Crazy House is an unusual name for a hotel that aims to provide an exclusive experience of staying in unique rooms. But then again, to pay 1,25 million Vietnamese Dongs (45 Euros) for accommodation that is subpar, one does need to be a little bit crazy. Especially in Dalat, Vietnam, where a standard double room can already be found for 10 times smaller amounts, paying the insanely overpriced Crazy House should be reserved for true masochists only.
Also known as Hang Nga Guesthouse, this weird mansion is anything but a hotel. Call it a zoo, call it an amusement park, but Crazy House doesn’t follow basic principles of hospitality which are a must for anyone building a reputation on the hotel market.
Crazy House is the top attraction on the list of the most quirky things to do in Dalat, Vietnam
The property is a bizarre example of architecture worth seeing. But besides the overnight hotel guests paying for a cave-like accommodation experience, outside visitors can also tour the Crazy House in the daytime. It’s one of the attractions on the list of the most quirky things to do in Dalat.
In the profit-driven chaos, hotel guests become a necessary obstacle, just episode actors in a tragedy disguised behind the word ‘hotel’. Even if you would call it an amusement park, hotel guests would definitely not be the ones who are amused by busloads of tourists making noise and physically intruding into rooms they rented.
If Crazy House would adhere to the rules of other mental institutions in this world, and that means limiting and regulating visit times for outsiders, maybe staying locked in the strange asylum of Hang Nga Guesthouse could even be an enjoyable experience.
Until then, the mad home of one of the most unusual Vietnamese architects will just stay an Instagram sensation, a short-living visual treat devoid of minimal standards for projects dealing with hospitality.
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Where is the Crazy House Dalat?
Crazy House is located in Dalat, a mountain resort town in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Written as Da Lat in Vietnamese (or even more correctly: Đà Lạt), it is the capital of Lam Dong province, sitting 1.500 meters above sea level, on the Langbian Plateau.
Crazy House is not far from the town center, just 1,5 kilometers or a 20-minute walk away. It stands out among the French colonial villas scattered over this hill station in Southeastern Vietnam.
The French built the town at the beginning of the 20th century as a getaway from the tropical heat of the rest of the country. Dalat’s year-round mild weather, with an average temperature between 14 and 23 degrees Celsius, earned it the nickname ‘City of Eternal Spring’. Today, the freshness of Dalat, which has 425.000 citizens, attracts more than 1,5 million Vietnamese tourists looking for relief every year.
If one would want to describe Dalat briefly, one would definitely have to mention the products of the temperate weather: vegetables, wine, tea, coffee, and – flowers. Also known as the ‘City of Thousand Flowers’, Dalat is very popular among honeymooners visiting the local Valley of Love.
Dalat in March brings a daily mean temperature of 18 degrees Celsius.
Still, despite its ‘eternal spring’ aura, at any sign of coldness, locals embrace their sensitivity by wearing ski jackets with fur, winter caps, and gloves.
Seeing me walking around in flip-flops, capri pants, and a sleeveless shirt made them laugh. They must have thought I was crazy.
Well, maybe I was just a perfect candidate for the most unconventional hotel in their town – the Crazy House.
Have a quick visit to Crazy House in this video:
Crazy House story
What is the Crazy House Dalat exactly? At first, it was just a personal project of the architect Dang Viet Nga who still lives at the premises.
She was the daughter of the famous political leader Truong Chinh, the first secretary of the Communist Party and Vietnam’s president from 1981 till 1987. Educated at the University of Moscow, she continued the anti-colonial fight of her father through architecture. Dang Viet Nga opposed French-style buildings by creating her own revolution – the unusual shapes inspired by nature.
“I like Dalat! Its beautiful landscape, mild climate, the gentleness and good nature of inhabitants, and calmness of Dalat have influenced my decision to stay here all my life”, said Crazy House architect who started working here in 1983, at the Building Design Institute.
“After designing several projects for the State, and also because of my own pleasure, the passion of architecture creation has pushed me to express my own dreams. In Hang Nga Villa, I wanted to break traditional practices by forming free volumes with free curves and structures, not depending on classic principles in the arrangement of masses of straight lines and square plans as usual.”
The majority of this crazy-looking house was made between 1990 and 2010. But the architect never stopped improving and adding to this continually growing beast of a building.
The true Crazy House Dalat history begins after Nga fell into financial debt. Firstly, it was an expensive project. Secondly, Dalat people were not really fighting to engage her for other projects.
In order to protect her dream from falling apart, Dang Viet Nga had to think of diversifying her income sources. She opened the guesthouse for an overnight stay, as well as for daytime sightseeing. And that’s the start of the Crazy House story.
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The melting wonderland inspired by Gaudi
Dalat’s Crazy House owes its original name to Hang Nga, the goddess of the Moon from Vietnamese fairy tales. After she had stolen the pill of immortality from the heavens in order to prolong the life of her mortal human lover, she was banished to the Moon. In another story, she gave the fake pill of immortality to the tyrant king and killed him.
Hang Nga Guesthouse didn’t end up having an immortal name, but Crazy House enshrined the fairytale universe that tries to leave a trace beyond the limits of our existence. Born in 1940, Dang Viet Nga still brings her quirky visions to life, with no sign of slowing down.
Local authorities did not always have much understanding and trust for her offbeat working methods that were based on dreamy paintings instead of architectural plans. Engaging amateur local craftsmen in executing her non-standard structures always raised eyebrows.
The complex exterior of Nga’s work resembles a gigantic banyan tree with intertwined roots and branches, and a melting quality invoking the paintings of Salvador Dali.
Daring exterior with staircase-bridges growing through the air like slim tree branches is definitely not a child’s safest playground. Pieces of structure fall apart now and then, so one should always invest full attention. If it’s an amusement park, it still doesn’t adhere to the standards of Disneyland.
It almost seems as if the volcanic activity sculpted this surreal castle with a maze of tunnels, hallways, and walkways overgrown in concrete jungle vines.
Crazy House architect sourced her inspiration from Dalat’s amazing nature, but also from the work of Catalan modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. Just like his Casa Batlio, for instance, the structure of Crazy House has an organic quality, with irregular windows and a flowing sculptural appearance that avoids straight lines.
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Crazy House Dalat rooms
Hang Nga Villa is a house with different themed rooms. Unlike in a typical hotel, they are not distinguished by numbers, but by the name of a species they represent. They are also associated with a particular country, such as Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, America, and China.
The Honey Moon Room encompasses territories and represents – love. Standing above a depiction of a crocodile lair, with a beehive-styled bathroom, this separated lodge is a nest for those who were stung by love arrows.
The other units also follow the crazy room design. Centered around the spider web garden sprinkled with human sculptures, oversized mushrooms, and live birds in cages, concrete tree houses resemble a zoo.
While sightseeing, one can take a peek into the rooms promising an animal encounter: Termite Room, Kangaroo Room, Bear Room, Pheasant Room, Ant Room, Land Eagle Room, and Tiger Room. The fauna stars mostly come in a form of a fireplace that gets lit at night.
Two rooms got their names after plants. Bamboo Room and Gourd Room both celebrate Vietnam’s heritage, especially Central Highlands.
In accordance with the “back to nature” concept, each room at the Crazy House hotel in Dalat comes with essential furniture only. You will not find a TV or AC here. Just a queen-size bed (or two), a small sitting area with a tea set, and a private bathroom with mosaic décor.
The centerpiece of this fairytale universe, which even has dedicated spaces mimicking an aquarium or a heavenly garden, is an interpretation of a Rong House. The iconic profile of the communal house of ethnic minorities in Central Highlands is a private home of an architect herself. She paid tribute to the traditional tall house but presented it as if Hansel and Gretel could pop up any minute.
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Checking into the zoo
Even if their website states the possibility of early check-in (“subject to room availability”), the reception staff was clearly not in the mood to consider it when I arrived at Crazy House before 2 pm.
“The room is not ready yet”, they claimed.
Then I went exploring the property already filled with daytime visitors. After navigating the winding staircase, on the second floor of the second tree-house, I found the open door of the Kangaroo Room. My room! Keeping visitors outside by saloon doors, it was on display for their social media needs.
The room looked quite ready for checking in, but the hotel was obviously in a conflict of interest. I was paying the same price as a bus full of daytime tourists, but that was clearly not putting me in a privileged position.
At 1:55, I was still deterred from entering the room with an excuse that the room was not ready. After they asked three times for my booking confirmation (even if they’ve already taken my suitcase on hold, as well as my passport), I was finally escorted to the room.
Nobody offered assistance with carrying my suitcase through narrow winding paths. The staff member leading the way in front of me would only occasionally stop to check why it takes me so long to navigate the steep stairs, but no help was provided.
In the room of 12 square meters, there was technically no room for the luggage anyway. Clearly, nobody counted on guests staying longer than one night. It seemed they would be happy if you could come at nighttime and leave by dawn. So that in the meantime, the hotel could continue functioning as a petrified museum, opening its rooms for viewing from 8:30 am to 7 pm.
The useless ‘Do not disturb’
The room seemed to be cozy, but soon I would learn it was not a space for relaxing.
The staff member explained that the water bottle is free of charge, even if there was none provided. Coffee and tea were also complimentary, but how would I prepare them without water?
Very soon, I realized there was no ‘Do not disturb’ sign either. I asked for it, as I could already see it would be rather needed.
I quickly pulled the curtains to protect myself from the gazes of the tourists knocking at the window. The staircase winds around the room, so they take advantage of peeking inside and finger-poking. When they would get to the room door, they’d grab the handle and try to enter. Repeatedly. Tirelessly.
Camera flashes made curtains blink as in some epilepsy-inducing stroboscope nightmare. Knocks and door handle twists attacked my ears. The room looked but certainly did not sound like a sanctuary.
A non-rectangular, oddly shaped bed mattress tried to follow the unusual shape of the walls, which was rather interesting. Then again, it was strange to see a misfitting rectangular blanket on such a bed. The concept teased, but the implementation failed.
The small bathroom had a shower and, thank God, frosted glass windows. The faucet in the sink was in a state of dilapidation. I could hear the water running in other rooms, but there was also the uproar of the street and honking buses waiting for the tourists.
Visitors continued producing noise and trying to enter the room. I had to go to the reception twice to remind them I asked for a ‘Do not disturb’ sign.
Even when I finally got it, it didn’t work. If one is in a zoo, there is nothing more inviting than an animal room marked with ‘Do not disturb’.
I had another hellish experience in Vietnam - at Am Phu Cave in Marble Mountain.
Hang Nga Guesthouse as a primitive forest
Crazy House architect Dang Viet Nga always described its yard as a “primitive forest”. Indeed, it was an inviting jungle space stimulating the misbehaving tourists as candies would do with hyperactive kids.
From the entrance of the hotel, where locals were selling trinkets to the visitors, and tourist guides were competing for attention with megaphones, all were adapted to making quick bucks.
Everything is allowed in an amusement park, so knocking at the room door never stopped. As a guest, one almost felt afraid to exit the room. As soon as you opened the door, there was this mob trying to poke their head inside.
At one moment, I even played loud music on a laptop, trying to overpower the noise of the tourist herd. Pointless.
You can practically learn Russian just by listening to the comments of people attacking your private space (‘zakryto’ means ‘closed’, I figured out). Russian and Chinese were the most numerous visitors, at least in the pre-pandemic era, when I stayed at Hang Nga Guesthouse.
I understand financial debt could be frightening. And I get it that the architect allowed people to literally walk over the roof of the house she lives in. But how did the paying hotel guests become voluntary sponsors of the nightmare?
From 8:30 in the morning, when the property opens up for the daily visitors, until 7 in the evening when they should officially leave, hotel guests experienced hyena-style laughter on their doorstep. Five staying guests were held prisoners by hundreds of passers-by.
At 7 pm, one could finally stop practicing meditation against inner voices instructing to exit the room and throw everyone over the fence.
Breathe in and relax! But not for long! At 8 pm, lights in the yard are out. Why would overnight guests explore the property, right?
‘Good morning’ before roosters
There is nothing to do by night, so you just wait for the staff to come and light a fire in your kangaroo-fireplace. Of course, they come half an hour later than announced, but you have already learned you are not a priority here. I guess I was lucky as the employee told me that his colleague tried to light a fire a day before with no success. Yay, I got my heating!
With no functional internet or TV, the room was just a cocoon wrapped in the darkness of the house you didn’t want to leave. Those who left for a walk in town sometimes couldn’t get back easily during the night, as you can read in some online reviews. Overnight guests do not deserve a 24-hour reception, it seems.
So what can you do? You just try to relax and fall asleep, thankful that the daytime nightmare is over.
At 6:46, two hours before the official tourist stampede, a noise woke me up. Some clinking sound rhythmically attacked my earlobes.
I moved the curtains apart, and there I saw the famous architect starting her day before the tourists flocked in. Standing in a pink bathrobe and flower-patterned scarf on her head, the eccentric woman was spinning two tin hula hoops around her waist, producing a clattering noise. Well, good morning to you too, quirky lady!
Even the rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo morning ritual happened later.
After 8 am, new hordes of tourists arrived. I heard a guide at my door explaining: “We have a special room for Australia, but unfortunately someone is staying there.”
That was quite precise. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, indeed, that someone was me.
I skipped the breakfast (one had to announce it a day before anyway), and proceeded to check out of the Crazy House.
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Crazy House Dalat hotel review – Conclusion
“The aim of Crazy House is to provide warmth and hospitality. (…) Take only happy memories of our hotel. Please make yourself at home. It is our aim to make your stay comfortable.”
These words from the hotel directory were the greatest laugh. OK, maybe not the greatest, as this also competes for the paradox throne: “Please do not make noise after 22:00 to avoid disturbing other guests.”
The home of an insane architecture successfully stimulates the explosion of energy, noise, and selfie-taking mania
Crazy House was an attractive fairy place that children and adults behaving as children saw as an authentic interpretation of Alice’s Wonderland. The place of insane architecture successfully stimulated the explosion of energy, noise, and selfie-taking mania.
Crazy House seemed to be a well-chosen name, as it was not a normal hotel. The system consciously ignored the quite regular needs of guests to whom it would rent out the rooms.
I thought it was interesting that the guesthouse was named after Hang Nga, the goddess of the Moon. The Moon was the inspiration behind Luna Parks too, the amusement parks inspired by Coney Island attractions. Hang Nga Guesthouse shared a lot with them. But while the funfair might be a fun place to visit, there is still nobody who would rent a room on the top of a rollercoaster.
Dang Viet Nga, the Crazy House owner, understood that. While daytime visitors couldn’t approach the entrance door of her home, hotel guests did not enjoy the same privilege. Hidden behind her golden gate, protected (or imprisoned?) like a bird in one of the yard cages, she let the paying hotel guests become the victims of the hungry werewolves awoken by her Moon villa.
Exiting the hotel, I met two young Asian girls waiting at the reception. They told them the room will not be ready before 2 pm. I expressed my condolences.
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DALAT CRAZY HOUSE INFO
Crazy House Dalat address
03 Đường Huỳnh Thúc Kháng, Phường 4, Thành phố Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng 66000, Vietnam
Crazy House Dalat opening hours
You can visit Crazy House Dalat every day, from 8:30 am till 7 pm.
Crazy House Dalat entrance fee
The price depends on the visitor’s height. For people taller than 1,40 m, a Crazy House Dalat ticket will cost 60.000 VND (2,20 Euros). For those whose height is between 1,20 and 1,40 m, the Crazy House Dalat entry fee is 20.000 VND (70 cents). Visitors shorter than 1,20 m can enter Crazy House in Dalat free of charge.
Hang Nga Guesthouse rates
Depending on the room of choice, the price for one night stay could cost between 1.040.000 VND (38 Euros) and 2.670.000 VND (97 Euros). The newly opened four-bedroom house costs 5 million Dong per night (181 Euro). For the most affordable Crazy House Dalat booking, check the prices here.
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