Located amid the cool, pine-clad mountains several hours northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, the town of Da Lat offers a much-needed respite from the sultry heat of southern Vietnam.
Built as a retreat for the French elite during the colonial era, today Da Lat is one of Vietnam’s most popular tourism destinations. Those looking to relax can enjoy a coffee at a lakeside cafe, while more adventurous types head into the hills to take on waterfalls and hiking trails.
Over the summer I made my annual trip to this delightful mountain town. Exiting the bus from steamy HCMC into the crisp, early-morning air of Da Lat never gets boring… a welcome change from HCMCs summer stifling heat.
I had traveled there with a group of friends to go canyoning, a staple of the outdoor adventure companies based there. Canyoning involves a bit of hiking, but the focus is on abseiling (repelling down) waterfalls.
Our guides from Tour Dalat picked us up at our hotel for the drive out to Datanla Falls, a large system of waterfalls which lead ever further down a narrow valley.
After donning the provided helmet, gloves, and harness we had a few practice runs abseiling on firm ground in between two trees. Once we got the hang of it, it was time to head down to the first ‘obstacle’ on our canyoning course: lowering yourself down from a rocky overhang into the water below.
As we trekked deeper into the densely forested valley all signs of civilisation rapidly faded.
Next up was a 15-metre (49ft) long zipline that gently deposited us into the stream we were following.
The zipline is followed by a natural water slide, which you can go down either head-first or feet-first. This is more comfortable during the wet season when the water level is higher.
Moving further along we soon came upon the day’s biggest challenge: an imposing 25-metre high waterfall. The lead guide waded out into the middle of the stream while attached to a safety line to set up the abseiling ropes.
One by one we took on the mighty fall, slowly making our way down the sheer rock face while water pounded us from above. The descent is a pure adrenaline rush, and once you near the end another guide counts down from three, when you have to let go of the rope and drop into the pool of water at the bottom.
The next stop on the canyoning course was a rocky ledge. From here you can jump either 11 or 14 metres (36 ft or 46ft) into the water below.
Since the rainy season was just starting, the water level wasn’t deep enough for us to jump from the highest point.
However, 11 metres is still plenty high. I hit the pool with enough speed that my feet actually touched the bottom.
The final challenge is called the ‘washing machine’. Here, you lower yourself directly into a powerful waterfall that spins you around until you reach the stream and are spat out into a calm pool.
With that, we we had completed the course. It was now time to hike out of the valley to our bus back into town.
Canyoning is just one of many outdoor adventures worth experiencing on a visit to Da Lat, southern Vietnam’s premier outdoor destination.
Hiking and mountain biking trails traverse the surrounding mountains, while the paved roads create spectacular motorbike rides as well.
If you’re looking to head outside and get your adrenaline fix, be sure to pay a visit to Da Lat.
Feature Video Hanh N
He is a former contributing editor for AsiaLIFE Magazine and a former English-language editor for Tuoi Tre News Online
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