Da Lat might be the opposite of what you imagine when you picture Vietnam. The trees are pines, not palms. There's no sticky, oppressive tropical heat. The air is crisp, fresh, and wonderful. It feels like you've somehow stepped into the French Alps (if you replace skiing with motorbiking).
The mountainous city of Da Lat is Vietnam's agricultural center. Its year-round temperate climate has earned it the nickname of "the City of Eternal Spring," and for good reason. In covered hillside poly-tunnels and lush open-air valleys, Da Lat's farmers grow everything from artichokes, coffee, and strawberries to tropical fruit like bananas and passion fruit. Its bell peppers, flowers, and preserves are sold around the entire country. Tourists take home Da Lat's harvest by the taped-up boxful.
Much of this beautiful produce changes hands at Da Lat's central market. Like most things in Vietnam, the market gets started early. Vendors load up boxes of tomatoes, rambutans, flowers, and everything else to truck to other cities. Locals come by for fresh herbs, fruit, and vegetables to make breakfast. One entire floor of the large market building is devoted to produce, and even that spills out into the street.
But the market isn't just about produce. All sorts of meat, in different stages of butchery, take another floor of the market. Sellers, mostly women, expertly chop up chicken, pork, and beef right in front of their buyers. Next door, stalls selling artichoke tea, strawberry preserves, weasel coffee, and chewy dried sweet potato slowly open for the day's tourist business.
After a cool morning dodging pig blood on the floor of the market and ogling all the strawberries and dragonfruit you could ever eat, you can buy a fresh banh mi sandwich and hot homemade soy milk from a vendor outside, all in view of Da Lat's own Eiffel Tower replica.
It's a good life.