Da Nang was where my wife and I visited after five days of intense urban exploration in Ho Chi Minh City. We used this time to relax for a few days (as well as fit in a few adventures of course) before heading off to Hanoi.
Da Nang is the fifth largest city in Vietnam and is rapidly urbanising. The economy is Vietnam’s fourth larges and it is diversifying to try and gain some of the global tourist market for those looking to relax, indulge and play. There is a lot of Japanese and South Korean and American investment occuring in Da Nang and everywhere you look there seems to be a luxury resort, hotel, apartments, golf courses etc being built. Greg Norman even has a golf club and golf course over here. The whole area is going to be unrecognisable in a few short years. Most of the locals I spoke to seemed pretty excited about the changes as the construction is happening in areas where there hasn’t really been much at all in the past.
I’m not normally one for resorts and relaxation when on holiday – I feel like I’m wasting my time but given that this was our honeymoon and that my wife had been eyeing out Fusion Maia resort for months, I decided that it was only fair to do the resort thing. I’ll admit that the resort was very nice and luxurious and that it was nice to be pampered for a few days (especially the deep massage) but I’m still not convinced. I’d still rather get some cheap, clean, basic accommodation and spend my time exploring.
On one of our days in Da Nang we caught a taxi for the 15 minute drive into Da Nang city proper. The drive was beautiful, and we passed through pristine beaches framed by mountains in the distance. The beaches were packed full of people eating, socialising, playing sport and just chilling out. We discovered later that the portion of the beach near our resort was actually where the first US Marines landed at the start of the Vietnam War. At the height of the war, the US air base at Da Nang was the busiest airport in the world, reaching an average of 2,595 air traffic operations daily.
Arriving in the city the first thing we saw was a church that was quite busy – I assume mass had just taken place. I saw more churches than I had expected during my time in Vietnam, and it turns out that Christians make up 8% of Vietnam’s population.
Some research before we arrived in Da Nang led my wife and I to Quan Com Hue Ngon. It was off the main street in what seemed like a very quiet part of the city. There were a variety of dishes on offer, with the BBQ option being what the restaurant is popular for.
Despite not speaking a word of English, the staff were very good at explaining how everything worked. The little barbecue was set up on our table and away we went. These were just lightly marinated prawns. Simple and delicious. We were given some steamed rice and the usual assortment of condiments as well.
This next dish was basically vegetables and gelatinous bits of pig in a broth. It was spicier than a lot of the other food we had eaten in this region and very tasty.
Quan Com Hue Ngon can be found at 65 Tran Quoc Toan, Hai Chau, Da Nang.
What is obvious about Da Nang, especially after arriving from Ho Chi Minh City, is just how relatively quiet everything is. The pace is slower and the ambient noise and honking of horns is quiter. It was a relaxing change of pace.
Just like every else we had been in Vietnam, the city streets were where life was being played out. If you are wondering what the white at the bottom of the tree is, it is a lime based paint that wards of ants, termites and other wood loving pests. A huge number of the trees in Da Nang were painted in this way.
Banh Gio is glutinous sticky rice with pork (sometimes minced sometimes not), onion and mushroom. The exact composition of the ingredients can differ and it’s very popular in central and northern Vietnam. The ingredients are compacted together and wrapped in banana leaf. These things might look small but they are very filling. My wife and I bought some to eat the following day (the resort food was very ordinary and we weren’t going to waste money and valuable eating opportunities on it beyond the first night when we arrived late) and we couldn’t finish them off in one go.
Banh Gio can be found throughout Da Nang. The ones that we tried were from Dai Phat, who also sold a variety of sweets and cakes. We bought a few and they were quite tasty.
Dai Phat have a few branches around, the one we visited was at 134 Hoang Dieu, Hai Chau, Da Nang.
Most of the resorts have private beaches that seem a world away from the hectic and vibrant public beaches about a half an hour walk away.
I really enjoyed what I saw of Da Nang and I wish I’d had time to see more. Between the things that I only glimpsed while catching the taxi from the city to the resort, and the things that are fast changing, I’d love to go back to Da Nang in a few years time and really explore the place properly.