Up in the clouds, the damp hill station of Tam Dao feels like the mountain town that time forgot—almost. In 1907 French developers scaled the rugged 4,590-foot peaks (there are three of them) north of Hanoi and decided the cool weather of a nearby mountain retreat could serve the French well. The result was a graceful town of elegant villas surrounded by lush vegetation and sweeping views of the valley below. Since the French left in 1954, however, little grace has been bestowed on Tam Dao, whose chalet charm took a decided turn for the worse when Soviet-era architecture announced itself in the form of a monstrously square 40-room hotel. Most villas, and the town church, have fallen into disrepair, although a few developers remain confident that Tam Dao could be resuscitated as a tourist resort; they've bought up some crumbling lodges and have begun to build.
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