Since Da Lat was in the mountains, we were determined to go hiking despite the rainy and cold weather. On our second day we set off to conquer Lang Biang, 2,167 m a.s.l.
The vast majority of tourists visiting Lang Biang would reach the top of the smaller of the two neighbouring peaks (so called Radar Hill) by a shared jeep. A far less popular option is hiking to the top.
There are two ways to get to Lang Biang by foot:
The more obvious one is to pay the entrance fee at the foot of the mountain, walk through the tarmac road with hundreds of jeeps wheezing by and after 2 kilometers turn right to a dirt path leading all the way to the top.
The alternative is to take a marked hiking trail right from the base of the mountain all the way to the top, entirely bypassing the main entrance and avoiding the tarmac road. That was what we were planning to do.
AT THE BASE OF THE MOUNTAIN
We had a big breakfast at the com chay (local vegan eatery) near our guesthouse and walked to Da Lat market to catch the bus to Lang Biang. The bus stand was just above the market. After a bit of a wait, we took the bus number 5 which had ‘Lang Biang’ clearly written on the side. It took us around 40 minutes to get to the last stop.
Once we arrived, our first task was finding the hiking trail. We read in one blog that in order to get on the trail we would have to take a dirt road right next to the official entrance and then just follow it. If only we knew how misleading that suggestion was!
It started raining barely 15 minutes after we got off the bus. We put on our brand new, flimsy ponchos and started wading through the mud. With every 100 meters, the condition of the road was getting worse and worse. A few local guys on motorbikes passed by us, staring in wonder. We kept on walking among glasshouses and coffee plantations, wondered why the path wasn’t leading up.
Eventually, we understood we went too far and had to turn back. If only we checked the maps.me earlier! This ever-useful app actually showed the entire hiking route. It was very frustrating to realise that we wasted almost an hour to go through that muddy hell, back and forth, in the pouring rain. As it turned out, instead of following the main road, we were supposed to sharply climb up as soon as we saw a tiny path leading up towards the pine forest.
THE WAY UP
Once on the right path, we still had some pretty horrible mud stretches to conquer before we finally reached the edge of the forest. The trees brought us salvation. Forest sheltered us from the rain and assured that the paths were much dryer. Soon enough the rain stopped anyway. We walked steadily but not very steeply up through the pine forest, encountering grazing horses and cows on the way.
We kept on walking up until we hit the tarmac road. Just a couple of meters further we saw a ticket booth, which was unmanned (as other blog writers also reported). From that moment, we started encountering people on the trail. Presumably they took the tarmac road, unaware of the existence of the hiking path.
After the ticket booth, the route became much more pleasant. We walked through an almost flat terrain for some time, stopping shortly at a small clearing with a view down below.
This pleasant stroll didn’t last very long. It was still quite a distance to the peak when the climb became virtually vertical with massive (calf length) steps cut in the soil. It was a strenuous hike so we were surprised to see a few groups of Vietnamese tourists coming down, wearing just flip-flops.
CONQUERING THE PEAK AND A PLEASANT DESCENT
Eventually, we reached the top which was completely shrouded with the milky fog. We couldn’t see a thing, apart from the board with the name of the peak. We were alone and we had a feeling we shouldn’t linger for too long if we didn’t want to miss the last bus at 5pm.
We decided that descending same way we came from would be too slippery and too dangerous. After reaching the empty ticket booth we took the tarmac road instead. It was only when we went lower that some views opened, partially obscured by the trees.
The jeeps constantly going up and down the road were very annoying so we took frequent shortcuts and then abandoned the tarmac altogether. We were relieved to find an alternative, parallel route (also marked with red signs). The descent was incredibly quick which allowed us to reach the parking lot by 4 pm.
CAKED WITH MUD
We felt rather strange when we emerged at the tourist centre at the base of the mountain. All those ladies wearing hats and fancy clothes must have been quite shocked to see us: muddy feet to waist, wet and sweaty.
We got the bus back and went to the guesthouse in order to get our clothes and shoes sorted. Sayak’s sneakers were so caked with mud that he decided to simply throw them away. I washed my hiking boots thoroughly which was enough to bring them to the former glory but which also made them dripping wet. With the low temperatures and high humidity the prospects of drying the boots out were grim. We left the fan on for whole day and night and hoped for the best.
I guess in the dry season it could have been quite a pleasant hike but I’d discourage hiking Lang Biang in the rainy season: the paths would be extremely muddy and there wouldn’t be a guarantee of a view.
How to get to Lang Biang?
Take a bus no 5 to Lac Duong from the top of Da Lat market (the bus stop is on Nguyen Van Troi street).
The ride is 40 mins long and the ticket costs 12 000 VND [July 2018]. Ride till the last stop.
The trail to the peak is clearly marked on Maps.me.
If you don’t have the app and want to find the trail, follow the instructions below:
Walk from the bus stop towards the main gate. Just on the right hand side from the gate there is a wide, dirt road. Start walking this way along the coffee plantations. After a short walk, take a narrow path leading steep up towards the freshly planted pine trees. The first red signs on the trees are in the pine forest. Once you reach the tarmac road, walk up for a very short distance until you see a ticket booth on the right. The dirt path will take you all the way to the peak.