DA LAT (to a lesser extent) HO CHI MIN (Saigon) - General Information

Discussion in 'Vietnam - General Discussion Forum' started by Rod Page, Aug 13, 2011.

  1. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    This report flows from my "HO CHI MIN (Saigon) & DA LAT" on the 'VN Trip & Road Report' section of this site. A change in circumstances resulting from a fall gave us a unique insight into, indeed first-hand experience with hospitalisation in VN, one's treatment & care, pharmaceuticals & so on. With our usual adventure touring put on hold, I decided to write this somewhat clinical report to cover such circumstances & also to better review Da Lat itself - its restaurants, cafes & bars, accommodation options & tourist spots; mundane information but I trust of use to others travelling.

    HOSPITALS & PHARMACIES
    The accident occured in a township along R27 some 80kms north of Da Lat. We were taken to the local hospital staffed by a doctor & a couple of nurses but functioning more like a school infirmary. Language was a problem:

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    After an initial medical overview & the cleaning & bandaging of cuts & grazes it was arranged for an ambulance to take us to Da Lat Hospital where the ambulance charge promptly jumped from $50 to $75 - still incredible for an 80km journey - but no receipt would be provided. Welcome to VN!

    Da Lat Hospital is a substantial, practical building, very clean, well maintained, fully equiped & well staffed. Casualty was professional & one of the doctors spoke english. CT scans ($40) & X-rays ($10) were taken. Given a head injury was involved the hospital wished to keep the patient under observation, so as foreigners we were taken to intensive care for maximum attention where a team of some 10 doctors & around 25 nurses attended to your medical needs. Medication (paid separately) - antibiotics, tetanus, anti-coagulant, anti-inflamatory - was all of French origin. My wife ultimately spent a comfortable 3 nights/4 days there in such surroundings & the total bill came to just over $59!

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    The 'stay' would give us a wonderful insight into both the hospital system & the local people. When you are hospitalised in VN, the hospital & staff attend uniquely to your medical needs. Family & friends camp in the corridors outside & during regular visiting hours provide all the rest - food & drink, body massages, a wash as required........ A foreigner could easily misinterpret the 'system'. It takes time to learn as only 1 of the 10 doctors on-hand spoke good english, none of the nurses. Well stocked pharmacies by the way are common throughout Da Lat.

    The locals quickly see you as one of them; they try instantly to comfort you through taking you by the shoulder, through a pat on the back; language finally is no barrier to human kindness. Everyone quickly picks up on your mannerisms & before long all & sundry are offering you a smiling "g'day" whilst teaching you the VN equivalents.

    Hopefully the above information will assist any others facing a similar misfortune.

    INCIDENTAL INFORMATION
    A couple of other points flowing from the trip up to hospitalisation:
    - Local agent - my research showed & it proved to be the case, that using a local agent in VN to carry out your every affair is both wise & very cost effective. I found that they were able to secure hotel rooms at prices almost half of the best price I was quoted or could find on internet; they secure well maintained rental bikes, they are in contact throughout your journey to ensure all goes well & ready to assist if needed....... My agent is Falmingo Travel with offices in Hanoi & HCMC, well known to GTR.
    - Bikes - 110 Honda Waves (there's not much choice in VN) at $3.50/day. Tel Anh on 0937389238 though its easier to go through Flamingo.
    - Maps - there's simply nothing of quality or more than little use. Its difficult to find exits, there's little signage, its not easy to differentiate major roads from any others..... Strongly suggest you bring/use GPS.
    - Gear - only 'upside-down plate' helmets are available in VN; motor-bike gear shops are hard to find. Bring your gear including helmets.
    - Phuong Trang - operates buses across VN. HCMC-Da Lat in a modern 96 seater air-conditioned coach was $9/person one way with a company car picking you up at your HCMC hotel & dropping you at you hotel in Da Lat. Its a 6hr minimum trip.

    RESTAURANTS
    I'll summarise the various restaurants we experienced below but suffice to say that given the incredible fresh produce market Da Lat possesses, its restaurant scene is very much in its infant stage. The simpler things are very well done & of excellent quality, but more complex, more sophisticated dishes are surprisingly not yet available (other than at Da Lat Palace's Le Rabelais restaurant). I will not mention price as eating in VN is VERY reasonable, certainly cheaper, by as much as 50%, than in Chiang Mai.

    Lien Hoa - in 3 Tang 2 (street) just off Hoa Binh Square. Massive array of French patissierie for breakfast (sure, its not France), good take-away sandwiches, incredible line-up of cakes. Very popular. It also has a shop of sorts selling various european-type products - dairy products, confectionary, wine at good prices, etc.
    The place in the bottom left of the photo is a 'no names' noodle shop which absolutely hammers!

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    Long Hoa - also in 3 Tang 2 opposite Lien Hao & closer to Hoa Binh Square. Proving just how good Vietnamese food can be when made from the freshest ingredients. Very popular:

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    V Cafe - Bui Thi Xuan (street). Great spot with a certain ambience & charm. Very tasty entrees, suitable mains. Excellent service & a great (not loud) live music scene.

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    Da Quy - Truong Cong Dinh (street). Rated by many as Da Lat's best, does a great house speciality in the "sugar-cane encrusted with minced prawn, grilled, wrapped in green salad & then rice paper". Good tasting mains, great service.

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    Tu Anh's - Truong Cong Dinh (street) - this street actually has a good restaurant scene going with several options. Run by proprietor Anh - photographed standing in front of the restaurant - who is totally 'out there', a wonderfully colourful, amusingly loud character. Easy going spot with amongst other things good pizzas & great 'entertainment'!
    The last comment on her menu below says something:

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    Ho Dan Thang (you'll know it by the big '24H' sign) - Hai Thuong (street) - out near the hospital/recommended to us by the doctors. Good tasty food with a difference, the chef willing to experiment. The kitchen staff are working full-bore in an open kitchen at ground level - great sight/ambience - you eat up above. Has a coffee spot adjoining, situated below Karioke for after dinner.

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    Le Rabelais - as one would expect at Da Lat Palace with a French chef installed; it is priced accordingly:

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    Blue Waters Restaurant - you just cant beat the brilliant position from which to suck down a 'few cold ones'!

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    The market place - as I've said, is fantastic with good cheap eateries all around.

    COFFEE SHOPS
    There's a mass of them along Le Dai Hanh overlooking the market-place & lake whilst offering an aray of drinks & food options:

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    Another good spot for coffee offering great photo opportunities is atop the Ngoc Lan Hotel/23rd Floor, in the centre of town:

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    BARS
    A relatively calm scene but not difficult to find where the action is - the coffe shop strip above essentially doubles up as the bar strip.
    An interesting aside - I asked Anh (bike hire) to have a drink with us which she constantly declined until our last day. I would learn that she is a senior secondary school teacher with a 4 year uni degree earning $120/month. She expects to pay her own way & being invited to join someone for a drink in an establishment perceived to be relatively expensive can be seen to be outside the budget. You need be very clear in VN & leave nothing to innuendo; something we found often during our stay.

    (TO BE CONTINUED...............................)
     
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  3. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (CONTINUATION...............)

    DA LAT (continued):

    HOTELS
    Da Lat Empress Hotel - set perfectly overlooking the ever popular & brilliantly located Blue Water Restaurant at lake's edge, a stone's throw from cafes & restaurants, the markets & so on. Formerly a mansion overlooking the lake it was transformed into a comfortable hotel with a modern wing being added in 1997. Our room was $32/night including breakfast. We were extremely happy with the hotel, its considerate & helpful staff, an unbeatable position, & an interesting owner who was there at the time, a retired judge from HK.
    The accommodation wing below (the setting of the hotel can be seen from the earlier photo of the Blue Water Restaurant):

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    Bao Thy (hotel) - At one stage I was look for a laundramat, something quite rare in VN - they cant believe you'd pay to have your clothers washed. I found one out near the university only a stone's throw from Da Lat's centre. I was kindly assisted on one occassion by an English speaking lady - Thun, tel 0986077979 - the owner of Bao Thy (hotel) in Nguyen Cong Tru (street) - alongside the laundramat. This hotel has a pleasant communsl area, off-street parking for bikes, is spotlessly clean, with a good choice of cafes & cheap restaurants that come with being near-by the uni. A room with a double bed, satellite TV & appropriate hot water bathroom, was $8/night (not inc b'fast); a corner room with balcony, lots of windows, 2 double beds, satellite TV, good hot water bathroom was $15/night. Great value I felt & I trust useful for those looking in that budget range.

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    An $8 room:

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    Hang Nga Crazy House (see further information under 'Other Toursist Attractions' below) - a 'crazy' place to stay! You can actually stay in various 'theme' rooms or suites - worth investigating if looking for something 'different':

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    Da Lat Palace - the only place for those wanting to splash out:

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    OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION
    - Supermarket - there's only one, a small supermarket at the top of the stairs up from the markets, near Hoa Binh Square. It stocks most needs; the range can be suplemented by looking at what's on sale at Lien Hoa (see 'Restaurants' above).
    - 'Easy Riders' - you'll hear of themin Da Lat. The best guy to contact for a good tour or information is Kham, tel 0976443606 up in Hao Bin Square.
    - On week-ends Hoa Bin Square & the area surrounding the nearby cafes is closed off to traffic from around 7pm-9pm & becomes a great walking area with bands playing & so on.
    - Long-term rentals - little available in terms of smaller, secure properties with a view; most properties with views are massive. Far more expensive than Chiang Mai we were shown one place where access was by a climb of some 60 stairs - imagine carrying the groceries up or the garbage down in the rain - & no kitchen for $2000/month.

    TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
    Hang Nga Crazy House - Dr Dang Viet Nga's (Doctor of Architecture, Moscow) creation on the outskirts of town for camera clicking tourists. The woman herself was there selling the entry tickets:

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    The renowned architect of many well-known buildings in VN, her 'House with 100 Roofs' - was seen as anti-socialist & 'the party' had it torn down. Things run more smoothly nowadays as her father suceeded Ho Chi Min as VN's president. Hang Nga Villa can be visited on a loop to also take in Bao Dai's Summer Palace (see below):

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    Bao Dai's Summer Palace (No: 3) - one of 3 palaces kept in Da Lat by Emperor Khai Din's son Bao Dai(with several others near-by). This is the most impressive of the 3 palaces but still similar simply to a large country house in the West. Its interior is starkly remeniscent of the 1930 's period in which it was constructed, its gardens minimal.

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    Golf Course - Voted #1 golf-course in VN in 2007 by Golf Digest, its scenic, with a rustic clubhouse built in 1922 - ' a good walk improved'. A 7009m, par 72 from the back tees:

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    The Botanical/Flower Gardens:

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    River rafting/kayaking/rapids - some pommies staying at the hotel spent a day via a local adventure company out amongst the rapids & waterfalls & reported it was 'brilliant'. (Alas they also said the run to Lak Lake - where we had the 'stack' - & the lake itself were 'sensational').

    ANYONE FOR DA LAT ?????????????????????

    (A brief summary for HCMC follows...............)
     
  4. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (CONTINUED.........................)

    HO CHI MIN CITY (Saigon) - 1 day/2 nights

    HOTEL
    Empress Hotel - Pham Ngu Lao, District 1. Close to everything, won a best boutique hotel award in 1999, comfortable, in the style of that era, it's good value at $US30/night inc b'fast.

    RESTAURANTS
    Huong Lai - a famed Vietnamese restaurant set in the attic of a character-filled, small French colonial building. The attraction of this place is not just the good food but the fact that all staff are drawn from disadvantaged families, or just street kids given a chance.They receive on-the-job training, an education & a place to stay under the excellent guidance of the Japanese proprietor:

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    Onha Hang Ngon - 160 Pasteur, P. Ben Nghe, Quan 1. Excellent choice; always packed to the rafters:

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    Hoa Su - Cong Quynh (between Bui Thi Xuan & Nguyen Trai). This placed caught my attention as it was totally packed; bikes squeased in anywhere an inch could be found......

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    Entered to find not one but two birthday parties in full swing with all other tables taken by regular customers. Joined the party that looked the 'quietest' (yer, sure) for a shout to celebrate the birthday of "the girl in white". Great VN food at reasonable prices:

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    Staggered out & look what I found straight opposite..........

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    The bloody Bentley dealership. Now that must be VN dong with an unimaginable number of zeros on the end! And all this in a communist country where the basic wage has just been raised to $80, where a senior secondary school teacher with a 4 year uni degree earns 4120 max............STAGGERING!!!!!!

    There's a new french restaurant well worth a visit with good food & reasonable pricing -
    Le Bouchon de Saigon - 40 Thai Van Lung, district 1.
    Sorry I do not have a photo but know once you guys start trying it out, the photos will quickly follow with the rave reviews!

    BARS
    Given the tight schedule hit the bar atop the Sheraton at 23 floors up. Great spot for an ale or ten! Watched the sun set over the fabulous People's Committee Building (Hotel de Ville) before snapping a shot of the city skyline:

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    CAN NOT WAIT TO GET BACK!!!!!!!
     
  5. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Wow Rod, Your Pictures really changed My perceived Image of Vietnam! It looks Spectacular! I would have imagined a Grubby not so developed Place! Very Nice I can imagine You should have great Fun Exploring all the Country has to offer much like You did in Thailand. All the Best!
     
  6. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Thank you Rod for the great pictures and good informations. I have done business in Vietnam for 20 years, but took few days for exploring the country outside the 2 main cities. Nevertheless I have some souvenirs that I could once post in vintages. I suppose that many people would be interested to ramble around the country on bikes and welcome more information about the possibilities offered nowadays
     
  7. schackster

    schackster Ol'Timer

    I hope that your hospital experiences will be a once only affair and that you are both still as eager to further explore the country. However by the look of all those yummy restaurants you might be a regular for cholesterol checks. Your right about the Vietnamese being extremely friendly and helpful ( all species ) . Taken outside Bao Dais Summer Palace in Dalat in 2007. It was the best I could do , all the good ones had already been taken :lol:

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  8. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Hospital Update:

    Hospital overload & the quality of health services top the list of issues recently raised by the Vietnamese Health Minister.

    At present the number of beds per 10,000 people is 20.5 in VN compared to the World Health Organisations recommendation of 33 per 10,000 people.

    The government goal is to have health insurance for all by 2014 provided on a sliding scale according to need - 95% government paid for the poor, 50% for students & so on.

    Good to know in a country where there's no national health safety net & travelling by motorbike is a daily risk.
     

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