After a short 40 minute drive from Hội An, we arrived at our next home in Đà Nẵng; a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment a short stroll from the beach. I did not have many expectations of Đà Nẵng but found myself pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed our 10 days here.
Although it is definitely no Hội An, it at least has a personality that you will undoubtably warm to over the course of your stay. We found Đà Nẵng to be quite pedestrian friendly, which is a rarity in Vietnam, with wide boulevards along the beach and river fronts. Making these all the more enjoyable was the number of artworks, including marble sculptures, scattered amongst them. Which makes a great segue to our first “attraction” we experienced in Đà Nẵng.
The marble mountains, located about 5kms from our accommodation, is famous for what else but marble. Although marble is no longer extracted from any of it’s five peaks it has become a ‘must do’ experience in Đà Nẵng and can get very crowded with locals and tourists alike exploring the numerous caves, tunnels and Buddhist sanctuaries scattered amongst them. As with all areas in Vietnam which attract a large number of tourists you have to be prepared to run the gauntlet of locals trying to sell trinkets and souvenirs. We had not even exited our Uber before our car was crowded with sellers trying to entice us with “the best and cheapest prices in Đà Nẵng”. Although there is an elevator that can take you up the side of the mountain, we decided to hike the stairs and start exploring. As soon as we started the ascent the skies decided to open up and for the next hour or so it rained on us, making for some very slippery marble steps. There is a lot to explore with plenty of caves and sanctuaries hidden within. The highest point, aptly named ‘Heaven’s Gate’, was a steep climb in the wet so only Lincoln and I opted to climb, however once the extra 100 plus steps were ascended it rewarded you with a pretty fantastic view, even despite the hovering rain clouds. After two hours we had finished exploring so made our way down on the opposite side of the mountain and through another gauntlet of sellers. With one even chasing after us on her scooter who had recognised us and remembered Paula’s name from earlier in the day.
After researching and seeing some amazing photographs online of the nearby Lăng Cô beach we decided to hire a private car and driver for the day. After pricing some local taxis we settled on a driver who came recommended from our hotel and just happens to work for Grabcar. At 1,200,000 VND ($80 NZD) it was a little more expensive than other options however we had no time restrictions or limit on the miles travelled. Before making our way to Lăng Cô Beach we wanted to check out the giant Lady Buddha statue located on Sơn Trà Peninsula overlooking Đà Nẵng. This statue, at a height of 67m, is the largest Buddha statue in Vietnam and is an impressive sight overlooking the coastline. Amongst the grounds there are also a number of pagodas, gates, statues and sanctuaries which we enjoyed exploring. Lady Buddha is definitely on the tourist bus circuit with throngs of tour groups arriving by the minute, so you would definitely want to visit as early in the day as possible. After fighting the crowds for a good 45 minutes or so we decided to call it, and make our way towards the beach.Lăng Cô beach stretches for approximately 10km and is rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. Being only 30km from Đà Nẵng it is a popular destination, especially during the summer months. We had decided to take alternate routes to and from the beach utilising the efficient 6.28km Hải Vân tunnel (the longest in Southeast Asia) on the way there and the picturesque Hải Vân pass on our return.Unfortunately Lăng Cô beach came nowhere near our expectations, although the overcast weather definitely did not help; so after a little play in the water for the boys and some lunch we decided to make our way onto the Hải Vân pass. This road climbs to 496m as it twists and turns through the mountain range on the edge of the coastline. The scenery was spectacular, making up for our earlier disappointment, we often found ourselves stopping our driver to take photographs making for a slower, but very enjoyable trip. At the peak stand ruins of fortifications built by the French and then later used by the South Vietnamese and the Americans which the kids enjoyed exploring. The ruins now consist of only a handful of structures which take little more than 15 minutes to explore however it provided a little break from the twisting climb through the pass. The drive back down was more of the same wonderful scenery, with the only near miss on the road consisting of a large truck passing us and nearly taking out a group of motorcyclists who had stopped to take photographs on the opposite side of the road.
Hàn River Boat Cruise
After visiting the impressive Dragon Bridge during the day and learning that it breathes fire and water only every Saturday and Sunday night at 9pm, we decided on taking a night river boat cruise to take in this spectacle. We settled on the apptly named, dragon boat cruise, and at 380,000 VND ($25 NZD) for the family it seemed like a great deal for a cruise up and down the Hàn River. There are two times to choose from for the cruise, each lasting for one and half hours, so wanting to take in the dragon bridge show from the water we decided on the 8.00pm departure time. Although we were a little late leaving the dock, something we are well and truly use to by now in Asia, we settled into our reserved table, front and centre on the top deck and enjoyed the Đà Nẵng city lights.Most of the buildings and bridges are lit up in different ways and often change colours making for a stunning contrast against the night sky. With us being late to leave the dock we were still a good distance away from the dragon bridge once the fire-breathing started, which was a bit disappointing, however we still managed a half decent view with all the other neon lit boats in front of us. In the end I think a better view would have been obtained by actually being on the bridge itself, however being on the water and catching the reflections of the lights provided some stunning photographs.
Đà Nẵng Fresco Village
The Đà Nẵng Fresco Village came recommended to us by another travelling family who had visited it the week prior. Located in a collection of small alleyways off the main roads, it is currently a little hidden gem. When we visited, the grand opening was not due for a few more of days, so paintings of some murals was still occurring. It was very impressive with both Lincoln and Braxton enjoying the art and taking their own photographs. We even met the creative director during our visit, with him explaining that each mural illustrates an important historical or current aspect of Đà Nẵng and it’s people. I am sure the village will be a great success in the coming years and no doubt once the grand opening occurs it will no longer be a hidden gem but rather a worthy addition to must-see attractions in Đà Nẵng.
Đà Nẵng Beach
With our accommodation for our stay (see our review here) being so close to the beach we definitely made the most of it and spent a considerable amount of our time enjoying the sun, sand and surf. We even hired body boards for the kids one afternoon from a nearby surf shop for 150,000 VND/$10 NZD. Unlike Cambodia and Thailand, there were no locals walking the beach selling food, drinks and souvenirs despite the beach being filled with tourists. So there were no cold beers to be had except from one of the overpriced beach huts which, at nearly five times the normal value, was definitely not in our budget. We found the beach surprisingly clean for Vietnam and with several palm trees dotted along the sand providing a little shade, it made for a much nicer beach (in my opinion) than Nha Trang, which we had been to several weeks earlier.
During our stay we constantly found ourselves comparing Nha Trang and Đà Nẵng, given they were both seaside cities and of similar sizes. Đà Nẵng, on first impression seems somewhat similar, but scratch below the surface and you will find a city full of culture, history, local cuisine and beautiful sights. It is a city with a bustling personality dying to get out and show off.
Average Daily Spend – $106.13 NZD ($66.37 under budget per day)