Da Lat and Baguio seem like a twin city as we have written in our previous article. Let us then make a comparison of the popular tourist spots from both cities to support this claim.
Da Lat is the capital of Lam Dong province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam while Baguio is the chartered city of Benguet Province in Cordillera Administrative Region of the Philippines.
Da Lat & Baguio – Cathedral
The St. Nicholas Cathedral (Vietnamese: Nhà thờ chính tòa Đà Lạt) also called St Nicholas of Bari Cathedral (Nhà Thờ Chình Toà Thánh Nicola Bari) is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in Da Lat. It was built by the French in 1932, (replacing an old church built in 1917) but its interior was only completed in 1942. The cathedral possesses a Romanesque style and has a shape of a domestic fowl that it’s called the “Chicken Church”.
The Baguio Cathedral also called Our Lady of the Atonement Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral located in Baguio. It was originally a Catholic chapel built by Belgian missionaries, but the construction of the cathedral started in 1920. It was finished and consecrated in 1936. It served as an evacuation center under the Japanese Occupation during the Second World War. The church has its distinctive pink exterior, twin spires, and stained glass windows that make it a popular tourist attraction in Baguio.
Da Lat & Baguio – Pink Convent
The Domaine de Marie (French: [dɔmɛn də maʁi], “Dominion of Mary”; Vietnamese: Mai Anh) is a Catholic convent constructed in 1940 having a mix of French and Vietnamese architectural style. The church features pink walls made of limestones, stained-glass windows, and a large 3-meter Virgin Mary statue standing on a globe. Its façade looks like an isosceles triangle, noted its little, arched windows. A cross juts atop the main triangle of the building. It was nicknamed the Cherry Church.
The Pink Sisters Convent is a small pink-colored chapel situated along Brent Road. It’s famous for devotees and visitors because of the solemnity emanating inside the chapel. It is the veneration place of the Consecrated Host of Jesus Christ for the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, praying all day for the petitions and intentions of the visitors.
Da Lat & Baguio – Buddhist Temple
Linh Son Pagoda is located on top of a small hill in Da Lat. Funded by the public, the temple was built in 1938 and got completed in 1940. It possessed a classical Asian architectural style. Despite that the temple lacks historical significance due to its later construction, its natural and artistic appeal has made it a popular sight in Da Lat. The temple also keeps a small plantation of various tea and coffee. It is the home to more or less 20 monks and a dozen novices.
The Baguio Buddha Temple is built by a Chinese-Filipino many years ago. Originally, it was meant as a retreat or study place for Buddhists. But because it was just on the right side of Saint Louis University, some of its rooms had become dormitories for SLU students. Visitors also can offer incense to the Buddha. Since it has several stories, the top of the temple offers a fantastic top view of the whole city.
Da Lat & Baguio – Monastery
The Trúc Lâm Monastery is located outside the center of Da Lat and near the Tuyền Lâm Lake. The public quarters of the temple were designed by Vietnamese architects and opened in 1994. These quarters stood on a plateau with an estimate of 1300 meters above sea level, which also overlooks Benhuit Mountain. The public quarters consist of a ceremonial hall featuring the statue of Gautama Buddha between Văn Thù Sư Lợi and Phổ Hiền bodhisattvas, a bell tower on the right, and guest facilities on the left. A rose garden lay before the guest facilities, and an artificial lake lay before the temple gate.
The Bell Church (Chinese: 钟零善坛) is founded by Ng Pee, a Chinese immigrant from Canton, China. The early preach is done in a dining hall of a restaurant, but devotees had increased that a temple had to be built. It was initially called the ‘Chinese Buddhist Temple’. Fully grown, the temple transferred to its final site, in the borders of Baguio and La Trinidad, and was popularly known as the ‘Bell Church’. The site was chosen out of good Feng Shui. It features an entrance with Chinese inscriptions, an arch decorated with dragons, pagodas with images of saints and Buddha, a bust of the founder, and two octagon lily ponds.
Da Lat & Baguio – School
The Pedagogical College of Da Lat (Vietnamese: Trường Cao đẳng Sư phạm Đà Lạt) is now a teacher’s training college, but it was originally a school called Lycée Yersin which was founded in 1972 to educate the children of French colonialists and upper class Vietnamese. It stands on a plateau overlooking the great lake of Da Lat and the valley where the railway station was built. It was designed by a French architect and the materials used were imported from Europe. The main building has three stories with 24 rooms and a 54-meter bell tower. The building, which also describes an arc, has been recognized by the World Association of Architects as one of the 1,000 original buildings of the 20th century.
Brent International School Baguio was previously the main campus of Brent, founded in 1909 by an American missionary bishop. It was built thirty hectares of forested land now known as the Teacher’s Camp. The campus houses buildings survived World War II and the 1990 Luzon earthquake, which earned the status of National Historical Site by the Philippine Historical Commission in 2001. Also, Brent Baguio, which turned 100 years old in 2009, is the only campus which has boarding facilities; the other 2 campuses (Manila and Subic) are day schools only. Brent Baguio, including the 2 campuses, is among the few schools in the Philippines to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for students in the 11th and 12th grades.
Da Lat & Baguio – Summer Palace
Bao Dai’s Summer Palace (also known as Palace 3 as there are 2 other palaces of Bao Dai in Dalat) was built from 1933 to 1937 under the dynasty of the last king of Vietnam feudal court, Bao Dai. It was designed in the art deco style, lying in the middle of a pine forest near the Pasteur Institute. Originally constructed as a retreating place for the royal family, the French colonizers came back to Vietnam and occupied the villa.
The Mansion House (also known as The Mansion) was built in 1908 to serve as the official summer residence of U.S. Governors-General based on the preliminary plans of Daniel Burnham, who designed the whole Baguio City in accordance with the tenets of City Beautiful Movement. It was the site of Second Philippine Legislature meeting, the second session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) in 1947, the second session of the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1948, and the first meeting of the Southeast Asian Union (SEAU). With the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth, the Mansion along with Malacañang Palace was turned over to the Philippine president and became the official summer residence. The Mansion consists of an elegantly designed Spanish Colonial Revival main building and a guest house. The elaborate main gate, made of ornate ironwork, which is the most photographed section of the property.
Da Lat & Baguio – Heritage Structure
Da Lat Railway Station (Vietnamese: Ga Đà Lạt) is a railway station on the Da Lat–Thap Cham Railway line in Vietnam, serving the town of Da Lat in Lâm Đồng Province. It was designed in 1932 by French architects and opened in 1938. Abandoned during the later years of the Vietnam War, it was returned to a limited level of service in the 1990s with the reopening of a 7 km section of track leading to the nearby village of Trai Mat, operated as a tourist attraction. It is notable for its unique architectural style, which incorporates an overall Art Deco theme with elements of native Cao Nguyen communal houses from Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The three roofs are said to represent the three peaks of Da Lat’s iconic Lang Biang mountain.
The Dominican Hill Retreat House, more popularly known as the Diplomat Hotel, is an abandoned structure atop Dominican Hill, Baguio, Philippines. Because of its macabre history, it was tagged as one of the most haunted places in the Philippines. It is now undergoing rehabilitation through the efforts of the city government as the whole property has been renamed as the Dominican Heritage Hill and Nature Park. A panoramic view of the city unfolds from its vantage point, the stone crucifix on the outdoor patio of the hotel’s second floor.
Da Lat & Baguio – Sculpture Park
The Clay Tunnel of Da Lat, which is 1.2 km long, is located in a thick pine woods. It is a walkway of clay arts installation that is truly a masterpiece in the architectural field. Along the road of clay is an array of sculptural pieces created by a Vietnamese sculptor, who took four years to find suitable materials to build this amazing work consisting of basalt and dark red earth from the Central Highlands.
Holy Land is a park of sculptures that depict the biblical theme. It stands together with the Dinosaur Island, which is a park of animatronic dinosaurs.
Da Lat & Baguio – Eccentric House
The Crazy House (Vietnamese: Ngôi nhà quái dị), also known as Hằng Nga guesthouse (Vietnamese: Biệt thự Hằng Nga), is a building of many unorthodox elements designed and constructed by a Vietnamese architect. It is often described as a fairy tale house, resembling a gigantic tree with natural figures like mushrooms, animals, caves. The complexity of the structure is deemed expressionist and as the inspiration from Antoni Gaudí is evident. There has been controversy in the unconventional building but now it has been recognized as one of the most popular destinations in the world.
Ili-Likha Artist Village opened in 2014 by a film director, writer, and National Artist who is a native of Baguio. It’s an establishment with several stories which is built around overgrown trees and wooden structures that are embezzled with a variety of curious trinkets such as mosaic tiles, Cordilleran crafts, and art pieces from recycled materials. The rustic building is a great showcase of the traditional culture of Cordillera. When the Crazy House of Vietnam is a guest house, this crazy house of Baguio hosts the Kiwing na Kahoy Food Community – a group of food kiosks inside the tree house that promotes healthy and organic meals.
Da Lat & Baguio – Lake
The Lake of Sighs is a popular tourist attraction visited especially by lovers because of the romantic tale attached to it. Legend says, a young couple met here, fell in love, and wanted to marry. Vietnam was at war with China that time and the young man went with the army without telling the young lady. Finding no one came in their tryst, the lady drowned herself into the lake out of profound sadness. That’s how it got its name. Presently, the small lake has many walking trails leading to the pine forest.
The Burnham Lake is a man-made lagoon located at the center of the Burnham Park designed by Daniel Burnham, a famous architect who also designed Chicago. The lake is much loved for rental boating and its idyllic view from the wooded lawns good for a stroll and picnicking. The lake is also close to the Rose Garden, Athletic Bowl, and Melvin Jones Grandstand where important events usually take place. It’s an iconic activity if one visits Baguio.
Da Lat & Baguio – Mountain
Lang Biang Mountains, or Lam Vien Mountain, is located on Lang Biang Plateau, Lac Duong District, Lam Dong Province. According to legends, the name is derived from a couple namely K’Lang and Ho Biang who went into a tragic tale. Since the Lang Biang has the two highest peak in the Lam Vien Highland, it is considered as the roof of Da Lat. The mountain is a good vantage of the Da Lat verdure where activities like camping, exploring the natural flora, bird-watching and enjoying the unique culture of ethnic minority groups are recommended for tourists.
Mount Yangbew is one of the mountains surrounding La Trinidad Valley. Technically, it’s not in Baguio, but the ride from the city is just a few minutes away. Mt. Yangbew is called Little Pulag because of its similar characteristics to some parts of the famed Mount Pulag, the highest peak in the North. The single trail is very easy that leads you to a summit of rolling grasslands studded with several rock formations and rare trees. It also gives you a 360-degree view of La Trinidad and Baguio City.
Da Lat & Baguio – Picturesque Haven
The Valley of Love is located 4 miles away from the center of Da Lat. It was originally called Vallée D’amour from the beginning but was changed to Valley of Piece. The people renamed it the Valley of Love because of its picturesque, poetic, and romantic beauty. It has the tranquil Da Thien Lake and a view of the Lang Biang Peaks. Natural tracks and staircases are installed for a lovely walk while admiring the floral arrangement. The tracks also lead to Paradise Hill, another destination surrounded by lakes. Some amusements that tourists can have in this site are horseriding, jeep safari, motorized and pedal boat on the lake. The Valley of Love is a favorite for honeymoon and lovers’ date that it has the same value as the Niagara Falls of Canada.
Camp John Hay used to be the R&R station for the American military but was transformed into an iconic destination in Baguio City. Today, it is the most beautiful piece of land in the city. Camp John Hay is a pine-clad area that house many entertainment and leisure places to visit. All the structures including restaurants, hotels, and museums were built as log cabins that remind you of America. It has fine dining restaurants and world-class hotels that are best paired with the rustic charm of the hill station. It also offers adventures like eco-trails, extreme sports, and golf course. It is a family destination you’d want to go back over and over.
Da Lat & Baguio – Floral Garden
Da Lat Flower Garden is located near the romantic Cu Hill. These gardens were established in 1966 and include hydrangeas, fuchsias, and orchids, the latter in shaded buildings to the left of the entrance. Like any good Vietnamese park, the gardens have been embellished with kitsch topiary.
Mount Costa, bearing the slogan ‘The Green Living Room ’, is a three-hectare land that offers 24 different gardens, each one a work of art. There are two pathways to take: one is the yellow path that leads to colorful floral gardens, and the other is the blue path that leads to recreational and conceptual gardens. Three of the remarkable things at Mount Costa is the giant submerge face, the Mirror Garden and the Japanese Rock Garden. There are also many art installations, food hub, playground, and benches (to rest on once in a while as you admire the scenery). Most importantly, there are over 100 different kinds of flowers scattered among the gardens of Mount Costa.