Da Nang

Although this country’s forth largest city is normally neglected by a majority of foreign travelers in favor of Hue and Hoi An, Da Nang has considerable colors and charm at its own right. The city is the combination of the buzz of a bigger city with beautiful beaches and great restaurants. Tree-lined boulevards, bridges and beachside resorts are now pulling more and more attention of travelers near and far.

Things to in Da Nang:

China Beach was made famous in the American TV series under the same name, China Beach stretches for many kilometers north and south of the Marble Mountains. The best time for swimming along the beach is from May to July when the sea is at its calmest. The water can be rough around other times of the year.

Non Nuoc Hamlet Located on the southern side of Thuy Son and a few hundred meters west of My An beach, the hamlet offers great gifts made by skilled artisans. It’s also great fun watching the carvers at work and taking some tiny carved figures that would make nice gifts once back home.

Hai Van Pass Crossing over a spur of the Truong Son mountain range that justs into the South China Sea, in the 15thcentury, Hai Van Pass formed the boundary between Vietnam and the Kingdom of Champa. During the wartime, the Pass was heavily forested.

Most buses make a few minute rest stop at the top of the pass. A private transfer will allow more time for travelers to tale photos along the way. 

Boating The Thuy Tu River which is north of Da Nang (near Hai Van Pass) has clean water and is ideal for boating. Some boats leave from the villages of Nam O which is famed for producing fish sauce. Another specialty of the area is Goi Ca which is fresh, raw fish fillets marinated in a special sauce and coated in a spicy powder.

Taking a night cruise along the Han River will also be a memorable experience.

Ba Na Hill Station Founded in 1919, Ba Na is called the ‘Da Lat of Da Nang’ and a former French Hill Station. The view is truly spectacular and the air is fresh and cool. Having lunch at Le Nim restaurant offers fantastic views from the balcony. 

Dien Hai Citadel Formerly known as Dien Hai Fortress built in 1813 in the 12th year of Gia Long’s reign by Da Nang river, the citadel bears the stamp of the tradition of the struggle of the people of Da Nang and the nation in the persistent war against the French colonialists for independence and freedom, made a significant contribution to the defeat of French invaders in Da Nang in 1858-1860.

Where to go in Da Nang:

Cao Dai Temple Built in 1956, Cao Dai Temple is the largest such structure outside the sect's headquarters in Tay Ninh. There are 20,000 Cao Dai faithful in Da Nang province. As with all Cao Dai temples, prayers are held four times a day: at 06:00, noon, 18:00 and midnight.

Da Nang Cathedral Known to locals as Con Ga Church (Rooster Church) because of the weathercock on top of the steeple, the candy-pink Danang Cathedral was built for the city's French residents in 1923. Today, it serves a Catholic community of 4,000.

Ho Chi Minh Museum There are three sections to the Ho Chi Minh Museum - a museum of military history in front of which US, Soviet and Chinese weaponry is displayed; a replica of Ho Chi Minh's house in Hanoi (complete with a small lake); and, across the pond from the house, a museum about Uncle Ho.

Cham Museum was established in 1936 (originally the Ecole Française d'Extreme Orient) to house the relics of the powerful Hindu culture that once ruled vast tracts of central Vietnam. The museum has the largest collection of Cham sculpture in the world, in works ranging from the 4th to 14th centuries, presented in a rough outdoor setting that suits the evocative, sensual sculptures well. The more than 300 pieces of sandstone artwork and temple decorations were largely influenced by Hindu and, later, Mahayana Buddhism. Among the cast of characters, you'll see symbols of Uroja, or "goddess mother," usually breasts or nipples; the linga, the phallic structure representing the god Shiva; the holy bird Garuda; the dancing girl Kinnari; the snake god Naga; and Ganesha, child of the god Shiva, with the head of an elephant. The sculptures are arranged by period, which are, in turn, named after the geographic regions where the sculptures were found. Note the masterpiece Tra Kieu altar of the late 7th century, with carved scenes telling the story of the Asian epic Ramayana. The story is of the wedding of Princess Sita. Side one tells of Prince Rama, who broke a holy vow to obtain Sita's hand. Side two tells of ambassadors sent to King Dasaratha, Prince Rama's father, to bring him the glad tidings. Side three is the actual ceremony, and side four depicts the celebrations after the ceremony. There is a permanent photo exhibition of the many Cham relics in situ at various locations throughout Vietnam.

Marble Mountains are actually a series of five marble and limestone formations, which the locals liken to the shape of a dragon at rest. The hills are interlaced with caves, some of which are important Buddhist sanctuaries. The caves at the MarbleMountains, like so many in the country, served as sanctuaries for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Each peak is named for an element: Hoa Son, or fire; Mo Son, or wood; Kim Son, or gold; and Tho Son, or earth. The highest mountain, Tho Son, is climbable via a series of metal ladders beginning inside the cave and extending to the surface at the top. Ling Ong Pagoda, a shrine within a cave, is a highlight. The quarries in Non Nuoc village, at the bottom of the mountains, are as interesting as the caves are. Fantastic animals and fanciful statues of folk tales and Buddhist figures are carved from the rock.

Phap Lam Pagoda Built in 1936, Phap Lam Pagoda has in its grounds a brass statue of Dia Tang (the King of Hell), a large yellow Happy Buddha and a giant pink Buddha with a swastika (a common Buddhist symbol) on his chest. A massive new pagoda was being built here at the time of research.

Transfer in and to Da Nang:

Flights: You can fly to Danang from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnam Airlines office is located at 35 Tran Phu St, connecting Da Nang with Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Pleiku, Buon Ma Thuot, Cam Ranh and Quy Nhon. 

Buses: If you're traveling on the ‘open tour’ ticket, Da Nang is not a specified stop anymore, but the budget tourist cafes can drop you off at the Cham Museum on the southern end of the city. You'll have to call the office in either Hue or Hoi An for pickup when you're ready to leave.

Cars: It takes about 3 1/2 hours by car from Hue to Da Nang, and the route passes Lang Co Beach and crosses the very scenic Hai Van Pass. This ride makes a good day trip along with the Marble Mountains.

Trains: All trains stop at the Da Nang Railway Station at 202 Hai Phong St. (tel. 0511/821-175) and depart both from Hanoiand Ho Chi Minh City.

Except for the periods of heavy monsoons, Da Nang is still often drenched with almost as much sun as rain, and this makes for a desirable year-round getaway. The city’s average temperature is about 26ºC, rising to 28-30ºC from June to August and cooling to 18-23ºC from December to February.

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