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dalat, cu chi, cat ba island & pha thiet
|Located in the central highlands at an elevation of 4,840 ft/1,475 m, dalat was founded as a french hill resort. dalat’s cool climate, lakes, waterfalls and forests make it a popular destination. stroll around the picturesque lake in the center of town and visit the nearby flower gardens (home to more than 10,000 types of orchids). take a break and relax in a cafe or stop by the lively central market, overflowing with colorful fruits, vegetables and cut flowers. visit the cam ly falls, which are 50 ft/15 m high, and the summer palace of bao dai, vietnam's last emperor. the town also has a number of beautiful pagodas.|
|The tunnels of cu chi are a haunting memory of past conflicts. used by the viet cong, the extensive underground system housed tactical quarters, storage rooms, kitchens and even an underground surgical center. most entrances were so well disguised that only a small portion of the system was ever discovered during the war, despite the fact that some 125 mi/200 km ran under u.s. military bases. there are actually two sets of tunnels open to visitors - the ben dinh tunnels were actually used during the war, though they have been slightly widened and cleaned up since; the ben duoc tunnels are "reconstructions" built for tourism. some people find the tunnels overwhelmingly sad, but many were fascinated by the experience.|
This is the largest island in the cat ba archipelago that consists of 350 limestone outcrops adjacent to halong.with an area of 356 square km wide, cat ba encompasses forested zones, coastal mangrove and freshwater swamps, beaches, caves, and waterfalls. in 1986, the northeast side of the island was designated a national park, including a protected marine zone. cat ba island supports a population of over 20,000, most of whom live off fishing or farming in the south, in and around cat ba town. the town is small and ancient, with clusters of fishing boats and inspiring sunsets across the harbor. the national park contains stringy trees, thick undergrowth and slippery vines. there is a great view that includes a french, now vietnamese, farming village from the top of the mountain and a lake in the middle of the park that takes a half day to reach.
|The phan thiet (pronounded "fun-theet") resort strip is a short drive out of town along some fine stretches of white-sand beach that compare favourably with the best in phuket and the philippines. the air is laid-back and unhurried to the extreme. and the food, as everywhere in vietnam, is cheap and teeth-grindingly good. this is where the fabled round wicker-basket boats originate. how fishermen manage to get to sea - and back - in these contraptions with a single paddle is amazing.|