To get to Danang from Hanoi I had to first get an 11 hour sleeper bus to Hue, arriving at 6am, and then having to wait for 2 hours before getting my connecting bus to Danang. Practically everyone on my first bus got off at Hue and I was the only westerner on my second bus that got off at Danang – one of the things I really liked about Danang was the fact there were far less tourists and you felt as though you had so much more space to move (due to wider roads as well as less people). It provides a calmer atmosphere as well as the feeling you are actually in Vietnam rather than a British drinking town.
I arrived in Danang around 11:30am about 3km from where my hostel, Danang Backpackers, was based so I did that stubborn thing I do where I refused a ride from the numerous motorbike offers I had and walked in the scorching heat for 20 minutes with my 20kg of luggage on my back. You never know if you will be scammed, it costs more for a motorbike ride than to walk (obviously) and I trust myself far more than I do a Vietnamese stranger. I arrived at my hostel just before midday, ditched my bags and made a plan to walk the 45 minutes to the beach. Whilst checking the route I met a Canadian, Brad, who decided to join me.
What I immediately liked about Danang is that it is a city but there is also a beach just down the road and stunning mountains nearby – pretty much everything you would want from a place. Plus, on the walk to the beach, we had to cross a bridge over a river, a river lined with bars and restaurants – it seemed to have it all.
On the other side of the river was a bit more desolate in areas, with what appeared to be abandoned mini fair grounds for kids (photo opportunity), but then when you reached the end of the road you were greeted with a wide street lined with bars and restaurants again, and a long, vast bay. We were really surprised by how empty it was at 2pm but set up camp on the sand with my first Saigon Beer – really light and tasty, and far better than Larue in my opinion. I happily spent a good few hours being lazy on the beach before taking the walk back to the hostel, this time via Dragon Bridge – it was so tacky I almost quite liked it, but the views of the sunset as I went over was more of a highlight for me.
That evening I went for a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant (again, I was the only westerner there) where I had their signature dish of Fishcake Noodle; I wasn’t overly impressed but I’m always happy to sample local cuisine. I then headed back to my hostel for my daily free beer from the bar on the roof and ended up playing some classic cars drinking games with Brad and six other people from the hostel. Classic backpacker evening.
The following morning I went back up to the roof terrace for my free breakfast, which I ate with gloriously sunny views of the city. I had already decided I wanted to hire a motorbike to explore the mountains and attractions of Danang – a bike for 24 hours was 150,000 dong and I filled up 50,000 of petrol, totalling at about 7 quid, but Brad decided to join me for the day and we went halves so it worked out really cheap. First we rode about 30 minutes, via the beach, out to Marble Mountain – it costs 15,000 dong (£5.50) each and you have to climb up steps to reach all the viewpoints and caves (and the weather was literally sweltering) but the views of the surrounding city and bay were amazing.
We then rode for 15 minutes back towards the beach and stopped for a bite to eat – this was my first experience of My Quang, something I could tell would be delicious and a favourite of mine but unfortunately the quality of the food where we are wasn’t so great. However, refuelled we then continued on to Lady Buddha, which is within the mountains. The Buddha itself and the architecture surrounding it seemed really modern in comparison to other buildings/temples/Buddhas I have seen and it is a really open space, plus the views of the whole bay are really cool.
Afterwards I dropped Brad back at the hostel and the rode 45 minutes on my own to the Hai Van Pass – a road in the mountains that connects Danang to Hue and offers views out across the ocean. Riding on my own was really liberating and I felt really proud of myself when I made it, plus riding through the mountains is pretty exhilarating.
However, for me, it wasn’t the most spectacular view I have seen, plus the experience was changed slightly the closer I got – just before the look out point I passed about 20 people sat on the barrier at the side of the road and the emergency services climbing over the barrier down the side of the mountain to, I can only assume, pull someone out. Then, when I made it to the viewing point, a few guys were hanging around and it turns out their mate’s brakes had failed on his motorbike as he came down the road and round the corner, and he ended up crashing into the barrier and his bike had gone down the side of the mountain. It was believed he had broken his ribs and had just been taken to hospital. They also told me that apparently there had been 4 deaths in the last 4 days – it was a sobering 20 minutes and my ride back to the hostel was slightly sombre (and slower!) than the one there.
Once back I grabbed my free beer and then took a walk down to the river, which was lit up by all the colours from the restaurants, bars and lights that line it. I took my time walking along the river, hearing the tune to Auld Lang Syne being played out from a bizarrely-located (but apparently not uncommon in Danang) height machine run by a Vietnamese woman. I settled on a restaurant that overlooked the river, ordered a salad and a glass of wine and spent the evening in my own company (and U2’s, whose Greatest Hits were in loop in the bar inside).
I found Danang really different from the other places I have thus far been in Vietnam and I really enjoyed the slower, less intense pace, but keen to get to Hoi An I checked out my hostel and left the following morning…