Lake of Sighs or Sorrows, home to Vietnam’s own Romeo and Juliet story

Lake of Sighs
On my way to Lake of Sighs on a rented motorbike

Renting a motorbike and heading off into the Vietnamese countryside was one of my favourite ways of spending a long weekend. My 2 Vietnamese friends and I headed up to Dalat from Ho Chi Minh city for the weekend and spent the weekend enjoying the fresh mountain air. The mountains and lush green forests that surround Dalat offer the ideal getaway from the hectic city.  We spent our weekend driving on winding mountain paths through pine forests and appreciating the fresh air.  We drove past countless small streams and even came upon some waterfalls while on our way to the Lake of Sighs.

Lake of Sighs
My friend Chi clambering down the path leading down to the Lake of Sighs

 One of the things that I love about Asia is that a lot of places have either a myth or a legend attached to it and this makes visiting these obscure places so much more interesting. If it weren’t for my Vietnamese friends I would never have seen half of these strange places as they are not always mentioned in guide books. Most of the legends surrounding the romantic city of Dalat have a love connection and hardly any of them end with a “happily ever after”. 

“According to a legend this is the sight of Vietnam’s own Romeo and Juliet story. ” A young couple met here and fell in love. They sought their parent’s permission to marry. Unfortunately Vietnam was at war with China and the young man was called to arms and left without telling the young lady. She sent word for him to meet her at the lake, and when he didn’t come she was so sad that she threw herself into the lake. Thereafter it was known as the lake of sighs.”

Lake of Sighs
What a beautiful sight. Definitely woth the drive and search
Lake of Sighs
Lake of Sighs is less of a lake now that they have built a damn wall but this is where it used to be

 The lake is not a huge tourist attraction but is frequented by locals especially local couples on a date due to its “romantic” history. The Lake is definitely smaller than what I expected but its peaceful and such a contrast compared to Ho Chi Minh city where I was living at the time. 

There are many walking trails around the lake that lead through the Pine forests and I am sure they are a favourite with couples for a romantic stroll. After driving around on a motorbike all morning it was great to get off and stretch our legs a bit. This walk of ours turned into a photo opportunity with my friends, Chi and The’ posing at varies points along the path. 

Lake of Sighs
What a lovely view as we say goodbye to the Lake of Sighs

The Crazy House of Vietnam was my favourite place to explore!!

The Crazy House of Vietnam
Arriving at the Crazy House of Vietnam

The Crazy House of Vietnam is a house and a guesthouse slash café slash art gallery and looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The Vietnamese version of one of the Gaudi building of Barcelona. It looks more like a Disneyland attraction than a place you would actually live and made me think of Dali and his crazy creations more than once.

The Crazy House of Vietnam
This is actually a house and not a haunted amusement park?!

This topsy-turvy piece of work was designed by eccentric architect Ms Dang Viet Nga who is said to draw paintings of her ideas then give them to local craftsmen to make a reality. She has stated that the design of the house is about bringing people back in touch with nature. I think it definitely brings you in touch with some lovely crazy!

 

This is definitely one of the strangest and most extraordinary places I got to explore in Vietnam and turned into my favourite. The bizarre structure rises several stories above the buildings around it, and from some angles it looks like a kind of convoluted tree stump. The place is filled with caves, giant spider webs made out of fairy lights and wire and even concrete tree trunks that turn out to be the steps leading up to your bedroom.

The Crazy House of Vietnam
I love that all the windows are round or misshapen

One very unique feature is that there are no square windows in the whole house and the whole place is covered in bizarre wooden sculptures. Each room in this crazy and bizarre place is themed after a different animal, including the ant, tiger, kangaroo and bear. Some of these rooms look like caves on the inside and one even has red velvet walls with a mirror above the bed. Unfortunately none of my photos that I took inside this marvelous building came out so this gives me a great reason to visit it again someday!

The Crazy House of Vietnam
Steps leading up to the Guest House rooms

As you can imagine this place caused quite a stir with the locals in the beginning, but they have since grown to appreciate the odd construction. I think it is because it brings a lot of tourists to the area and is a great topic for conversation. 

It has a concrete giraffe with a tearoom inside and even a nude female statue (very rare in Vietnam).

The Crazy House of Vietnam
The Crazy House of Vietnam
The Crazy House of Vietnam
I like the giraffe peeking out in the left hand corner!!

Business manager Thang Viet Nguyen, 38, said: ‘At the beginning most of people did not accept Crazy House because it was too abnormal, odd, and strange.

‘Gradually people understand it more, little by little.

‘Now Crazy House has become acceptable, and is a place that attracts tourists from many other countries.’

The Crazy House of Vietnam
The Crazy House of Vietnam

Wandering around and getting lost in this maze of buildings and rooms is definitely part of the experience. I ended up seeing some rooms more than once and do hope that I didn’t end up missing a room during all my wondering.

The Crazy House of Vietnam
The Crazy House of Vietnam
The Crazy House of Vietnam
Even the passages inside the buildings look like flowing lava

I got to meet the gallery designer, Mrs Dang Nga, who looks like a 1960’s French hippie, and believe me she is just as crazy as her Crazy House. She actually has a PhD in architecture from Moscow and has designed a number of other buildings around Dalat. One of her earlier masterpieces, the ‘House with 100 Roofs’, was torn down as a fire hazard because the People’s Committee thought it looked anti-socialist. Luckily I got to visit it before it got torn down, here is a photo of the entrance.

The Crazy House of Vietnam
This is the cafe of 100 roofs they burned down- luckily I got to visit it before it happened

You can see that she really enjoys designing these strange and outrageously artistic rooms and structures. The Crazy House is a maze of slim bridges, and “flowing lava” that you get to crawl through as you move through the place.  Mrs Dang Nga is still actually busy building on this ” Crazy House” and says that she hopes to finish her vision by the year 2020. I would love to come back once it is finished to see the end result.

The Crazy House of Vietnam
Me peeking out through the “flowing lava”

LangBiang Mountain, where you find horses painted like zebras!

LangBiang Mountain
The three of us arriving at LangBiang Mountain
LangBiang Mountain
LangBiang Mountain

My Vietnamese friends and I biked to LangBiang Mountain from Dalat, which is about 12km. This should have taken us about 45 minutes but we made so many stops along the way to view the waterfalls or lakes we passed that it took us a couple of hours to get there.

We parked our bikes at one of the shops at the bottom of the mountain and stood there contemplating doing the 3 hour hike up or the jeep ride. The 1,900m peak of Lang Biang mountain is reachable by a steep paved path, ideal for a hike,but you can ride up there in a jeep under 20 minutes which sounded so much easier. 

LangBiang Mountain
Yes, its a horse painted to look like a Zebra!!

I learnt that anything is possible in Vietnam and to never underestimate the creativity of entrepreneurs. At the bottom of LangBiang mountain you can pay for a ride or photo with a “zebra”. They have a white horse with painted black stripes and are on a mission to convince people it’s a zebra here in Vietnam!

LangBiang Mountain
Driving up LangBiang Mountain

In the end the three of us voted for the jeep ride to the top of the mountain. The ride up the mountain was very rocky, a bit smoky with the high fumes coming from the vehicle, but the scenery was worth it as we drove through the pine forest leading to the top of the mountain. 

LangBiang Mountain
Through thick Pine forests

The view over the valley and other mountains from the top of the peak is breathtaking. From here we had a fabulous view down over Dalat and the surrounding forests, rivers and houses of tribal people down below. Looking down at the valley below I did regret a little not walking up and being able to enjoy the scenery from up close. 

LangBiang Mountain
Looking Down over the Valley below

Legend says that the name Lang Biang was derived from the name a couple who were deeply in love with each other – the boy named K’lang and the girl named Ho Biang. They fell in love with each other after K’lang saved Biang’s life from a fierce heard of wolves. However, they weren’t allowed to get married due to the long-standing feud between their tribes.

LangBiang Mountain
What a beautiful view!

Generally, there are two versions of this story. One said that at last, they got married and then moved onto a mountain to live. Unfortunately, when Biang caught a critically illness, K’lang had to come back to the tribe to ask for help, the people here shot him with a poisonous arrow. However, it was Ho Biang to be shot since she had shielded her husband. K’lang could not suffer such loss, he cried and his tear made up a big stream which is now called Dankia (the Golden Stream). The second version said that: the couple committed suicide together since they couldn’t get married.

LangBiang Mountain
Looking down over the Tribal Villages below

In both versions, Ho Biang’s father was so repentant of his daughter’s dead that he unified the tribes into one called K’ho and allowed boys and girls in K’Ho group to get married to each other. Their graves then grew into the two giant mountains, and in order to memorize the couple with profound love, the mountain range was renamed into what we call it today: Lang Biang.

LangBiang Mountain
LangBiang Mountain

The Heart filled Valley of Love of Vietnam

Valley of Love of Vietnam
Yes, the Valley of Love is filled with kitsch hearts

Dalat’s Valley of Love is definitely a very cheesy place with a carnival atmosphere but has a beauty of its own. It  is a common stop on Dalat tours and is very popular with honeymooners as it offers so many photo opportunities. The whole valley is filled with corny heart shapes from the top to the bottom and even has loads of giraffe statues standing around.

Valley of Love of Vietnam
The beautiful view at Valley of Love

Throughout history, it has been one of the most picturesque and romantic sites of the city, with many deep valleys and endless pine forests. The tranquil Da Thien Lake, which was created in 1972, also adds a great deal to the attractiveness of the valley in general.

To truly appreciate the scenery is not hard if you can look past the cheesy hearts at the natural valley and the gorgeous flower gates and statues.

Valley of Love of Vietnam
Valley of Love of Vietnam

From the hills of the Valley of Love I could also see the LangBiang Mountain peaks standing out vividly against the blue sky. Overall, the valley was a wonderful addition to our trip to the romantic city of Dalat.