VNAF PHOTOS section –vnafmamn.com
RETURN TO DALAT: THE LOST SHANGRILA
In the issue of August, 2005, the Smithsonian magazine ran an article about Vietnam with the cover subtitle: "VIETNAM'S SHANGRI-LA." Inside on page 68, Stanley Karnow, a veteran reporter wrote "Return to Da Lat," describing his experience in a recent trip to the resort city where he used to stay for a short respite during his Vietnam War coverage assignment. He found that "...Da Lat still remains much of its old-fashioned charm..."
I don't think the guy "lied," but unless for commercial advertisement to lure the tourists to this mountain resort (today, tourists tend to flock to the coastal resort areas), Stanley Karnow is just an ignorant. He doesn't know much about that resort city (rather than doing some researches and visiting a few invited spots). Perhaps this is one of the good examples that reveal the same kind of norm that most Western journalists took when they wrote the reports about the Vietnam War in the past.
To be correct, The Smithsonian should name its article: "DALAT: THE LOST SHANGRI-LA."
How the hell I know and say so? It's a sad assesment of Dalat natural deterioration based on the observation and reports from many of my friends, who were the old-timers of that city and had a chance to return to it recently.
Indeed, the "Shangri-La" of Vietnam today has gone, not only its old people, but the places and its romantic atmosphere also! If any remains, it's the deception of the melancholy feeling of nostalgia. Dalat today is crowded and hassled, not tranquil and romantic as it's used to be any more. Its misty pine-forests have been chopped down for many kinds of commercial constructions and projects. Its pristine adjacent lakes have been dried up (the St. Benoit and Than Tho 'Sorrow' lakes) due to long time negligence and illegal irrigation. The same terrible fate happened to many attractive waterfalls near Dalat (due to poor study and irresponsible plan of Dai Ninh hydropower plants). The Xuan Huong lake now became a pond of brownish muddy water (you can see it obvious from an airliner). The Cam Ly stream has turned out to be tacitly the city sewage channel, trickling down dirty water. The green hillsides had been being invaded for vegetable farmland. And once the forests are gone, the misty layers of fog gone too, so the cold weather! Just like the effect of greenhouse gases on earth. How about the tourist landmarks? They all look artificial, clumsy renovation, bearing no more the delicate touch of natural landscapes. Hey, and the cultural characteristics of that city have also died along with the landscape long ago. Guess what: The Old University of Dalat; Giao Hoang Hoc Vien Institution (Collegium Pontificium Sancti Pii X); National Military Academy of Vietnam (equivalent to US West Point Academy); Political Warfare College of Dalat; and the Lycee Yersin! All were gone!
So today, on this webpage, I am going to post some of the old photos of Dalat before 1975; when even at a wartime, it was still an enchanted Shangri-La. But don't get disappointed, if you have a chance to return to that old mountain resort, you still may catch the beauty and cool salubrious weather of the long gone Shangri-La by doing just a simple thing: Wake up real early (when tourists, merchants, inhabitants, pick-pockets, beggars, solicitors...all the hassle are still at sleep), walk out of the luxurious hotel, stroll along the misty streets, expose yourself to the Dalat surroundings. At that short moment of early dawn, you will rediscover the old spirit of the "LOST SHANGRI-LA."
Click on the thumbnail map on the left to open a FULL SCALE MAP OF DALAT AND ITS VICINITIES (1/250,000 scale). This map was made and used around 1966 so it bore all the beloved names of locations when South Vietnam was still a Free Nation. Because it's a detail map (432k file), it would take a little longer to open.
Actually this is the map of Tuyen Duc Province (located in central highland of Vietnam). Tuyen Duc Province consists of Dalat city and three more Districts (kind of remote small towns): Lac Duong District (North of Dalat); Don Duong District (Southeast); and Duc Trong District (South). The map is detailed enough I can find the tiny Montargnard hamlet (Kamboutte) where I had stationed in some months for Pacification Campaign (1974).
LAKES • VALLEYS • VILLAS • MILITARY ACADEMIES • DALAT'S PEOPLE & CULTURE
POPULAR WATERFALLS DRYING UP NEAR DALAT
Hydropower plants and rampant deforestation appear to have doomed many popular waterfalls near the central highlands city of Da Lat, Vietnam's premier honeymoon spot.
"It's terrible – this place looks completely different," Australian tourist Susan complained during her recent trip to the Pongour waterfall near Da Lat.
DR. ALEXANDRE YERSIN
Alexandre Yersin was born in 1863 in Vaud - Morges, Switzerland. In 1882 he received a baccalaureate degree in literature, and in 1888, after having graduated from medical school in Paris, he formally changed his citizenship to French. He joined Dr. Louis Pasteurs team at about the same time. There after, Dr. Yersin became famous through many of the pioneering work done by Pasteurs team. His wanderlust brought him to Vietnam.
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