Before the Misadventurists visited the Hang Nga Crazy House in Dalat, we suspected it might be just another overblown tourist trap not worth the entrance fee.
By way of explanation, some of subpar “attractions” exist throughout Vietnam, their reputations inflated by overzealous tour organizers who want to add another paid stop on the merry-go-round (personally I would add most of the Mekong “floating village” tours to this list. Others may disagree.)
These attractions, some little more exotic than your average Denny’s parking lot (and not even the David Lynch “Mulholland Drive” parking lot) must be weeded through if one is to avoid blowing all their cash.
But mainly because Crazy House is located only a few blocks from our guesthouse, we decide to give it a chance. And believe us…Crazy House is worth visiting, if only to feel like you’ve floated outside of your body into a bizarro alternate universe.
Or maybe you want to recapture the feeling of being a baby, when your neural paths were not yet set and your silly-putty brain couldn’t just take for granted what a “house” should look like. You know, door here, roof here; a giant eagle is not a normal occupant of someone’s bedroom.
Crazy House is a combination of the weirdest hotel you’ve ever stayed in – in fact, it is a functioning hotel – a Dali-esque architectural fever dream, and Injun Joe’s Cave on Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer Island.
In fact, the whole complex is like one of Walt Disney’s peyote trips (of which several are well documented. Don’t bother Googling that, the Internet is secretly owned by Disney).
An interesting fact about Da Lat Crazy House: the architect is the daughter of Vietnamese aristocracy and she created several huge Soviet-block style Party buildings before hatching the idea (perhaps at a local bar after one too many) to build her own personal wonderland in Da Lat.
A big fan of Gaudi, (which will surprise no one who has seen Gaudi’s work in Barcelona) she says she built the house to honor the harmony of nature and architecture. In practice it looks like a gigantic mud creature with monstrous vine-arms is consuming a whole village.
By the time we’ve hiked through all the caves and climbed to all the roofs, we’ve probably covered over a mile of distance. A few buildings are under construction, although guests are still allowed to explore these sites freely.
Beej crawls to the roof of one five story brick behemoth with narrow stairways and beams stretched over long drops which would undoubtedly end in death with one wrong step. Let’s just say that building safety codes are not the strictest here in central Vietnam.
Back down on the ground, we enter a maze of spider-web shaped lights in a mini-fairytale forest. The forest is centered around a mosquito-infested pond containing giant living bullfrogs who croak deeply and incessantly. We can’t see them, as it’s almost totally dark in the spider-web forest, but we can hear their heavy slimy bodies splashing into the pond as we approach.
We peek into a few of the rooms, which are just as weird and cool inside as the house is outside.
It’s dark, and Crazy House is kind of creepy after dark, especially with the recorded Vietnamese orchestra music blaring from the somewhere in forest, so we decide to split. Before we leave though we stop by the wall of tribute to the architect, who apparently REALLY likes 1970s-style matte portraits where she is in fields of flowers.
To read more about Crazy House visit the official website here, and if you’re up for a trip to south Vietnam, book yourself a room. It’s cheap and you’ll remember it much better than your run of the mill luxury Hyatt.
But stay away if you’re prone to psychotic breaks.