Da Nang – Vietnam’s Next Big Thing?

Someone thinks so!

Judging by the amount of construction taking place along the beachfront between the famous China Beach and the wonderful UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Hoi An, someone certainly thinks Da Nang has a very big future.

Mile after kilometre of brand new five star resorts, spas, tennis centres and some wonderful looking golf courses catering to the affluent traveler are currently being built by some of the biggest names in accommodation.

Da Nang is a Gem!

We loved it, there’s a lot to see and do, great history both ancient and modern, the people are friendly and importantly for Lea and I, Da Nang is very affordable.

One thing you can see from virtually everywhere in Da Nang is the Lady Buddha. At 30 stories tall, this beautiful marble statue is the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam and projects a presence of grace and serenity. One of her hands is holding a bottle of holy water, sprinkling peace to the offshore fishermen.

Lady Buddha – Protecting Da Nang

The Marble Mountains are a fascinating feature of Da Nang. It’s become very “tourist” orientated and virtually every taxi driver or tourism operator will try to take you to one of the enterprises selling marble mined from the mountains. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because when we were “encouraged” to visit one of the enterprises selling all manner of objects made from marble, we found it very interesting especially seeing the marble being prepared and some of the products being made. There wasn’t really any pressure on us to purchase anything (which we didn’t) so I’d recommend a visit. The government recently stopped all mining to preserve the mountains which everyone we spoke to thought was a very good decision.

Legend has it that a dragon emerged from the China Sea and laid an egg. One thousand days later, the egg hatched and the shell split into five pieces and these pieces turned to marble, hence the Marble Mountains. The mountains are comprised of five limestone and marble outcrops each featuring tunnels, caves and grottos, with some having been made into shrines. Each mountain represents one of the five elements of the universe: water, wood, fire, metal and earth.

Polishing the marble takes hours of tedious work

China Beach

No trip to Da Nang is complete without visiting China Beach famous for being a place where US soldiers went for R&R during the Vietnam War. It is a beautiful open beach but it doesn’t seem to get many people getting more than their feet wet. I’m sure as the resorts further south develop there will be a lot more activity in the China Sea off Da Nang.

China Beach

Another thing we loved were the wide pathways along the Han River in central Da Nang just perfect for a jog along the riverside. You also just have to see the wonderful Dragon Bridge crossing the river. Impressive during the day, it is amazing when the sun goes down and the dragon is lit up. I just wish governments and designers back home had as much imagination because something like this turns an ordinary bridge into a tourism landmark.

Hoi An – The Jewel

If you’re ever considering a trip to Vietnam make sure you include a visit to Hoi An. This wonderful UNESCO listed city is a jewel to explore. Yes, there are lots of tourist shops essentially selling much the same thing (this week Under Armour shirts are in flavour) but if you look further there is so much to see. We watched a man make a beautiful pair of shoes from scratch, only spoilt in my opinion, when he stamped an upmarket European brand name upon them. We also visited a factory making a variety of beautiful handmade silk products. You really could spend weeks just exploring Hoi An. In fact over a coffee we met a young lady from Canada who had arrived in Hoi An for a quick two day visit, only to cancel her onward plans and was still there 12 days later.

Exploring Hoi An

The Elephant In The Room

People I respect have told me not to include this next story in the blog, however I want to be honest and put all my feelings down, so:

The Vietnam War, or the War of Independence as it is known around here, is the elephant in the room. I don’t know, I might be over-sensitive to the issue due to a combination of my age and being ex-military, but….

Da Nang was severely impacted by Agent Orange with large tracks of land sprayed at 50 times the recommended dosage level. Huge stockpiles of the poison were also stored close to Da Nang and elements seeped into the local water sources. Even three generations on, the impacts are being felt with defect births here much higher than international averages. Recently there was widespread outrage in Australia when a ceremony in Vietnam, commemorating the Battle of Long Tan, an Australian victory during the war, was cancelled by local Vietnamese authorities. I understand the locals thinking. I’m certain that Australians would not be happy about Japanese veterans heading to Darwin to commemorate the bombing there or having a ceremony at Pearl Harbour to celebrate their victory there.

As I said, I might be over thinking this or being oversensitive. My great hope is that younger generations don’t encounter this issue and that everyone comes and enjoys this amazing country.

Currency – Vietnamese Dong

“Geoff’s Tip Of The Day”

I found the currency here pretty confusing due to the low value of the Vietnamese Dong. One million Dong equals less than US$45 and when you’re bartering or paying for a taxi it can get mind boggling.  The US Dollar is accepted in most places, so my tip would be just to use them instead of trying to do the math.