Pongour is one of the most famous waterfalls in the province. It’s much loved and much visited by Vietnamese of all ages. As a result, the falls are developed to cater to large amounts of visitors, but, unlike other popular waterfalls, Pongour is tastefully done. Wide gravel pathways and steps lead through lush, landscaped gardens (no concrete animals here!) to the gaping valley below. There are two routes to the waterfall: a gentle dirt path and some steps, or a steep, long staircase. It makes sense to take the latter down and the former up. At the bottom there are dozens of rather unattractive trinket stalls and food outlets, but you’ll be glad that drinks are available here because it gets exceptionally hot and humid in this craterous valley. Beyond the trees, that provide shade for the stalls, is a wide and exposed, rocky basin. This enormous chasm was once filled by the torrent of the Đa Nhim River. These days, however, its flow is controlled by the Đa Nhim dam, which you can see from Highway 20, about 10km east of Pongour falls. Unfortunately, this has also affected the majesty and might of the waterfall. What water there is gushes over a wall of rock, 100 metres wide and 40 metres high, and flows down across seven separate levels of terraced rock to the big placid pool at the bottom.
The waterfall is still very, very pretty, but the reduced flow robs it of its gravity and grandeur. Instead of being ‘impressive’ I would call these falls ‘poetic’ – there’s a light and playful quality to them; one gets the impression that Pongour is a somehow benevolent waterfall, as opposed to Elephant falls, for example, which is brutal, raw and powerful. One of the myths surrounding Pongour likens the heroine’s hair to moving water which, given the fine and flowing nature of Vietnamese hair, seems a fitting and beautiful poetic metaphor for the gentle cascade of these falls. Indeed, Pongour is a popular place for couples, young and old, to come for a romantic afternoon, jumping in and out of the multi-leveled falls while holding hands. It’s possible to climb up all seven levels of the waterfall, bathing in the shallow pools on each tier, but you should be very careful as some sections are slippery and treacherous (there are signs warning you not to climb – but everyone does it anyway).
With the huge rocky chasm, wide, terraced falls, lush foliage, intense heat and screaming cicadas, Pongour is the most ‘exotic’ of the waterfalls in this list. To get to Pongour from Dalat take Highway 20 past Liên Nghĩa until you see the falls signposted to the right (due west). Take this paved rural road for 10 minutes until you reach the entrance [MAP]. Many tour agents in Dalat can arrange a trip here, and it’s also an easy drive by rented motorbike. Admission is only 10,000VNĐ ($0.50). Pongour is a popular picnic spot in the late afternoons, so if you want to experience the falls without too many people (and less trash) try to visit during the middle of the day.
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