Dalat, as Seen via Human Beings

Dalat Roadside

(Including this, which was one of my favorite shots in the city, for some reason)

I spent a couple of nights up in Dalat (returning a couple days ago to Saigon, where I am now) and really enjoyed it. The two nights might not have been enough for the average traveler, as there are countless activities and restaurants and cafes (oh, the cafes! My god!) to explore, but for me it was just enough. I stayed at ZEN Cafe, located about 1.5km from the city center, a small French villa built 70 years ago featuring hardwood floors and exquisite gardens. The German and Vietnamese-owned inn/hotel/thing kept me satisfied and rested throughout my entire stay. I loved it. The peace and quiet. The laid-back pace of life. The entire thing was a perfect experience for traveling alone.

So what did I do when in Dalat? I did a lot, actually. I explored the town. I followed up on recommendations and TA-highly-rated establishments. I walked around. A lot. My feet actually hurt for the first time since I can remember from general walking! That’s not a bad problem, by the way. I also took one of those Easy Rider tours (who knows how official this one was; I was approached at the bus station and Peter (Binh) gave me a ride to the guest house and then took me out for coffee and the next day we had a great customized tour together). I think the impetus to choose one of these tours to fill half a day in Dalat was important: I needed to get into the countryside, get on the road, and I wanted to take pictures of it all.

Unfortunately I don’t have enough free time to edit the lighting on these pictures, and as the days I was in Dalat (except for the last couple of hours there) were all overcast, the pictures might not look “beautiful,” but I’ve tried to include some below that focus on the risks I took in taking pictures of people. I find it hard to take pictures of people in Southeast Asia. It’s a stereotypical approach, one that many professional and art photographers take when they visit “developing countries” in general: capture the spirit of the place via portraits. But I’ve always been incredibly nervous of taking pictures of people. It’s not that I’ve ever been yelled at or frowned at for taking pictures of faces and bodies, but it feels slightly exploitative. I suppose it will get easier as I keep doing it, and I will always feel like I am exploiting just a bit, but perhaps the cost is worth it? More on that later, hopefully. Now, for the pictures!

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Early morning. A girl stands and waits for this store to open.

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Workers construct a new road.

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A man carries goods to where? A market? A store?

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Hand-carving the patterns of the sidewalk.

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Path construction and repairs on the Lake of Sighs.

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Sighing, perhaps? At the Lake of Sighs.

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A lone fisherman. I did not see anyone fishing catch anything.

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A man’s daughter practices her moto posing skills.

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A tourist walks, head down, through the Dalat market.

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More deliveries along the main road through Dalat.

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The pensive stare back.

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This man cooked a mean pork BBQ for breakfast.

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While eating my pork BBQ for breakfast, the pork for tomorrow’s breakfast was dropped off.

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Taking a break to make a call.

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Working at a flower garden.

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Chiseling the granite.

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More plantation work.

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A roadside Vietnamese wedding.

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Immediately after I took this, the girl smiled and waved at me.

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At the silkworm plantation.

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It actually wasn’t that hot inside this silk factory.

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The man behind me bringing in a load of silkworm cocoons.

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Moto mirror selfie.

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Produce delivery.

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This machine takes the skin off coffee beans.

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Coffee! For everyone!

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The best Spongebob clothing I’ve ever seen.

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Self portrait in Crazy House

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A balloon vendor

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