Da Nang (Đà Nẵng) is Vietnam’s third largest city, midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the largest city of Central Vietnam. The city itself has neither the atmosphere of Hanoi nor the hustle-bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, but has its share of sights and is close to the charms of Hoi An and the imperial capital of Hue, making it a popular vacationing spot for those looking to explore the attractions of central Vietnam or soak up some rays while hanging out on the city’s beaches.
The regions surrounding Da Nang (My Son, Quang Nam) were founded by the Cham practicing Hindus most possibly 3000 years ago, serving as the capital city and centre of the Hindu Champa Dynasty. Vietnamese invasion into the region in the 17th century significantly halted Cham development and during the Vietnam War, vast monuments and buildings were bombed. Given Danang was the first point of colonial invasion, many vestiges of French architecture are present in the historic buildings. The city has grown rapidly in recent years, and has a 2008 population estimated at 900,000. Until recently, this growth was mostly outward and infill, but now there are high-rises going up. There are many remnants of the “American War” leftover in Da Nang. Each bridge has a different builder, whether they be French, American, or Vietnamese. On the way to the popular tourist spot; My Khe Beach in Danang, the ruins of a military base remain in the form of helicopter hangars, although these are now more easily spotted at the airport, which serves both civil and military flights.
The city is often overlooked by tourists but is one of the most friendly to backpackers in all of Vietnam. My Khe Beach in Danang, a former R&R destination for American G.I.’s, is now home to a small community of guest house owners, marble statue shops, and other various trades. Some of the most beautiful and isolated beaches in Vietnam are found here, among some of the friendliest people. This is a must stop for the budget traveller.
Until relatively recently, Da Nang was somewhat hostile to foreigners, a consequence of the attitudes of those who then controlled the provincial government. In the early 90s, however, this changed, and since the late 90s the provincial [actually autonomous city] government has been enthusiastically pursuing foreign investment and developing infrastructure. Da Nang has some of the best roads in the country — the coast road is at least four lanes from northern provincial boundary to southern provincial boundary. Compared to either Hanoi or HCMC, traffic in Da Nang is always relatively light, although huge trucks blare along every now and again and there are brief ‘rush hours.’ Development is visible and rapid; the city has expanded tremendously in the last ten years, and several multi-story buildings as well as more beach resorts are under construction, and there are now at least three large supermarkets as well as a Metro wholesaler. This also involves redevelopment of areas near the city beaches across the river, with whole blocks of old housing being razed and new roads installed and luxurious villas constructed.
The downside to the very laid back, less serious and frenetic, aspect of Da Nang is that even locals frequently complain that there is nothing to do except drink, which they do a lot. This is not really true — there is a zoo, a soccer stadium, many tennis courts and pool halls, several large modern discos/night clubs, etc., and of course the beaches and Son Tra peninsula. However, it is also true that coffee and beer drinking are the most common leisure activities of most local residents.
The hottest months of the year are June, July, and August, when the temperature can get to as high as 40 degrees Celsius, and it is generally very dry. There are usually tropical storms in October and November.
Da Nang International Airport (IATA: DAD) is the smallest of Vietnam’s three international airports. There are frequent flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on both Vietnam and Jetstar Pacific, as well as domestic service between Buon Ma Thuot, Da Lat, Hai Phong, Nha Trang and Pleiku and internationally Guangzhou, Seoul-Incheon, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai-Pudong, Siem Reap, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo-Narita. Aside from a money changer, airport amenities are rather minimal, although some upgrading was done to the airport in late 2007 and early 2008 making the airport one of country’s most modern. As of November 2006, international departure taxes should be included in the price of your ticket. Compared to larger Vietnamese airports, Da Nang is a little bit laid back; local travelers often arrive less than 30 minutes before their flights; there are also a couple of restaurants/coffee shops opposite the terminal, which offer more choice, if not lower prices, than inside the departure area.
The airport is located within the city, just 3 km south-west of the center of Danang, a 10-minute trip at most. Many travelers now choose to stay in Da Nang as it is considered as a gateway to Central Vietnam World Heritages Sites: Hoi An (25-30 min, US$15) or Hue (2 hours, US$40-45 depending on car size, as of Feb 2012), My Son (1-1.5 hours). The hotels and resorts in Da Nang have their own travel desks which offer some half day or a day trip to those destinations. The fixed-price taxi coupon system has regrettably disappeared and now you have to haggle with the drivers outside, who ask silly prices but can be negotiated down to the amounts above; find a few other travelers to ease the pain. If going to a destination within or close to the city, ignore offers to set a price in advance and insist on use of the meter (drivers may only be willing to accept pre-set fares during holiday times, such as Tet). If you arrive on a late night flight, you may encounter an unscrupulous taxi driver who has a fast meter, but usually there are lots of taxis and companies like Mai Linh, Taxi Xanh, or Song Han are reliable; avoid Airport Taxi, especially at night.
The Reunification Express makes a stop in Da Nang. Many motorbikes and taxis are available outside of the station. Scheduled arrival and departure times are loosely followed. If you just want to get to Hue, you can also take the ‘local’ train which is slow (about four to four and a half hours from Da Nang to Hue, with several stops along the way; a car or taxi does it in two), but incredibly cheap (25,000 dong including a meal) and passes through some spectacular coastal scenery.
Train schedule from Da Nang Station to Hanoi (The Reunification Express)
Train Depart Danang Arrive Hanoi SE2 12:06 PM day 1 4.02 AM day 2 ,SE4 14:42 PM day 1 5.00 AM day 2 ,SE6 10:34 AM day 1 4:45 AM day 2 ,SE8 23:27 PM day 1 15:28 PM day 2
Train schedule from Da Nang Station to Hue (The Reunification Express)
Train Depart Danang Arrive Hue SE2 12:06 PM day 1 14:43 PM day 1 ,SE4 14:42 PM day 1 17:06 PM day 1 ,SE6 10:34 AM day 1 13:21 PM day 1 ,SE8 23:27 PM day 1 15:28 PM day 1
Train schedule from Da Nang station to Nha Trang (The Reunification Express)
Train Depart Danang Arrive Nha Trang SE1 10:46 AM day 1 22:28 PM day 1 SE3 10:24 AM day 1 22:03 PM day 1 SE5 09:11 AM day 1 19:40 PM day 1 SE7 21:56 PM day 1 7:37 AM day 2
Train schedule from Da Nang station to Ho Chi Minh (The Reunification Express) Train Depart Danang Arrive Ho Chi Minh SE1 10:46 AM day 1 4.10 AM day 2 SE3 13:24 PM day 1 5.00 AM day 2 SE5 09:11 AM day 1 4:40 AM day 2 SE7 21:56 PM day 1 15:05 PM day 2
You can book train tickets online at Yourlocalbooking and get instant confirmation.
Sinh Cafe, the popular bus-pass service, makes a stop in Hoi An, a short distance from the city. It is of a distance where a taxi is better than a motorbike.
At least two other bus-pass services make stops in Da Nang, and can be taken to either Hue or Hoi An or further in either direction. Fare to Hue is US$3 as of late 2007, trip takes about three hours with one refreshment stop on the way. The bus uses the tunnel so does not go over the spectacular pass between Da Nang and Hue.
A bus station serves transport to several cities including a few locations in Laos. It have daily bus to Savannakhet,Tha Khek and Vian Tieng in morning
Fare starts at 10,000 dong (Jan 2012).
Transport to Hoi An
- As of February 2011, backpackers at train station said that $10 was the standard rate for going to Hoi An. You can try and negotiate with a taxi driver at the train station, and agree on a fare of $10 (200,000d.)
- Alternatively, you may walk out from the station either straight next big street (less than 5mn walk), either turn right on the street until a park entrance. You should be able to see bus stop for a yellow-coloured bus #1 – Da Nang – Hoi An on opposite side of road. The fare is 15,000d, which is posted on the side of the bus, per person to Hoi An. This same bus also passes by Marble Mountain (Vietnamese: Non Nước or Ngũ Hành Sơn). Taxi drivers may park in front of the bus stop and tell you that the bus is not running, trying to get your business.
- Rent a motorbike to travel to Hoi An from Da Nang costs about 80,000-150,000VND per day for most hotel and rental companies in Da Nang. The locals pay about 50,000-100,000, with a little bargaining and renting for a number of days you could bring down the price. The distance is approximately 28 km and take about 45-60 minutes. The route is fairly simple and straight forward and takes you along the coastline of Da Nang allowing you a extraordinary experience and view along the beaches to Hoi An. The traffic is light and make sure you bring along a windbreaker or sweater as during the Autumn and Spring Period the temperature along the coastline can be a little cold. Avoid riding in Winter seasons as the wind is particularly strong and rain is particularly frequent.
- Cham Museum (Bảo Tàng Chăm), Trung Nu Vuong and Bach Dang Sts. Founded in 1915 by the École Française d’Extrême Orient, it houses a collection of stone sculptures from the Hindu-practicing Cham civilization, which occupied much of central Vietnam in the first millennium C.E. through about the 14th century. Entrance is 30,000VND, and the museum can be toured in about an hour. The sculptures are nearly all made of sandstone, and some have weathered badly over the centuries, but you can still appreciate the delightful artistic quality of the figures, which include Shiva, garudas, nagas, lions, monkeys, and elephants. The collection also includes striking examples of the ancient Hindu icons of fertility — lingam altars decorated around the sides with rows of breasts. The sculptures were mostly removed from the facades or interiors of Cham ruins (which would have been looted otherwise.) The ruins themselves, such as nearby My Son, now tend to be crumbling piles of bricks and somewhat disappointing, giving little sense of the spectacular artwork produced by the Cham civilization. Any visit to My Son should be paired with the Cham Museum. The collection is also interesting to compare with Balinese sculpture and the early, Hindu phase of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
- Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh Son; admission 15,000 dong, tel. 511.961114) are 9 km south of downtown and across the street from many of the larger beach side resorts. The group includes Kim Son (Mountain of Metal), Moc Son (Mountain of Wood), Thuy Son (Mountain of Water), Hoa Son (Mountain of Fire), and Tho Son (Mountain of Earth). Several Buddhist temples have been built into the caves and grottoes, and it’s a popular pilgrimage site. The real fun, though, is at the Am Phu cave, where you can make the steep climb up toward the light and a view from the top of the mountain, surrounded by approving sacred images…or head in the opposite direction, physically and spiritually, down to the crude Hieronymous Bosch-esque statues of sinners getting their due in the caverns below, with appropriately eerie lighting. Either way, bring walking or climbing shoes. Open-tour buses will stop here, but you’ll be rushed along; any moto driver in Da Nang or Hoi An will be happy to take you and let you set the schedule. Guides are available. Watch out for the rapacious statue-sellers outside, though.
- Ba Na Hill Station 45 minutes drive from Danang or around 40 km (25 mi) west of Danang, Ba Na is located 1,487 meters above sea level in the Truong Son mountain range. Ba Na was formerly a 1920′s French resort and once boasted 200 villas, restaurants, and clubs. It is well known as the second Da Lat or Sa Pa in central Vietnam. Its temperate climate, unspoiled forest, and spectacular views over the South China Sea and the Lao mountain range made Ba Na a popular retreat for both the French and the wealthy Vietnamese. Today the area still attracts locals and tourists alike thanks to a new cable system that was officially opened on 25th March 2009 and set two Guinness World Records for its height and length. You need to get a taxi to Suoi Mo station (25$ one-way from Danang) then pay 300.000 VND per adult (250.000 VND for children between 1m and 1,3m tall, free admission for children under 1m tall) for the ticket to the cable car and the Fantasy Park which is still under construction. Great view from the top but it’s really useless to stay overnight since the accomodations are shabby and terribly overpriced (80-150$ per night).
- Cham island (Cruising, sightseeing, swimming, snorkeling and enjoying seafood), ☎ 0510.8505605. Pick up at hotel at 7AM, transfer to Cua Dai beach harbor by an air-conditioned bus. On board at 8AM, we cruise to Cham island by wooden boat for 1+1/4 hours or take a speed boat for 30 minutes. On arrival, we visit Hai Tang pagoda, the boat shelter, a local market at Bai Lang, then keep cruising to Bai Chong for swimming and snorkeling to see the coral reef before having lunch with seafood at a local restaurant on the island. Relax for a while after lunch and get ready for cruising back to Cua Dai beach harbor. Bid a farewell at 3PM and transfer you back to your hotels. For 2 days and 1 night trip, going fishing at night, seafood BBQ on the island, sleeping in a tent, dormitory or homestay experience are included in the program.
- Linh Ung Buddhist Temple, Bai But, Son Tra Peninsula – features a stunning view of the sea, the sky and a 67-meter tall statue of “Quan The Am” facing the ocean (Google Places). The pagoda is built in 2010.