Da Nang!

da_nang
The Han River, Da Nang city centre.

 

I’ll warn you in advance, this is going to go on a bit longer than my Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh posts. I swept through those places in a few days each, but Da Nang has beaches and mountains and a more modern, chilled-out feel to it that’s caused me to end up spending far more time here.
While crossing the road still involves stepping out into a dozen rows of mopeds at once, Da Nang’s long, straight roads are much easier to navigate your way around (in my opinion) than the hectic web of alleyways the other big cities will throw at you. As someone at my first hostel said, it’s the only place in Vietnam that feels like it’s had town planning.
The city centre sits on the airport side of the Han River, and a crossing over the fire-breathing dragon bridge (no, really) takes you to the beach end of town, where you can spot the statue of Lady Buddha in the distance as well as views out to the Ba Na Hills and peninsula, from clean sand and year-round warm water.
dragon_bridge

 

At the time of writing this, a lot of the beach side of the city is under construction. The hostels are all shiny and new, the beaches always seem to be blissfully empty and thankfully I’ve yet to be disturbed by any noise from the masses of bamboo-scaffolded buildings nearby.
For a fiver a night it’s easy to get great accommodation here wherever in the city you are. In the city centre, Funtastic Da Nang is ludicrously cheap luxury with all the best shops and street food right on the doorstep. Sister hostel Funtastic Beach and nearby G’local are both amazing if you’d rather be close to the sand (although if you really can’t be bothered to walk from your chosen spot to the other side of town, taxis are never more than about £2).
Lazy photography from a hot day
Famed for its excellent street food, there are numerous tours you can do that will help you find the best authentic local dishes- but if you’re on a tight budget, do what I did and wait for someone else at your hostel to do a tour and tell you where to go afterwards! Thanks, Google maps, for your “drop pin” map feature, which helped in locating great streetside Bahn Mi on Duong Phan Dinh Phung and stellar spring rolls on Phuong Tan Chinh.
If Vietnamese food has gotten repetitive then fret not, as well as places like Oasis tapas and Burger Bros in the My Khe beach area (both of which do decent veggie options) there are also plenty of backpacker-targeted destinations along Bach Dang street where you can fill up on home comforts looking out over the river.
If you’re here on a Saturday or Sunday night, keep your eye on the dragon bridge at 9pm because it can and will breathe fire!
Han_Market
Han Market
If you’re more interested in shopping then fret not once more, as well as the very western Vincom centre and mega-market Big C, you can trawl for bargains at the Han or Con markets, not far from Bach Dang.
Like any indoor market in Vietnam, these sell just about anything you could possibly want to buy, stacked floor to ceiling in stands a foot or two apart. Han Market makes the marketplace in Hue look tremendously spacious, so watch out if you get twitchy in small spaces because there are a lot of smells, sounds and colours to absorb here all while squeezing sideways between stalls.
I’ve chosen to show you this one using a photo of the stairs, because there is more space there than anywhere else and looking at my other photos makes me feel like my head is going to explode.
marble_mountain_dragons
Probably real dragons.
Just outside of Da Nang you’ll find the marble mountains, where you can see these happy little dragon chaps and Instagram-pleasing views like the cave below. A taxi for up to four people is around 120,000 dong from the city centre (£4) but you can easily motorbike it if you’re travelling on two wheels- you’ve really only got to go up one straight road for most of the short journey.
Entry to the caves and pagodas of the “main” mountain costs 15,000 dong (just under 50p) and for an extra 15,000 you can even take a lift most of the way up. Yes, there is a lift. Up the side of a mountain.
Don’t start at gate 1 like I did first time around- it’s one unyielding marathon of huge slippery marble steps and particularly in the 34C “winter” heat it becomes an unnecessary trauma when you realise the steps at the other end of the mountain are split into lots of shorter sections by various relics and things to catch your breath infront of.
I wish more mountains had steps and a lift.
Another thing to remember is to wear appropriate footwear for clambering up out of bouldery caves (flipflops proved to be unhelpful) and if you want to actually go inside the pagodas, remember to take something to cover your knees and shoulders with so as not to startle any monks.
marble_mountain_cave
Midday sunsine

 

Conspicuous rave buddha
Da Nang is an easy and obvious stopping point whether you’re taking a train or a bus (or even a flight) in either direction, and I’d definitely suggest spending a few days here between Hue and Hoi An before you begin an inevitable new long journey elsewhere.

 

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