Dalat is a town in the Lam Bien Highlands of southern Vietnam
, in Lam Dong province. Its altitude at 1305 metres gives it a cooler, drier climate different from other towns in the tropical
portion Vietnam, and for this reason prior to the French
discovering the benefits of air conditioning it was used as their summer
retreat, when they escaped the heat of Saigon
305 kms away. Dalat's name means 'River of the Lat people', the local
indigenous inhabitants. Dalat also attracted a few schools and seminaries, whose student
s found the weather
in Dalat more amenable for their studies.
Dalat was founded after Swiss immunologist Alexandre Yersin passed by the area in 1893, and was taken in by the locality's evergreen beauty, the natural spas, and its similarities to the mountainous regions of western Switzerland. Consequently the town was built in the image of some kind of Alpine village, with chalets amongst the pine trees and game. A lake was created in 1919, to complement other natural attractions like waterfalls.
The town eventually got a bit of a Bohemian edge, with monks, artists and others seeking peace (after noisy Ho Chi Minh City, the silence in Dalat is deafening). Even in the midst of the Vietnam war soldiers on both sides would take time out and relax in Dalat, not revealling too much about themselves. Now the town's main business is in attracting local honeymooners.