PHOTOS: KHUE VIET TRUONG
Daylilies, light yellow flowers native to Da Lat, around the central lake of Cù Lần Village, which is about 20 kilometers from the center of the Central Highlands resort town
Cù Lần Village is often an accidental discovery by people visiting nearby, more familiar tourist destinations.
It has an intriguing name. It can either mean “fool” or refer to the slow loris, a shy, big-eyed primate that was once a popular pet.
According to locals, the village was established in the 1960s by K’Ho people and was named thus because the slow loris was often seen in surrounding forests.
But some people say the name came from the widespread presence of a tree also called cù lần – the color of its bark would change from cowhide to black when burned under the sunlight, and the colors remind people of the mammal.
Although the village opened to tourists more than a year ago, not many people know of it because it is located in a valley and surrounded by some 200 hectares of forests.
Many people find their way to Cù Lần when they visit the Thung Lũng Vàng (Golden Valley) resort, about ten kilometers away, and see a signboard there.
We reached the village on motorbikes. After going on a long path with pine trees on one side and the Suối Vàng (Golden Stream) on the other, we were somewhat disappointed to find nothing except a gate and an empty piece of land with several vehicles. It looked like a parking lot.
A woman collected VND30,000 (US$1.42) in admission fees from each of us (parking is free) and told us we can either walk and climb several hundred steps ahead, or rent a jeep for VND300,000 ($14.2) to travel a four-kilometer distance along hills and slopes to go down to the valley.
We set out on foot, and were able to enjoy the sight of daylilies, light yellow flowers that are native to Da Lat and can be eaten. As we reached the last of the steps, we were thankful for the cool shade provided by the large canopies of pine trees.
However, the challenge to our physical endurance did not stop there. We had to cross two suspended wooden bridges that led us to scenes of vast flower beds and a village smothered in fog.
We continued to walk to the village and soon saw wooden chairs and swings set for visitors to take rest and observe the landscape.
The first place we visited on arriving at Cù Lần is Đuốc (torch) Hamlet. Here, we joined other tourists and locals in community activities at night like singing, dancing with gongs, and enjoying a dinner of local, traditional food at a large ground.
During the day, some of us rented a bamboo raft to row around a local lake, hoping for some fishing luck. Others climbed up the Trời Ơi (Oh My God) slope to observe the whole valley. There is a large area of grass that is suitable for night camping, but we had to pass on that because we had not prepared for it.
Still doing the touristy thing, we took a horse-pulled carriage to go around, stopping at the Chồm Hổm (squatting) Market – a big stilt house where many souvenirs are sold.
The souvenirs are characteristic of Central Highlands culture, featuring copies of artifacts and other objects related to ethnic minority communities who have lived in the region for a long time. Dried gourds, a common daily life object, can be purchased here, as can soft slow loris toys.
Not far from Đuốc is the K’Ho Hamlet, also featuring traditional stilt houses, dried corn hung around houses, gongs, dugouts and jars of rượu cần – the traditional herbs-infused cassava and rice wine.
We returned the same day, but were told that those who want to spend the night at Cù Lần can stay at a resort that hosts a dozen houses, each with two rooms and all necessary comforts.
While we did do the touristy thing, we did not feel bored or jaded because the place itself was fresh and new, and getting there gave us a sense of discovery and adventure that we fully enjoyed.