With its white sandy beaches, mythical attractions and world-class resorts, Da Nang is emerging as an affordable luxury destination.
Bernard O'Riordan visited in September 2018
Da Nang, Vietnam’s third largest metropolis, is a bit like the middle child. It doesn’t get the rave reviews of Hanoi or Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), and it’s often overlooked as a destination in its own right.
But this port city with a population of just over 1 million people – used as an airbase by US forces during the Vietnam war – has a vibrant charm all of its own.
It has shaken off its military past and emerged as a modern and well-run metropolis of high-rise buildings, sweeping tree-lined boulevards and dramatic river bridges.
The air base that was fought over so fiercely during the war is now a modern international airport that connects Danang with the world.
With its white sandy beaches, iconic natural and man-made attractions and its upscale dining, Da Nang is now a destination of choice for holidaymakers the world over.
There’s a dreamlike transformation taking place.
In the first five months of this year, the city attracted 3.2 million visitors – a 30 per cent increase on the previous year, thanks largely to an influx of new flights from China, Korea and Japan.
Da Nang, which sits halfway between Hanoi and Saigon, expects to welcome more than 7.2 million domestic and international visitors by the end of 2018.
That’s been helped by the boom in luxury five-star beach resorts that stretch from Da Nang to Hoi An, most of which are offering highly-competitive rates and incredibly affordable deals. Just take a peek at the Luxury Escapes website for some of the outstanding offers available.
You’ll find all the big international hotel brands in Da Nang, including the InterContinental, Sheraton Grand, Hyatt Regency, Pullman and Accor‘s Premier Village, among others.
VinPearl, the local resort company operated by Vietnamese billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong, is also a big player here and is making massive inroads.
There’s a dreamlike transformation taking place, with a seemingly endless parade of luxury beachfront resorts either opening or still under construction. That means great package deals are likely to continue for some time to come, making this affordable holiday destination even better value.
Whether you are staying for a few hours or a few days, there’s plenty to see and do in the holiday capital of south central Vietnam.
Five Things to See and Do
Visit the Lady Buddha
No trip to Da Nang would be complete without a visit to the 67-metre high marble statue of the Bodhisattva of Mercy, otherwise known as Lady Buddha.
As we wrote in an earlier blog, the towering Lady Buddha statue and Linh Ung Pagoda are located at Monkey Mountain, about 14km north of Da Nang’s city centre. The Lady Buddha is said to be a protector of sailors and fisherman.
Check out the Dragon Bridge
The people of Da Nang City are mighty proud of their bridges – there are nine of them – but none more-so than the 666 metre-long dragon-shaped bridge that breathes fire and spouts plumes of water each night at 9pm.
Officially known as the Rong Cao Bridge (Dragon Bridge), the six lane bridge over the Han River represents power, nobility and good fortune. But the recently opened Cau Vang footbridge – a 150m long bridge held aloft by a pair of giant stone hands – just might give it a run for its money.
You will also see many other bridges in the distance, such as the Love Bridge, where lots of pad-locks were attached by young couples.
Soak up some sun at My Khe Beach
The bleached white sands, palm-fringed shore and foaming surf combine to make My Khe Beach, Non Nuoc Beach, Bac My An Beach and its neighbours a popular spot to relax and unwind.
Immortalised by the hit TV series China Beach, a good section of the 35 km strip of sand is lined with five-star resorts and has become a magnet for holidaymakers from all parts of the globe.
Just 5 km from Da Nang’s CBD, My Khe Beach is clean and well-managed; there are lifeguards, few hawkers and plenty of restaurants and shops for food and drink. The beach conditions are usually calm mid year, but the swell picks up from September, to the delight of surfers.
Eat at The Blue Whale
With its breezy beachfront location and a menu that boasts some of the freshest Vietnamese seafood in town, the Blue Whale at My Khe Beach is a must-visit for lunch or dinner. While it’s not the cheapest by Vietnamese standards, the food and service is top quality.
We had the set lunch menu that included banana flower salad with prawns and pork, steamed clams, grilled fish, fried rice and sautéed vegetables. Between two of us we paid about A$30 (with drinks included), so it’s hardly going to break the bank.
Try to grab a table on the beachfront where you’ll enjoy million dollar views (with Lady Buddha in the distance) and a much needed cooling breeze.
Take a Side Trip to Marble Mountains
Marble Mountains (Non Nuoc) is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills located 11 km south-east of Da Nang in the Ngũ Hành Sơn District. The Marble Mountain are named after five elements of the universe: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth.
Thuy Son mountain (Water) is the largest of the Marble Mountains and also the most-visited, being a popular Buddhist attraction. Climb to the top via the stone stairs (for a small fee you can take the lift) for incredible views of Da Nang. Then work your way back down as you explore the caves, grottos, shrines and pagodas.
At Kim Son mountain (Metal), you’ll find the Quan Am Pagoda. Behind the pagoda is a grotto of stalactites and stalagmites that have formed fascinating shapes. The mountains get crowded later in the day with lots of guided tours, so try to visit in the morning if you want to avoid the throng.
Marble Mountains is so named because, yes, they’re full of marble. You can even buy marble carvings from the shops at the base. The tour I went on deliberately stopped at one of the marble workshops where we were forced to endure a hard sell from the owners until we showed no interest.
Did You Know
In 1965, 3,500 US troops -the first American combat troops in Vietnam - landed at Da Nang to secure the airfield in the protracted war that pitted North Vietnam against the American-backed regime of the south.
© 2019 Bernard O’Riordan (Travel Instinct). All Rights Reserved