Think of Vietnam, and bustling Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City immediately spring to mind. These hectic mega-cities take the plaudits but it is unassuming Da Nang, located virtually half-way between the two, that offers the real essence of Vietnamese city life.
Da Nang boasts that all too rare commodity in this part of the world –an urban vibe and tropical beach life. This is a city with history. It was the main American base during the Vietnam War and previously, an important trading centre during French colonial times.
The pale pink French gothic cathedral is the most eye-catching landmark downtown and there are a host of temples and museums to check out. It has a refreshing small town attitude and nature is never far away. Dominating the low-rise skyline are the curious Marble Mountains – a small cluster of granite peaks and further up the coastline, the rugged Ba Na Mountains, once a decadent playground for French colonialists. Both offer a feast of adventure sports and relaxed hiking in a cool climate.
There is a tight-knit expat scene in Da Nang with a cosmopolitan flavour and a lively buzz for wining and dining, be it a raucous saloon bar or sipping sundowners on the beach. In fact the best action takes place at China Beach, a wide stretch of sweeping sand, rightly lauded as one of the better urban beaches in Asia.
Hoi An – Arty and Ancient
Start you day bright and early and escape the tour bus crowds at the UNESCO-rated seaside town of Hoi An, just a short hop down the coast. It is a fascinating historic town littered with old bridges, dusty temples and crumbling colonial mansion houses. You can soak up the quiet life here or indulge in a little creative art. Aside from numerous museums and arty boutiques, there is a host of creative courses in pottery, painting and cookery to get stuck into or simply kick back with a hot, lazy day on the beach.
Hoi An, Quang Nam
Seeking Thrills in the Hills
If you crave a little energy-sapping adventure, head to the nearby Marble Mountains. This is Da Nang’s most fascinating attraction on dry land – five granite marble hills dotted with old temples, grottos, various relics from the Vietnam War and more colorful legends than you can shake a stick at. It’s a captivating place for true nature lovers or for the adrenaline rush of abseiling, rock climbing and off-roading and boasts a surprisingly cool climate.
Marble Mountains, Ngu Hahn Son, South Da Nang
By Ray Montgomery