Da Lat or Dalat (Vietnamese: Đà Lạt; Vietnamese pronunciation: [ɗâː làːt̚] (listen)), is the capital of Lâm Đồng Province and the largest city of the Central Highlands region in Vietnam. The city is located 1,500 m (4,900 ft) above sea level on the Langbian Plateau. Da Lat is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Vietnam.
Da Lat's specific sights are pine woods and twisting roads full of marigold (Vietnamese: hoa dã quỳ) and mimosa blossom in the winter. The city's temperate weather stands in contrast to Vietnam's otherwise tropical climate. Mist covering the valleys almost year-round leads to its name "City of Eternal Spring".
Residents and tourists have said that Da Lat has all four seasons in one day: spring in the morning, summer at noon, autumn in the afternoon and winter at night, from the sunset to the sunrise.
Da Lat is also known as an area for scientific research in the fields of biotechnology and nuclear physics.
With its year-round cool weather, Da Lat supplies huge amounts of temperate agriculture products for all over Vietnam, for example: cabbage, cauliflower, artichoke, tea, wine, persimmon and coffee. Its flower industry produces three characteristic flowers: hydrangea (Vietnamese: cẩm tú cầu), Da Lat rose and golden everlasting (Vietnamese: hoa bất tử). The confectionery industry offers a wide range of mứt, a kind of fruit preserve that closely resembles varenie, made from strawberry, mulberry, sweet potato and rose.
Da Lat is known regionally for avocado ice-cream, for bánh tráng nướng and for its large garment market, with a broad selection of cool-weather clothing.
Colonial coat of arms of Dalat
According to some sources, the name is derived from the acronym of the Latin phrase 'Dat Aliis Laetitiam Aliis Temperiem' ("It Gives Pleasure to Some, Freshness to Others"), which the French colonial government used in their official emblem of Da Lat. In reality, however, the name Đà Lạt is derived from the language of the local ethnic group Lạt and its original meaning is "Stream of the Lạt", and the above acronym is in fact a backcronym. Đà Lạt got its name from Koho daa (“water”) + Laac (the indigenous people of Da Lat).
Da Lat ca. 1925
During the 1890s, explorers in the area (including the noted bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin, protégé of the renowned French chemist Louis Pasteur), which was then part of the French colony of Cochinchina, asked the French governor-general, Paul Doumer, to create a resort center in the highlands, and the governor agreed. The original intended site for the hill station was Dankia, but Étienne Tardif, a member of the road-building expedition of 1898–99, proposed the current site instead. In 1907, the first hotel was built. Urban planning was carried out by Ernest Hébrard.
A street of Da Lat ca. 1925
Many Europeans used to travel up to Da Lat to escape the heat of the lower coastal areas.
The French endowed the city with villas and boulevards, and its Swiss charms remain today. Hébrard included the requisite health complex, golf course, parks, schools, and homes but no industry. The legacy of boarding schools where children from the whole of Indochina were taught by French priests, nuns, and expatriates still existed as late as 1969. In 1929, the Christian and Missionary Alliance established a school which later relocated to Bangkok, Thailand, due to the Vietnam War and has been located in Penang, Malaysia, since the 1970s. There were seminaries of Jesuits (such as Pius X Pontifical College) as well as other orders.
In the 1920s and 1930s, there were ideas of making Da Lat the 'summer capital', 'administrative capital', and 'federal capital' of French Indochina. During the World War II, Governor-general Jean Decoux (r. 1940–1945) supported this project.
Further information: Battle of Da Lat
The South Vietnamese National Military Academy graduated its first class of future leaders in 1950. There was also an aviation school at Cam Ly Airport.
In the mid-1950s, the Vietnamese Scout Association established their national training grounds at Da Lat.
The only major involvement Da Lat had during the Vietnam War was during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Fierce battles raged from January 31 to February 9, 1968. Most of the fighting took place between the South Vietnamese/American MP units stationed in Da Lat and the Việt Cộng (VC) forces. Defeats and victories alternated between the two during the sporadic-yet-intense battles.
Da Lat Nuclear Research Institute (Viện Nghiên cứu Hạt nhân Đà Lạt)
South Vietnam eventually came under communistic rule and was merged with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, where the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was constructed and also experienced the Đổi Mới reforms along with the rest of the country.
During the communist era of Vietnam (the Socialist Republic of Vietnam), places like Da Lat as well as Hoi An and Da Nang were regularly regarded as amongst the most romantic tourist places in Vietnam. Da Lat has also become the hub of nuclear research and biotechnology.