Seventy-five years ago, French entrepreneurs sewed the hillsides of this highland town with one exquisite collection of villas after another. Today, the colonists are gone, but the Vietnamese entrepreneurs who have taken their place are no less enamored with the ‘City of Eternal Spring,’ and villas are sprouting again.

Dalat  Picture credit: Fred Wissink
La Vallee de Dalat is the only private, gated residential compound in Dalat. Picture credit: Fred Wissink

Le Ngoc Khanh Tam is leading the charge with La Vallee de Dalat, a fledgling neighbourhood of seven luxurious single-family homes on a piney slope that overlooks miles of terrain and harks back to the glory days of Gallic design for inspiration.

Last week, the development’s general director moved into the first villa with her husband, Barry Israel, an American lawyer and investor who helped finance the project.

The 6,500-square-foot residence features contemporary stone and wood, spacious terraces and a floor plan that encourages visitors to enjoy vantage points that drink in the outskirts of this one-time hill station. From anywhere on the bluff, it’s clear to the well-traveled Le Tam what the French saw in this plateau. “The architecture firm we used (Asiatique Design) said this is what drew them to the project – the views, the land,” said Le Tam, a Dalat native. “For the majority of people we show the property to, the first word out of their mouth is ‘wow.’ The site is that spectacular.”

La Vallee de Dalat is also the only private, gated residential compound in Dalat, which emerged in the 1930s as a leading candidate for the capital of Indochina. And it nestles right up next to historic Bai Dai Palace II, one of several grand palaces in Dalat erected for the last emperor of Vietnam.

Bao Dai was famous for choosing great locations for his retreats, whether in mountainous Dalat or beachy Nha Trang. To this day, the ridge line that Bao Dai Palace II and La Vallee de Dalat occupy is referred to as the ‘King’s Land’ by locals.

The six remaining villas for sale range in size from 464 square meters (4,995 square feet) to 600 sqm (6,458 sqf) and start at US $1.2 million.

Le Tam expects to realize sales from both domestic buyers — for whom Dalat’s climate is an antidote to the swelter of Vietnam’s coastline and lowlands – and to foreigners from the places such as Singapore and Hong Kong who want to travel no more than a couple of hours for a second home in a temperate climate.

The site is spectacular

Le Tam and Israel have worked assiduously to ensure the rights of foreign buyers. “Our agreement with a foreign buyer will include the provision that if at any time during the 50-year lease period the government permits actual ownership, the buyer will be entitled to take whatever form of ownership is allowed without paying anything additional to us (Dai Phuc Development Co. Ltd),” Le Tam said. “I will sign whatever papers are required to convert the lease document to a property title.”

That time could come sooner rather than later. Recently, the government announced it is considering new rules that would allow any foreigner with a three-month visa and foreign companies doing business in Vietnam to purchase developed housing lots.

Dalat
Dalat’s climate is an antidote to the swelter of Vietnam’s coastline and lowlands

At La Vallee de Dalat, potential buyers can choose from two floor plans, each with four bedrooms, terraces on every level and access to common areas for entertaining. “There’s no better place in Vietnam to be outside than Dalat,” said Le Tam. “The temperature is comfortable year-round. The air is crisp and clean. These villas are designed to let owners and their guests enjoy Dalat’s climate to the maximum.”

By the mid-1940s, France’s grand plan for Dalat started to fall by the wayside, as the realization set in that it could no longer maintain control over Vietnam. But many of the Norman-, Savoyarde-, Landaise- and Corsican-style villas the colonists built still stand today, which the experts at Asiatique Design took full advantage of when conceiving La Vallee de Dalat.

“It was amazing to go up to Dalat at the beginning and see houses exactly how I remember in France,” said the firm’s founder, Aline Ho, who was born in Vietnam but lived in France for 12 years. “We also found a book called 100 Years of Dalat, which had information about all the different types of architecture used to shape Dalat over the years. That was tremendously helpful as was taking hundreds of pictures and cataloguing them all.

“We’ve worked on projects similar to this before, where we’ve blended Vietnamese design elements with French touches. But this is more French. It just goes that extra step.”

For more information about La Vallee de Dalat, visit www.valleedalat.com.