Vietnam

How Da Nang Stole my Heart and Became One of my Favourite Places in SE Asia

When initially planning a month long stint spent traveling Vietnam, I had three cities on my radar- Hanoi, Hoi An and Sai Gon. While in Hanoi, I planned on also heading to Sa Pa and Ha Long Bay.

Visiting Da Nang was something I completely overlooked at first. Thankfully, a good friend who visited Vietnam a few years ago suggested I consider otherwise.

She shared that Da Nang had been her favourite place in Vietnam, and knowing how similar our tastes are, thought I might enjoy it as well.

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I’d planned on just over a week in Hoi An, enough time to slow travel and really enjoy what the city had to offer. After my friend’s urging though, I decided to cut my time from 9 days to 7. Still a full week, and then two days in Da Nang to get a feel for the city before flying onwards to Sai Gon.

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How telling it is that my only regret from my time in Vietnam was not spending more time in Da Nang.

If I ever decide to move back to SE Asia, one of my first stops for an extended stay will be Da Nang.

Why Visit Da Nang?

It’s a chilled out modern city, it feels more relaxed than other large Vietnamese cities.  There are new gems popping up each week, ensuring there’s never a shortage of things to do or places to try.

It was easy to get Grabs anywhere, and felt big enough to spend a few days (or weeks), but not big enough to overwhelm.

As an international tourism destination, it’s highly underrated.

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I say international because, there’s plenty of tourism in Da Nang, but from what I observed it seems to be a lot of Vietnamese visiting from other parts of the country. Often, Da Nang is overshadowed by other large cities like Sai Gon, or nearby, historic Hoi An, Da Nang has so much to offer.

I didn’t even get a chance to leave the city on my short stay, and still fell hard for it.

And, if you’re a digital nomad, Da Nang boasts some of the most affordable accomodation in SE Asia with blazing fast WiFi speeds, and plenty of air-conditioned cafes. Winning on all fronts.

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What’s There to Do in Da Nang?

Loads!

During my short stay, I focused on seeing some of the city’s highlights, relaxing on a white sand beach and visiting as many coffee shops as possible.

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10 Things to Do On A Visit to Da Nang

  • Drink Vietnamese coffee: I‘ve waxed poetic about Vietnamese coffee enough on other posts. Let’s just say I’m a huge fan, and fortunately for me, some of the best coffee I had in Vietnam was in Da Nang
    • Why Roastery: Quiet, WiFi, air-con in one section, great for working with artisanal brews.
    • The Hideout Cafe: Ace for working, with community tables, strong air-con, fast WiFi and excellent coconut coffee
    • Ka Cong: Coconut coffee good enough to rival that of Cong Caphe. Here, it’s served with the espresso shot as a pour over and a side of coconut chips, which is a fun presentation
    • Gold Star Coffee: No air con, but the best iced latte I’ve ever had
    • Golem Coffee: A secret garden tucked down an alleyway? Yes, please. Must order here: The dirty coffee. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it was delicious
    • Wonderlust: Coffee menu isn’t as great as other places, but this three story air-conditioned monstrosity is great for working and centrally located
  • Relax beachside: Centrally located, Mỹ Khê is a beautiful beach for afternoons lounging in the sun. When I visited on a weekday in May, there was no one else on the beach- talk about actual paradise!
  • Take in views from the Marble Mountains: About 20 minutes south of the city, you’ll find five majestic mountains made of, of course, marble. Each mountain is said to have caves and tunnels hidden within. The peaks are individually known as Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire), Kim (metal) and Tho Son (earth)
  • Gaze at the city from a rooftop pool: A great way to beat the heat, there are plenty of rooftop pools in Da Nang. If your hotel doesn’t have one, I’ve heard King’s Finger and Queen’s Finger allow visitors to purchase a day pass
  • Watch a dragon spit fire: Well, a dragon bridge. The stunning Dragon Bridge in the heart of downtown comes alive every Saturday and Sunday night at 9 PM
  • Gawk at the pink cathedral: A bright pink cathedral in the middle of downtown Da Nang? Yes, you read that right. Worth checking out as you meander the city
  • Get your Western food fix with the best pizza in SE Asia: Pizza 4P’s is famous around Vietnam- there are locations throughout the country, and for good reason- the pizza is insanely delicious. I’m all for trying local food, but sometimes you just crave something familiar. If that happens while you’re in Da Nang, 4Ps is your place. It’s popular with locals and visitors, so expect a wait or order ahead of takeaway
  • Visit the Golden Hands Bridge: 40 minutes outside the city, the bridge is located at the Sun Resort at Ba Na Hills. You’ll need to pay park entrance and gondola fees, but if you make a day out of it, seeing the stunning bridge is worth it
  • Drive the Hai Van Pass: Made famous by Top Gear in 2008, the Hai Van Pass is gorgeous. You’ll pass through it on your way to Hue, but it’s reason enough to road trip while in Da Nang
  • Explore another Vietnamese city, Hue, on a day trip: The drive is about 2 hours each way, so it may be good to rent a guide with a car or consider an overnight in Hue if you’re not down to drive distance on a motorbike. The Imperial City is said to be stunning, and candidly, I’m still upset I didn’t get a chance to see it for myself.

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Extra Travel Tips

  • Language: Vietnamese. Conversational English is spoken in cafes and upmarket restaurants. In my month traveling Vietnam, I had no issue communicating with street food vendors or Grab drivers- have Google Translate ready to help assist if it’s needed
  • Currency: Vietnamese dong. Carry cash, some upmarket places take card, but there are often minimums to spend, which are hard to meet if you’re not in a group because of how cheap things are
  • Getting There: The easiest and fastest way to travel Vietnam, albeit not the most eco-conscious, is to fly into Da Nang’s international airport. From there, it’s a short 10-20 minute Grab ride to the heart of the city 
  • Getting Around: Walk around downtown, or take Grab (car or motorbike ride share). There’s also public transit (buses), but I didn’t use it on my short stay
  • When to Visit: I visited in early May and had beautiful, days – hot and full of sunshine. February to May are said to be the best months for little to no rain
  • Tipping: Tipping isn’t necessary in Da Nang. You may see a service charge tapped on in high end restaurants, but the vast majority of places don’t expect it
  • Wifi Access: Every cafe and restaurant I visited offered wifi, just ask for the password

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Have you ever traveled to Vietnam? Is Da Nang on your list of places to someday visit? 

 

Photography Note: The photos in this post aren’t the best representation of Da Nang. When I was assaulted in Sai Gon, my next stop in Vietnam, I had my phone stolen. The last time I’d backed up photos was Hoi An, so I’ve cobbled together a few pics (most from Instagram Stories) to help add a bit of visual context, but, by no means, do they capture the true essence of Da Nang.

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