Lang Biang mountain is one of the highest mountains in the Southern Vietnamese Highlands. Due to its extreme vicinity to the popular tourist city of Dalat, it has been so transformed to resemble more a city park than the wild mountain which would otherwise be. For someone who happens to be in Dalat though, it definitely makes a great destination for a short trip. It has two principal peaks: the west (1925 AMSL) and the east (2167 AMSL). And these two peaks I set off to conquer, as I happened to be in Dalat, that sunny morning.
The park entrance is to be found about 10 km north of the city, towards Lang Biang village, and about 1 km after it. One could very easily sneak into the park and move around freely unnoticed. However, I believe that purchasing the ticket makes too insignificant a loss for one’s pocket to make it worth the effort. It cost me 30 VND, plus 15 to park my bike.
At the entrance area there is a certain agglomeration of guides, restaurants, souvenir shops and all the like living-on-tourists people. There are also cars to be hired, which can drive all the way up to the west peak and a good deal of the way towards the east one, via a perfectly conditioned asphalt road found inside the park. That exact road I also took and I started my way upwards.
Soon after I started, I realized that the slope of the mountain is covered all the way to the top by a sparse pine-forest. So I left the road and I headed straight-line to the west peak through the forest. After having grown quite weary of the jungle lately, I found myself in great ease to be hiking through a forest that felt so familiar, so homely. The openness of the ground, the resin odor, the crunching of the fallen pine-needles under my feet, the chilly breeze blowing through the shaking pine-boughs every while… everything about that place did feel exactly like home.
It took me nearly one hour to reach the west peak. And upon my arrival there I was abruptly compelled to relinquish my former musing forest mood, as, instead of coming to a peak of the kind I’m used to imagining when I think of a “peak”, I found myself to a place which reminded me more of a circus yard or a Sunday bazaar.
I did not spend there more than a few minutes, and I took the road downhills, leading, after about 2 km, to the beginning of the trail for the east peak. I was quite fortunate to save about half the way, as one of those descending hired jeeps stopped and gave me a ride, after the voluntary intervention to the driver by his kind Saigonese clients. I hopped off right at the trailhead and started on my way.
The first part of the trail runs smoothly through the same kind of serene pine forest, with a few heaven-like, small meadows interceding here and there. Soon, though, the whole picture takes a surprising turn. Approaching the peak, my eyes had the chance to get a short glimpse of its conical summit and its steep, densely vegetated slope. And a few moments later, I found myself striding along a trail composed of tall stair-steps through a more typical for such a latitude rainforest.
Finally, when I reached the top, ca 30 min from the trailhead and 2 hr from the parking, I found myself standing on a quite naked, peaceful peak. The view was surprisingly amazing and open to every direction. And quite contradicting it was… Whereas you have the so thickly populated valley, with its numerous greenhouses and metallic constructions glistening blindingly under the midday sun, and its pandemonium of noise reaching faintly all the way to the peak, looking southwards… Looking northwards you have a vast, desolate, green mountain range extending towards the unknown beyond your eye-reach.
I spent quite some time there sitting on a rock, marveling at the surroundings and meditating upon my fortunate existence, until a sable cloud-mass made its appearance on the adjacent sky, omenning a violent storm that was soon to burst out. It was time to get going… An hour later, I was back to my bike. And a while more later, I was back to my hostel sitting under a shed and wondering at the mania of the monsoon I just had outrun right on the very verge.