First published May 2014 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
Bo Bla waterfall is 80km southwest of Dalat on Highway 20. Set in an undulating landscape covered in coffee plantations and dominated by the Di Linh Massif, these spectacular falls were once a major attraction for Vietnamese tour groups. Now, it seems, Bo Bla’s glory days have passed, and this once popular tourist site has been left to rot and decay in the sun and rain of the Central Highlands. The car park and entrance are now almost completely concealed by bushes and trees; there’s mild graffiti on the ticket kiosks; young lovers have carved their names into the concrete viewing huts; the steep, winding stairway down to the falls is blocked by fallen bamboo and banana trees; and the kitsch concrete elephants on the grassy bank by the falls have lost all their painted colour and a few of their tusks have fallen off.
However, Bo Bla’s state of decay is great news for travellers, like me, who prefer their waterfalls to be empty of tourists and left in their natural state, rather than ‘embellished’ by fairground statues and ruined by trash. Indeed, the abandoned theme park feel of Bo Bla only adds to its appeal: there’s something of the magic and mystery of ‘Spirited Away’ about this place, and all the kitsch decorations look much better with age and neglect – it feels as though you’ve stumbled upon an ancient sacred site of ritual worship.
The dilapidation of the tourist infrastructure is in stark contrast to the vitality of the falls themselves, which crash down onto volcanic rocks from a height of over 50 metres. There’s a wide pool at the base of the falls where you can bathe, watched over by the surreal concrete elephants. The river beyond the falls is rocky and shaded by big tropical trees with exposed roots reaching to the waters’ edge. This is a good spot for a picnic, although there’s still some rubbish around, left here by the not-so-thoughtful visitors who once descended upon this place when it was still a popular tourist site. The crumbling stairway down to the falls offers superb views of the cascade, glimpsed through dense foliage. Bo Bla is certainly the prettiest and also one of the most atmospheric of all the falls I visited in Lâm Đồng Province.
There’s no admission charge as there’s no one here to man the ruined ticket kiosk. Young locals still visit from time to time for a romantic walk at dusk, but, if you come on a weekday morning or afternoon, you’ll have to entire site to yourself. The nearest town is Di Linh (10km) where you’ll find food and accommodation, including Juliet’s Villa Resort. You can take a local bus from Dalat to Di Linh and then find a motorbike taxi to take you to the falls. Or you can rent a motorbike or larger vehicle from Dalat and drive here yourself. The falls are a two hour drive from Dalat on Highway 20. The entrance is on Highway 20, opposite 208 Thôn 8, Xã Liên Đầm: [MAP]
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