Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wanderlust: Vietnam Day 3

December 27, 2010-- Da Lat City

The 13th and final king of Vietnam's Nguyen Dynasty was a man named Bảo Đại (born Nguyen Phúc Vĩnh Thụy) and we went to his Summer Palace early in the morning. Much of the interior and furniture were preserved, and efforts have been made to beautify and further maintain the exterior of the Palace. We were given a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Vietnamese ruler. We were able to observe as well some of the practices of the Vietnamese royal families, like how the children dined in a back room separate from the King and Queen, as only the crown prince, the eldest son, was permitted to dine with the parents.

Photo from VietFun
King Bao Dai ruled from 1926-1945. He was born on 22 October 1913 and died on 30 July 1997 in a military hospital in Paris, where he was living with his last wife who was French. His first wife, Marie-Thérèse Nguyễn (given the title of Empress in 1945), was said to be the most beautiful woman of Indochina during her time. He had five children with her, but he also had children with his girlfriends and his other wives. He married three other women while he was married to his first one as opposed to previous kings who married more, but he did have many other girlfriends. After the death of his first wife, he went to France and married Monique Baudot.

The summer palace was actually built for him as a gift from the French, which is why many people accused him of sympathizing with the French too much. He was ousted from position in 1955. Bao Dai spent most of his childhood studying in France. When he eventually ascended to the throne, many people perceived him to be a "puppet king" for the French.

Inside the palace there is a room that allows guests to pay to dress up in traditional costumes of Vietnamese emperors and empresses. Be careful though as the photographers here snap a lot of photos and you might end up paying for more than you intended. Then again, if you do want to have a lot of photos taken and buy everything, have someone who can speak Vietnamese help you bring down the price.

True to the Asian love for myths and legends, the Tuyen Lam Lake has many stories surrounding it, most ending in tragedy with the heroine dying for her true love. Riding a small deafening motored boat across the Tuyen Lam Lake, we visited the silent Tuyen Lam Forest. They say the sound of the forest is similar to that of the sighing man. The forest is known among birdwatchers and has many hidden trails and pathways. However you can opt to ride the elephant, which will take you on a tour around the forest. I personally didn't ride the elephant because it looked sad. Haha!

After the boat-ride back, the next location we went to was Love Lake, but first we passed by the Truc Lam Temple and its pagodas. If you've been to Japan or China, the pagodas in the temple are small compared to the majestic ones in those countries, but their designs are lovely nonetheless. The temple has many of the city's lovely flowers, and following a path to the back will lead you to a view of the Love Lake. You have to option of going down to get a closer view of the lake, or you can spin back around to the entrance where you can purchase some accessories, dried vegetable and fruit chips, or ice cream!

The last place we visited was the Da Lat Flower Park. As I mentioned, Da Lat is known as the "City of Flowers" so it makes sense that they have quite a few Flower Parks in the city. This particular one houses about 300 different kinds of flowers, from the exotic to the native. All the flowers are labeled by their common and scientific names.

Some extra notes:
The chicken curry from the Sammy Hotel's Sunrise Restaurant was one of my favorite dishes during our stay in Da Lat. The Vietnamese have a habit of dipping their crunchy French bread into curry dishes and they are absolutely scrumptious!

The Da Lat night market is located in the Hoa Binh Zone, in the area around Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Le Dai Hanh Street and Tang Bat Ho Street, within walking distance of many restaurants. (Source)

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