|Taking aim: Nguyen Ngoc Ha takes time out to practise his swing at the new golf course. — VNS Photo Van Dat
Having visited Da Lat, the hilltop resort city in central Viet Nam, numerous times, I was a bit jaded. What could be new on this trip, I wondered?
Soon after landing, I discovered how naive I had been.
First, I had never travelled to the city by plane, so leaving from HCM City's Tan Son Nhat Airport and arriving at Lien Khuong Airport in Lam Dong Province within 30 minutes was far more pleasurable than the long drive by motorbike or car.
Then, after landing, we were hustled off to the famed luxury hotel, the Dalat Palace, built by the French in 1920. That was certainly new as well.
But there was more to come.
The next morning, we took a trip to Hasfarm, a well-known foreign farm in Da Lat that grows a wide variety of flowers.
After taking a tour of the farm, which I had never done before, we headed for our main destination, located 1,200 metres above sea level.
The Dalat at 1200, Country Club and Private Estate, a huge golf course built on Liang Biang Plateau, was a 30-minute bus ride from Da Lat's centre.
The bus carrying us stopped on the Plateau, where we all stood and gaped at the valley below us, carpeted in green with a natural forest and lake.
We learned that the golf course, in a self-contained mountain and lakeside setting, covered roughly 1,000 hectares of land.
C. J. Corman, project coordinator of the golf course, told us that it had been designed by golfing legend Kyi Hla Han from Myanmar, who was once one of Asia's best players and is well-respected in the international golfing arena.
Though I had not played golf before, the landscape was so beautiful that I wanted to try my hand on the first 18-hole Stadium Championship Course of its kind.
So, after riding around the area on electricity-powered cars and taking photographs, we decided to risk embarrassment by practicing our golf swing after receiving instruction from an expert from the Asian Tour Performance Golf Institute.
The Dalat at 1200 will be the home of the golf institute, the first for the Asian Tour, which is the official sanctioning body for professional golf in the region.
The Dalat at 1200, which includes the S$600-million golf course, is the first of several properties of the newly established Asian Tour Destination network that is being developed by the Centurion Group.
Bordered by three pine-forested valleys, with refreshing breezes even at the height of summer, it will have Asia's first bent green grass golf course, according to its designer.
Nguyen Ngoc Ha, who was visiting the area at the time, told me that it was rare to see such a beautiful golf course.
"For me, playing golf is really hard, but it's a fun and relaxing activity while I'm here fishing here with my friends," he said.
The lake, which covers 150ha, also seemed to be beckoning us to test our fishing skills, an activity that we were decidedly better at doing.
Several big fish were caught for our party, and as night fell, we barbequed our catch for dinner and then returned to our hotel.
Nguyen Viet Quy, executive director of the golf course, told us that The Dalat at 1200 will officially open next year, and an Asian Tour tournament will be scheduled during the year.
Besides golf and fishing, other activities at the new complex will include hiking, biking, rafting, kayaking, tennis, horseback riding and a zipline. Private villas and other buildings will be built as well.
With an average temperature of 18-20 degrees Celsius, Da Lat, already known for it cobbled streets, picturesque churches and flowers, will also be an ideal destination for golf, which will be playable year-round. — VNS