25 feb. 2013

Postcards from Vietnam: 5

Đà Lt’s ‘Crazy House‘

This extraordinary, unusual building rises just a few blocks away from the centre of Đà Lt. It is the dream-come-true of a Vietnamese architect, Dang Viet Nga, now an elderly lady, who is the daughter of a former President of Vietnam.

This bizarre project is still under construction....

When walking in and around the house, you realise its design has clearly been inspired by Gaudí’s works in Barcelona, although references to Dalí’s artwork should not be discarded either. It features hardly any straight lines or right angles. Corridors look more like caves; implausible bridges connect different areas and rooms, and visitors may feel dizzy when crossing its uppermost reaches, and possibly even claustrophobic in some of its concealed alcoves. Decorative motifs are quite fantastic and bizarre. Their exuberance can be quite overwhelming, too.

The house is also run as a guesthouse, with many different rooms hired to tourists in order to raise funds for its construction. Entry fees also apply. A very fanciful building, it appears to recreate childhood dreams and visions inspired by fairytales. Unfortunately, some visitors do not respect the place and have damaged parts of the house and gardens - the omnipresent graffiti! - or leave their filthy rubbish stuck in hidden niches and recesses of sculptures and structures, too.

The family altar
It really is an ideal place to take young children to. They can access very small corners that adults cannot; they will also be highly entertained of course, but their imagination naturally should do the rest.

Đà Lt is a medium-sized city in the southern Vietnamese highlands; it boasts arguably the best coffee in Asia, but the fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the hillsides and valleys are just as good as the coffee. Thoroughly recommendable are the fruit shakes, which you can get for under two dollars each. The region also produces the best (and only) Vietnamese wine, which is…, how can I put it? Yes, I think the phrase “can considerably be improved upon” expresses what I mean to convey, and it does so quite accurately.

Chosen as the location for French colonial jaunts into the cooler highlands, Đà Lt has now acquired its own distinctive personality. These days it receives many visitors from stifling-hot Ho Chi Minh City, a.k.a. as Saigon. It is quite amusing to observe them around the city centre, dressed in their winter wear (scarves, gloves, beanies, leather boots, overcoats, etc.) as if they were in the Alps, while Western tourists take an after-dinner evening stroll in their shorts, T-shirts and sandals in a very nice temperature of about 18 degrees…

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