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Busy days and luxurious nights
From LAX, connecting service to Ho Chi Minh City is available on Asiana, Korean, JAL, Philippine, China, Thai, EVA, Cathay Pacific, All Nippon and Malaysian airlines. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $709.
To call numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 84 (country code for Vietnam) and the number.
WHERE TO STAY:
Hotel Sofitel Da Lat Palace, 12 Tran Phu St., Da Lat; 63-825-444, http://www.accorhotels-asia.com/hotelsearch . This historic downtown resort has luxurious rooms, a world-class golf course and fine restaurants. Views of picturesque Xuan Huong Lake and Elephant Falls. Double rooms start at $102, including breakfast.
Novotel Da Lat, 7 Tran Phu St., Da Lat; 63-825-777, http://www.accorhotelsasia.com/hotelsearch . Restored 1930s hotel is within walking distance of downtown shopping district. Double rooms from $43, including breakfast.
Novotel Coralia Ocean Dunes, 1 Ton Duc Thang St., Phan Thiet; 62-822-393, http://www.accorhotels-asia.com/hotelsearch . Beaches and a Nick Faldo-designed golf course make this a nice place to relax. Tennis and basketball courts, pool and game room. Doubles from $72.
WHERE TO EAT:
Thanks to the French influence, many say that Vietnam has some of the best food in Asia — and at the best prices. Deluxe five-course dinners for two with drinks less than $40. Fresh seafood entrees start at $3.
Le Rabelais, 12 Tran Phu St., Da Lat; 63-825-444. Next to Sofitel Da Lat Palace. This elegant restaurant offers a variety of Vietnamese and French dishes with a great wine selection. Dinner for two for less than $30.
Cay Bang Restaurant, (known as the Crab Shack), Mui Da, Ha Tien Village, Phan Thiet; 62-847-009. If you like seafood at affordable prices, this busy open-air restaurant is the spot for you. Vietnamese and seafood entrees from $10.
Thanh Thanh, 4 Tang Bat Ho St., Da Lat; no phone. Friendly place with fresh Vietnamese dishes to go; great soups and crab dishes. Entrees from $3.
TO LEARN MORE:
Embassy of Vietnam, 1233 20th St. N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 861-2293, fax (202) 861-1297, http://www.vietnamembassy-usa.org.
I found the Internet site, http://www.elephantguide.com , helpful. It lists and rates hotels and restaurants but, more important, includes travel advisories and news relating to the Mekong region.