The history of Dalat is fascinating, from its establishment as a vacation spot for French colonialists at the beginning of the last century to its decline and then reinvigouration by Larry Hillblom, the American DHL millionaire. Larry's is an interesting story that I once heard a long time ago but had forgotten until a guest at the wedding recited it for me again in great detail. Larry bought an island in Saipan and fathered numerous children around South East Asia, the paternity case after his premature death in a plane crash being one of the most notorious ever. His body was never found so no DNA could be retrieved. Eventually they compared the DNA of the children in different countries to ascertain whether they had the same father. Four children netted $90 million each. Getting to the point, Larry fell in love with Dalat and invested millions of his dollars into the town (although I can find little about his actual contributions online).
Staying at the Villas also evoked images of the 1920s and just how these French colonial expats lived. Totally cut off from the rest of the world living in opulance. This article from Smithsonian.com sums it up for me:
Imagining how they might have spent their days, I envisioned guests setting out on leisurely nature walks, riding horseback along forest trails or golfing on a course designed to amuse the adolescent Vietnamese emperor, Bao Dai, whom the French controlled as their puppet. In the evenings, the men dressed in black tie, their wives, or mistresses, in frilly gowns. They gossiped over aperitifs on the wide veranda and, after lavish dinners, played bridge in one of the salons or baccarat at the casino. There were piano or violin recitals and an orchestra for dances. A nearby bordello employed exquisite French, Vietnamese and Chinese prostitutes.
Some pictures of place...
We did get a shock however going down into the town - the famous Xuan Huong lake has been drained! Apparently it is being dredged and deepened. Here you can see the view of one end of the lake...looks terrible and a long way from being finished, what the rainy season approaching it may be a while before it is back to its 'former glory'.