Da Nang continues, not all work
As mentioned in a previous post, our main objective was to get stuff done, which we accomplished.
We did make some time for fun, as it was not all work and no play. We pretty much stayed in Da Nang the entire time, except for one day we took a trip to Huế.
They have a hop on and off bus which does 2 different routes. One route is around the various beaches, past the and some parts of town including the airport, and the other is basically around the town, up to the pagoda with the Lady Buddha. Both routes are interchangeable and one day is considered the usual 24 hours.
It was a nice surprise as it was on sale at 40% off, bringing it down to 150,000 Dong (USD 6.60) instead of the standard 250,000 Dong (USD 11.00). It was so inexpensive that we decided to do it again so we could get to some of the spots we wanted to spend more time, as it was cheaper than a taxi by our calculations.
We also made it to the different beaches a few times which was quite lovely, and astonishing as Mark has never been a beach person. He gets bored quickly, so we decided to try baby steps. The first time only for a couple of hours to see how he would do, and then we would extend our time each outing. At one point I actually entertained the thought of renting a pail and shovel so he could make sand castles to whittle away the time.
The beaches are actually great for relaxing, we went to both My An and My Khe beaches, and they are pretty much similar. There are spots with beach chairs and thatched shade umbrellas - two different types of lounge chairs and prices are listed on signs right out on the beach. The first day we took a cheaper chair, at 20,000 Dong each - once you've paid it's yours until you decide to leave, so you can spend a whole day if you want. The second time we booked the expensive wood recliners with the padding, listed at 40,000 Dong (USD 1.76). Since we were the first ones there and it was still early, 2:30, Mark talked them down to accepting 50,000 Dong for the seats.
People here don't come out to the beaches until later in the afternoon, at 2:30 we were the first in the section we were at, we had walked down the beach and back before settling in, and other then a handful of western tourists the beaches were pretty empty. This was also on a beautiful blue sky Saturday afternoon. By 5:30, the beach had hundreds of people, there was barely an open chair around us, and the designated swim areas were packed with people enjoying the surf. You can bring your own food and drink to enjoy, but the people manning the chairs also provide drinks and snacks. The beers from them aren't unreasonably priced being only 15,000 Dong (USD 0.66), and as I joked about renting a pail and shovel, yes they have them as well.
Moving from the beaches Da Nang has a dragon bridge which lights up each evening, and on Saturday and Sunday there is a fire display.
Locals and tourists alike are all out, lined up by the riverfront or bars to watch the display. We figured since we were here for a couple of weekends, we would watch it one night, and then come back with our tripods, find a good spot to take photos. Having our cameras ready we waited until 9 pm.
To say this was anti-climatic would be an understatement. The display lasted about 5 minutes with a 2 minute break between each eruption. We both waited expecting more, but alas that didn’t happen.
We decided we could leave the tripods at home, once was good enough, no need to see a again. There are also Christmas light boats that you can take each evening for a cruise of the Han River. We think you can see enough walking along the riverfront.
Another of the main bridges across the Hàn river is Vietnam's only swing bridge, Mark was excited to find out that they open on Saturday and Sunday nights. The problem with that, he found that information on our last Saturday here, and they don't swing it open until 11 pm. Makes for a late night. (edit - it opens clockwise, for those of you that care. - Mark)
Back to the hop on and off buses, one of the bus stops heads up to the Lady Buddha, and a pagoda which was completed in 2010. It's 72 meters high, comparing to Christ the Redeemer which is less then half her size.
There is also a large pagoda, temple, park area to sit and enjoy. Warning, both times we were there, which was later in the afternoon, we were overrun by tour buses. There were at least 30 of them in the parking lot the first time we went.
The bus also stops at Marble Mountains, which are a cluster of mountains, where you can climb or take the elevator which stops close to the top. There are cave entrances, Buddha statues and provides views of Da Nang.
We chose not to do this, and for the life of me, can't remember why, but it seemed like a good decision at the time. People who have climbed it stated they enjoyed it, but had to deal with all the locals trying to sell their wares. Perhaps that's the reason.
Most of our remaining sightseeing was done by walking and visiting the various markets, shops, temples, and walking through old dilapidated homes.
It is a walkable city, but due to motorbike parking plan to be in the street more then on the sidewalk. Taxi's on the other hand can take you pretty much anywhere for less the 100,000 Dong (USD 4.40). Taxi's were our mode of choice late at night and to avoid the large roundabouts that we had to cross from our hotel over to the riverside. The distance from beach to riverside is a little over 2km (1.2 miles) and we walked it most days, but in the heat of summer it would be unbearable.
Here's the final take away for our two weeks in Da Nang. If you are inclined to stay a while, there are a lot of service apartments that have the small kitchenette. Western food can be bought at the Vinmart, at the east side of the Swing Bridge.
We shopped there often. It is full of tourists dropped off by buses buying coffee and other items. We never could tell where they were from, Japan or Korea, but it was a scheduled tourist bus stop.
Determine what is more important, the city and river, or the beaches. As we said, taxis are not expensive but you will spend more time in one location depending on the kind of traveller you are. Pick a hotel/apartment accordingly. There is an amusement park in the south of the city, we didn't go, but if you have kids it may be something worth looking at as well.
We can not recommend Vinifera enough, for us finding a wine shop is usually one of the first things we seek. This one we stumbled up when returning from a different shop we found with Google maps. They have tastings on Wednesdays, go then. Unlike a lot of the wine shops, here they had an Italian and a French worker, so they could speak in English about the different wines that they offered.
Also, 30% off on wine tasting Wednesday.
And, a wonderful find for us was Fat Fish. The food was good, but even better is they sell fresh baked bread. The choices were sourdough, rye, and farmhouse. We opted for the farmhouse and it did not disappoint. Better yet, they deliver. We ordered a pizza one night and had ordered a fresh loaf of bread as well.
It lasted at least 4 days and we made toast every morning and had sandwiches as well. We bought our deli meats at Joly mart on the west side of the river. Also have some western items.
And finally, what we didn't know and missed by a week. Da Nang hosts an international fireworks competition (festival), which we missed by a week.
We saw them building the grandstand for watching them. It's 8 countries and held every on weekends starting from 30 April (next week) and finishing up 30 June. That would have been nice to see if we were still here.