When you imagine the Central Highlands you think of forests, streams and funnily enough big hills.
So, on a recent city break in Dalat the hills were a-calling and we had to take advantage of our location to enjoy the real locations of Lam Dong Province.
We knew a Viet Kieu family who were over from America to let their daughter Kylie, 4, see her homeland for the first time, and they invited us to join them on their trip to Langbiang Mountain.
How could we resist.
Lang Biang (Lam Vien) Mountain is located on Lang Biang Plateau, Lac Duong District a mere 12km from Dalat city downtown.
Yes you guessed it – the name comes from a folktale. Apparently Lang Biang comes from the name of lovers – K’lang and the beautiful Ho Biang. He saved her life from a pack of wolves but tribal factions wouldn’t allow them to marry.
Here the story gets complicated. One story is they got married and lived on the mountain, but Biang was close to death with an illness and when K’lang came back to the tribe to ask for help, they shot at him with a poisonous arrow. Biang had been following her husband and jumped in front of the arrow and died on the spot.
K’lang could not suffer such a loss and his endless tears led to Dankia (the Golden Stream). The second version is more Shakespearean with the couple committing suicide together as they couldn’t marry.
In both versions, Biang’s father was so angry after his daughter’s death that he unified the tribes into one called K’ho and allowed the male and females of K’Ho to tie the knot. Their graves then grew into two giant mountains, which were called Lang Biang in their honor.
Now we had the fortune of hiring an old army jeep to get up the hill but some brave souls instead prefer to go on motorbikes or some even walk. A mere three to four hour stroll is not for the foolhardy. In the heat, fools maybe.
The steep hill was certainly an experience as the drivers, in similar vein to the suicidal Saigonese motorcyclists, seem to try to hit each other and pulled back with millimeters to spare. It was great fun. Once we got there, though. Wow. Now viewing points can be pretty standard if you are looking down at a pretty standard area. Dalat is certainly anything but ordinary.
We could see for miles around, the city houses, the adjacent hills, the forests, the streams. The expression – the top of the world – is overused and I am not going to use it here. I just felt like an onlooker into a beautiful area of what is now my world. I am not one for hanging my feet off the top of the top floor of the Bitexco but even though we were thousands of feet up, it was so peaceful that even vertigo-sufferers like myself relaxed and could quite happily have bought a little villa up there if I had US$1 million in change.
I hope the Vietnamese people realize how lucky they are.
(Sai Gon Times)