Maze Bar (100 Rooftop Bar) in Da Lat, Vietnam 2018

From the moment we set foot in Da Lat, all that we heard other tourists talking about was the Maze Bar also know as 100 Roofs Bar/100 Rooftop Bar – supposedly, the coolest bar in all of Vietnam!

From the moment we set foot in Da Lat, all that we heard other tourists talking about was the Maze Bar also know as 100 Roofs Bar/100 Rooftop Bar – supposedly, the coolest bar in all of Vietnam! We decided to investigate, but as an old married couple we went as soon as it opened.

To be fair, it was a long day full of walking around the lake, paddle boating and hunting for an avocado smoothie at the market. We had also heard from one girl that when she was at the bar at night, it was extremely crowded. So we were excited to have a little bit of breathing room, but we did not expect to be the only people there!

The Maze Bar is designed by the same architect as the Crazy House. It is colorful, crazy and there are secret passages/short cuts everywhere. You can climb through a hole in the wall and end up on a different floor! Some of the spaces felt claustrophobic enough while the place was empty. I can’t even imagine it full of crowded drunk people. Luckily, or maybe unfortunately… safety regulations are much lower in Vietnam!

Compared to regular Vietnam prices, this place is a bit pricey. You have to get a drink to go inside and it is really hard to find a trash can once you’re in the maze. Even though we were the first people to visit for the day, we found lots of discarded cups from the night before. I can’t even imagine what cleaning the place must be like so I wasn’t too bothered by it.

I definitely recommend that all Da Lat tourists visit the Maze Bar at some point on their trip. I’d recommend coming super early and seeing it empty to explore properly but also visiting when it’s a little more exciting. If you’re not a paranoid or claustrophobic person, then maybe stay until it’s packed to the brim! Just don’t drink too much because it might take you a while to find a bathroom. Even the bathrooms are beautiful by the way, so find one even if you don’t need to go!

If you’re here and have the need to come up for some fresh air, go to the very top – unfortunately I can’t give you directions. There is a nice balcony overlooking the street and an entire outdoor area perfect for a breather before you descend back into the madness.

While you’re visiting this crazy place, make sure to find the underwater-themed room. The beautiful sea creatures and vibrant colors were my favorite part of the entire bar. Don’t miss out on it! The reason I’m so insistent that you visit when it’s empty, is so that you can actually see everything the Maze Bar has to offer – there might be people blocking off your passages in and out of some of the coolest spots.

Photo from a great blog post about Vietnam, Two Wandering Soles6 Adventurous Things To Do in Da Lat, Vietnam

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Paddle Boats on Xuan Huong Lake: Da Lat, Vietnam

One of travel traditions is going on paddle boats in as many countries as possible. As soon as we saw the Swan Boats on Xuan Huong Lake in Da Lat, we knew we had to go! For just $2 per boat for an hour, you can paddle around the lake and enjoy some beautiful views.

One of travel traditions is going on paddle boats in as many countries as possible. As soon as we saw the Swan Boats on Xuan Huong Lake in Da Lat, we knew we had to go! For just $2 per boat for an hour, you can paddle around the lake and enjoy some beautiful views.

The lake is quite large and has a surprisingly strong current so we had to keep paddling! If you’re here in July, like we were, don’t forget to put on sunscreen because the sun is strong. In case you enjoy drinking wine or beer while paddle boating as much as we do, Vietnam doesn’t seem to have any laws against it. You can get some pretty great photos from the boat so don’t forget to bring your camera.

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DOHA Cafe Review: Da Lat, Vietnam

The cafe has lots of seating across three floors, although the top one wasn’t being air-conditioned when I was there. However, the view of the Xuan Huong lake and Lam Vien square was worth it. They have a great selection of drinks including coffees, teas and juices. Although the prices are relatively steep for Vietnam, it’s still affordable on a Western budget. We didn’t get a chance to try any of their food although we were definitely tempted by their cakes and pastries.

DOHA Cafe is a great place to grab a coffee in Da Lat, Vietnam. It’s a modern cafe shaped like a flower bud and it’s as cool on the inside as it is on the outside. Speaking of cool – it’s also the perfect place to cool off during Vietnam’s steamy summers.

The cafe has lots of seating across three floors, although the top one wasn’t being air-conditioned when I was there but the view of the Xuan Huong lake and Lam Vien square was worth it. They gave a great selection of drinks including coffees, teas and juices. Although the prices are relatively steep for Vietnam, it’s still affordable on a Western budget. We didn’t get a chance to try any of their food although we were definitely tempted by their cakes and pastries.

 

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Avocado Smoothies in Da Lat, Vietnam

I first heard about avocado smoothies on a half-day Countryside Tour of Da Lat. Vietnam is famous for their avocados and July just happens to be the prime season! They are a delicious mix of fresh avocados, condensed milk, a scoop of durian ice cream topped with fluffy whipped cream that I could have gone without because it was already so rich that I couldn’t finish!

I first heard about avocado smoothies on a half-day Countryside Tour of Da Lat. Vietnam is famous for their avocados and July just happens to be the prime season! We were told that you can get them anywhere in the market, but it took us over an hour of searching, walking in circles and asking confused vendors where to find them.

Although I’m sure it can be veganized on request, I had this smoothie before I made the decision to go vegan. It was a delicious mix of fresh avocados, condensed milk, a scoop of durian ice cream topped with fluffy whipped cream that I could have gone without because it was already so rich that I couldn’t finish!

The hidden spot where we found this delicacy was hidden behind some vendors right next to the large monument in the middle of a roundabout. For better directions and visuals, watch the video below:

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Crazy House, Da Lat, Vietnam 2017

The name of this place, the Crazy House, is no exaggeration. We got lost soon after entering since there are dozens of rooms on various floors with several ways to travel between them. You will find bizarre animal statues and beautiful views of the city – this might be one of the highest points in the city.

The name of this place, the Crazy House, is no exaggeration. We got lost soon after entering since there are dozens of rooms on various floors with several ways to travel between them. You will find bizarre animal statues and beautiful views – this might be one of the highest points in the city.

Formally known as the Hang Nga Villa, the Crazy House was built in 1990 in a unique and intentionally bizarre style. Designed by Dang Viet Nga, this eccentric architect wanted the house to help people reconnect with nature. Other than attracting visitors during the day, the Crazy House is also a functioning hotel!

During my visit in July 2017, there are still areas of it that are being built and refined. This actually only adds to the craziness so I had zero complaints. Another thing that makes it so exciting to visit, is that a place like this wouldn’t even be legal in some countries because of safety issues. My clumsy husband may have hit his head at least twice in some low areas and I kept worrying about slipping on the high “bridges” with low rails. But that’s all part of the awesomeness – the designer is clearly a genius.

In addition to all the great views of the city, this place is also great for relaxing and enjoying a cup of coffee or fresh juice. The cafe at the bottom has great prices and some unique drinks like coffee enhanced with fresh banana, which was surprisingly delicious. Just be careful sitting by the pond for too long, I was eaten alive by mosquitoes that I always seem to attract.

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Da Lat Backpackers Hostel Review

We had very high expectations for this hostel because of all the raving reviews and we were not disappointed! My husband and I booked this hostel last minute after having problems with a different hostel. The staff were helpful and welcoming even before we arrived!

We had very high expectations for this hostel because of all the raving reviews and we were not disappointed! My husband and I booked this hostel last minute after having problems with a different hostel. The staff were helpful and welcoming even before we arrived!

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Although we had originally planned on only spending two full days in Da Lat, after arriving and seeing all the cheap and exciting activities that we discovered through the hostels trip book, we decided to stay an extra night. We arrived right before dinner so we ate delicious free dinner (typical Vietnamese food, all homemade) and the host even offered us homemade alcohol and took shots with us in a traditional Vietnamese way before we started the meal.

Our first night there we booked two trips, a countryside tour (250,000 Dong each) and canyoning ($45 each) while the staff recommended what company to go with and advised us on what day is better for which depending on the weather forecast. Needless to say, both trips were amazing since the hostel goes out of their way to choose good tour companies. They also didn’t push more expensive tours on us. They explained that the countryside tour, which we expected to pay almost 700,000 Dong each is possible to do with a group for cheaper and recommended a cheaper canyoning trip with a company that takes more photos.

The free breakfast was as good as dinner with several choices of baguettes with different kinds of omelet. You also get a coffee, tea or juice with your breakfast. Having two free meals a day really saved us a lot of money, especially since this hostel wasn’t more expensive than any of the others we looked at – and we stayed in a private room.

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The hostel is in a great location only a 15-minute walk to the huge lake. We took a taxi from the bus stop which only cost 70,000 Dong but we walked everywhere else because the Da Lat is small and the backstreets are fascinating. The hostel is also only about a kilometer from the famous Crazy House which is a must see.

In addition to great staff, delicious free food, the great tour offers and comfortable soft beds (most hostels in Vietnam have rock-hard beds), the hostel is extremely clean and welcoming. I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Da Lat to book here! I honestly couldn’t recommend it more.

Oh, and they have very cheap and quick laundry service and return everything ironed and folded! Here’s a video of the canyoning tour that they suggested:

 

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Da Lat Countryside Tour: Weasel Poop Coffee Plantation

The last stop on our $10 Countryside Tour of Da Lat was the weasel poop coffee plantation. The first thing you should know about it, is that the animal that eats and poops out the coffee bean is not actually a weasel. It’s a luwak. The second thing you need to know is that it’s not unique to Vietnam no matter what the guide will tell you.

How the concept of weasel poop coffee was discovered, I don’t know and I’d like to keep it that way. Basically, the animal eats coffee beans and chooses only the best ones to eat. This ensures that all the coffee that comes out of the process, pun intended, is of the highest quality. While it’s inside the weasel, it gets fermented which adds to the flavor.

Once it’s pooped out, the beans are collected and dried in the sun. Then they are thoroughly washed and finally, they are carefully peeled. So the actual coffee been was never in contact with the poop, only it’s shell was. That makes it a lot less gross, right?

Well, the grossest part of the entire process isn’t the poop but the treatment of the animals. They are kept in tiny cages and only fed coffee beans. At this particular plantation you can see a bunch of these luwaks in their cages and they don’t look particularly clean or happy. Although I tried the coffee at the time, I wouldn’t do it again because of the exploitation of these animals. But I’m not here to preach animal rights!

As I previously mentioned, Vietnamese people will claim that weasel coffee originated in Vietnam. It’s just like pierogi in Europe. Russians, Ukrainians, Poles and probably several other nationalities claim that the dumplings originated from their country. As a Ukrainian I will tell you that duh, they are Ukrainian. But I’m clearly biased…

Several other countries in South East Asia, including Indonesia will claim that luwak coffee is theirs. In Bali I visited a coffee plantation that claimed the coffee as their own and I’m willing to bet that Indonesia isn’t the only place that tries to take credit for it. Then there’s Thailand that does the same thing with elephants and every single of these countries will also boast that their coffee is the best and most expensive in the world.

Back to the Da Lat coffee plantation. The multi-floored building was beautiful, smelled amazing and had the most spectacular view of the mountains and coffee fields. We drank some coffee, did some souvenir shopping on the top floor and pet all the cute dogs. Apparently the owner loves to rescue dogs and there were at least 20 living at the coffee plantation. I wonder if dog poop coffee will ever become a trend…

The entire Da Lat Countryside tour about 6 hours and included a rose garden, minority village, Buddhist pagoda, elephant waterfall, lunch, silk farm, cricket farm and the weasel poop coffee plantation. It was an informative and fun tour and our guide was enthusiastic and insightful. I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone visiting Da Lat, but remember to haggle if they try to charge you more than $10 per person.

At the end of the tour they made sure to ask if we wanted to get dropped off at our hotels or somewhere else and most of the group ended up at the famous Crazy House. We decided to check it out too and had a great time. I’ll tell you all about it next time, so stay tuned!

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Da Lat Countryside Tour: Cricket Farm

The second to last stop on the $10 Da Lat Countryside Tour was a cricket farm! Forget what your mother told you when you were a toddler sticking bugs in your mouth. They DO belong there! As long as they are raised for human consumption, that is.

Crickets are a great source of protein and contain enzymes that some scientists believe can cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Millions of people in the world are eating insects this very second and the United Nations is trying to encourage more people to start eating them! Other than the health benefits, the environmental impact of switching from cattle to crickets is unbelievable. You can read more about that here.

Unlike most of the people on the tour, my husband and I have done our fair share of cricket eating. Although they are not our favorite insect to snack on, we were excited to see the farm and eat some cricket-enhanced snacks!

The farm was much smaller than we expected, which made perfect sense. It takes very little space, not to mention resources, to farm crickets. The crickets are kept in large tubs that they can’t jump out of and they are fed banana leaves. They are organized in tubs based on their age and are starved for three days before they are ready to be eaten.

After walking around the farm and seeing the different stages of growth, we were sat at a large round table. First, we took a shot of rice wine, a common tradition in Vietnam before a group meal. Then we moved on to tea and crickets! The crickets were deliciously fried and almost everyone in the group gave them a try.

Isaac and I probably ended up eating the most, but we did share with a little kitten that lived on the farm and seemed to love fried crickets even more than we did. Before leaving for the last part of the tour, Isaac bought a bag of cricket chips and if it had been cheaper, he would have bought the cricket-infused rise wine too.

Fun fact: if you think insects are yucky and that you’ll never try them, keep in mind that you already have. I’m not talking about the spiders that supposedly crawl into your mouth when you sleep – yuck, that better be a myth. If you’re a fan of beer, bread or cereal it is likely that you eat at least a hundred insects a year. Look into it if you don’t believe me! Also, a lot of red dyes used in food are made from a red beetle. Carmine is a great alternative to the many common dyes that are tested on animals that are then euthanized.

Next stop: coffee plantation!

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Da Lat Countryside Tour: Buddhist Pagoda & Elephant Waterfall

The third part of the $10 Countryside Tour of Da Lat was the Buddhist Pagoda and the Elephant Waterfall. The first part of the tour included the rose garden and minority village and the second part was the silk factory. This half day tour was a great way to discover Da Lat, Vietnam!

The Elephant Waterfall was the reason we came to Da Lat on our Vietnam trip in the first place. The two things we didn’t know about were the fascinating Buddhist pagoda located right next to the waterfall and the challenging climb down to the waterfall itself. But let me start with the Buddhist pagoda!

Linh Phuoc Pagoda is often overlooked by tourist rushing to the waterfall nearby. It is a beautiful Buddhist pagoda with a large statue of Buddha in the courtyard. I wish I could have spent an hour exploring the area but I only have 20 minutes! In addition to the pagoda and statues in the courtyard, there was a beautiful display of flowers with dozens of colorful butterflies fluttering all over the place.

One thing that I love about Buddhist temples is that they don’t care about what you are wearing. I was wearing a skimpy dress (with leggings!) that revealed my cleavage and my husband wore a white t-shirt with green shorts. I asked the guide if it was really okay for us to enter dressed the way we were, and she reassured us that in Buddhism all that matters is what’s inside our hearts not what we are wearing.

After rushing to explore the pagoda, we got back on the bus and drove to the waterfall which is just a few minutes away. As soon a we got there we saw a myriad of stairs and out of breath tourists who just left warning us to wear good shoes. I glanced at my husbands flip flips and my $1 Chinese sandals and shrugged. It would have to do.

The way down wasn’t easy. It was wet, muddy and slippery. Several times, I needed people to help me and we had to make frequent breaks to let people come up the one-way path. What reassured me was the three brides, who all wore sneakers under their poofy princess dresses. If they could handle it, then so could I!

We finally made it down, behind an old man who almost lost the camera that was in his back pocket. It fell out just as he was climbing over a steep rock but we managed to catch it before it was swept away by the river.

Many of the people who were coming down with us stopped at the first viewpoint but we were determined to reach the bottom! Climbing to the very bottom was challenging but offered an amazing view. For the extra adventurous, you can limb onto rocks in the middle of the river and balance on a rock with just the view of the powerful waterfall with the mist spraying over your face.

I had some trouble with my cheap shoes and colorful dress that I didn’t want covered in mud. If I could do it again, I would suggest dressing more athletically and being prepared to get dirty. Maybe even bring a change of clothes. Climbing back up the hill was actually easier than making it down. There was free tea and a tap to wash off our feet at the top. Some of the people in on our tour didn’t join us and I’m sure they regret it.

Don’t miss out on this great experience! If I made it wearing a flimsy dress and cheap shoes while holding my GoPro in one hand, then you can too!

Next up: cricket farm and coffee plantation!

 

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Da Lat Countryside Tour: Silk Farm

The second stop on the $10 Countryside Tour in Da Lat was the silk farm! This stop came after the rose farm and the minority village where gender roles are reversed and gigantic spiders roam. You can read more about the first part of the tour here.

Silk is made by silk worm pupae that create a cocoon out of silk. To extract the silk, the cocoons are boiled and machines are used to unravel the silk and collect it. It is then turned into balls of fine silk. If the pupae were to hatch, the silk would be damaged which is why it is necessary to kill the pupae in the process of harvesting silk. Luckily, these pupae are considered a delicacy and are sold for food once they are removed – nothing goes to waste!

This entire process was explained to us at the silk farm. We got to touch the cocoons and see every step of the silk making process! We were also told some interesting facts, such as there is no such thing as 100% silk. Silk is extremely fine and if it was used on it’s own to create a scarf, it would fall apart immediately. Anything claiming to be over 80% silk is probably fake – at least that’s what we were told at this farm.

It was incredibly fascinating to walk among the workers and look over their shoulders. They were very nice and let us stick our cameras and GoPros right into their work. There was a conveyor belt that sorted the cocoons, washed them and prepared them for harvesting.

Another lady, wearing a typical Vietnamese rice hat, took the dead pupae out of the silk and put it in a bucket to be taken to the market. Silk worm pupae are a popular food across Asia, including China. Even in Shanghai, where insects are considered gross and not food, silk worms can be found in restaurants.

They seem to be in a separate food category and are commonly served spicy on a stick. You’re supposed to peel the skin off and only eat the inside but I prefer to eat the entire insect, chili-pepper free.

If you’re wondering where eating insects stands now that I’ve adopted an almost vegan diet, well, I’m confused about that myself. I still feel like eating insects, especially those that you farm yourself, isn’t as cruel as eating animals. Especially since some scientists believe that they don’t feel pain. Either way, eating insects is not vegan and although there are entovegans who incorporate insects into their otherwise vegan diets, it’s a very controversial topic.

Anyway, back to the silk farm! Silk is another popular business in Da Lat and silk trade is a blossoming business. Real silk is incredibly expensive, so beware of cheap silk on your trip to Vietnam. It is likely that the silk is fake or that the percentage of silk in the product is very low.

Next stop: Buddhist pagoda and the Elephant waterfall!

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