored by Dalattourist have entered the dining scene: one on a little island over central Xuan Huong Lake, the other just opposite on the shore, and both serving good Vietnamese grub. The lake site is a particularly picturesque pick, even if just for an evening drink. The place gets overrun with wedding parties, so keep an eye on the horizon lest you get dragged into the proceedings.
Le Café de la Poste (Continential Cuisine)
This cozy, colonial gem, part of the Dalat Palace Hotel, is located in an open, airy corner building across from the post office (go figure). It's more a restaurant than cafe, really, and has a great selection of light choices, sandwiches, and desserts in addition to hearty entrees like spareribs, T-bone steak, and fresh pasta. The salads are big and fresh, and they have a great French onion soup. Don't miss the cheesecake for dessert. It's slightly pricey for Dalat, but it's worth it in a way that the Dalat Palace's fine-dining venue, Les Rabelais, is not.
Nightlife and entertainment
For nightlife, Da Lat has very little to offer. Excluding having a drink at sociable restaurants such as V Cafe and Peace Cafe, choice is limited.
Larry's Bar (12 Tran Phu Street, Da Lat)
at the Sofitel Dalat Palace Hotel is a very cosy little place with private corners and comfortable sofas, all areas serviced with widescreen TVs -- potentially a great place to watch sport with some friends. Drinks are expensive -- the clientele is likely to be from the posh hotel above.
The Hangout (71 Troung Cong Dinh St)
Associated with Da Lat's Easy Riders, it was created because they, and their foreign friends in town, were fed up with having nowhere to 'hang'. Therefore, here you can do exactly that. They have a selections of board games to whittle away the time, and also a DVD library and widescreen TV, and a pool table in the bar area. A good place to pick up travel tips as well.
For something completely different, try stepping into the 100 Roofs Cafe (57 Phan Boi Chau, Da Lat). It's decorated like a jungle, in similar style to the 'Crazy House'. Over at the Lamson Family Restaurant, draught 'honey beer' is served at 4,000VND a glass, and it's not a bad brew at all.
Saigon Nite (11 Hai Ba Trung St)
Claims to be the oldest bar in Da Lat, and we believe it.
Da Lat's year-round temperate weather, standing in contrast to Vietnam's otherwise tropical climate, has led it to be nicknamed the "City of eternal spring". The average temperature is 17°C, and does not exceed 25°C in the hottest season. Mist covers the adjoining valleys almost year-round. Its temperate climate also makes it ideal for agriculture. Indeed, Da Lat is renowned for its orchids, roses, vegetables, and fruits. There is a nascent wine-making and flower-growing industry in the region.