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.