I hope all is WELL with all of you —- I’m continuing my travels through Vietnam this week – in Đà Nẵng and the ancient city of Hội An.
I am more than pleased with my trip to Vietnam to date. It’s truly a beautiful country, steeped in a long difficult history and a strong resilience – through 4 separate Chinese dominations, a French domination (French Indochina), the Vietnam War and the re-unification of the North and South.
I’ve found the Vietnamese people who I’ve encountered to be kind and pleasant. That’s not to say that I have not encountered the odd taxi driver trying to take advantage of the foreigner by offering me “foreigner” pricing. One taxi driver wanted me to pay 150,000 to go airport when I know it should have cost way less (thanks to a nice guy who helped me on the bus – Instagram @Minhtraaa). I opted for a Grab car, it only cost me 85,000 VDN. As a Westerner, I’ve found that Grab is the winner – it’s like Uber/Lyft back home – your price is fixed and you know your total cost in advance.
Other than that experience when I got off the bus from Ha Long City on my way to Ha Noi airport – the rest of my experience has been a lot to write home about.
Ok …. let’s move on to this week’s adventure …
Đà Nẵng was the city I was MOST excited to visit — for me it holds the best of BOTH worlds — sea and mountains – it is ringed by mountains on one side and the South China Sea on the other. Most of the research I did before coming to Vietnam was on Đà Nẵng as well as its ex-pat community. But, first and foremost, I wanted to explore the city, the culture and see the things I spent so much time researching with MY own two eyes – to make MY own memories.
Đà Nẵng is the fifth largest city in Vietnam after Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Noi, Haiphong and Can Tho in terms of urbanization and economy. It’s one of Vietnam’s principal port cities. Located in the south-central region of the country, at the mouth of the Han River.
These are some of the things I found interesting while I was in Đà Nẵng ….
The Marble Mountains – Ngũ Hành Sơn
The Marble Mountains is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills located in Ngũ Hành Sơn District. They literally just jet out in the middle of the city!
Regardless of it being jam-packed with tourists, it would be hard for anyone to find any place beside Marble Mountains which contains both religious diversity and magnificent scenery.
There are five separate mountains in the cluster, named after the five basic elements: Kim Son (Mt. Metal), Moc Son (Mt. Plant), Thuy Son (Mt. Water), Hoa Son (Mt. Fire), and Tho Son (Mt. Soil).
I visited Mt Water. I spent the better part of 3 hours here, I could have stayed longer – but it was stifling hot. I wish I had known that for my 40,000 VDN entry fee (about $2.30 CDN), I could have spent the WHOLE day there – I would have brought my book and just read in one of the quiet areas – it would have been a charming retreat.
Be aware that you must climb many stairs …. like a trooper, I opted to walk up the stairs – but, I really wanted to take the elevator – which you can for an additional 15,000 VDN. I was wearing flip flops and I found it manageable. People opting for running shoes also had no problem. The women wearing high heels struggled 🤦🏻♀️.
Mt. Water is famous for its amazing system of pagodas and shrines either on the ground or inside the caves. There are 156 stone steps (built in 1630) set into the spine of the mountain. At the top is where you’ll find the 400-year-old sacred pagoda, Tam Thai Pagoda. It was built in the 17th century, but has been renovated many times.
Richico Apartments And Hotel
While in Đà Nẵng I chose to stay at the Richico Apartments and Hotel. This location was perfect — the property is 550 feet from My Khe Beach and close to mostly everything I wanted to see. The room was nice, clean and modern. If offered free wifi, TV, A/C, a fridge and free bottled water.
The best part however …. the rooftop pool, offers 2 completely different sights of Đà Nẵng – sea and mountains on one side and city scape on the other.
This hotel cost me 163,224 VND per night = about $9.35 per night CDN and breakfast is included in the room rate. Great location and excellent pricing! I would recommend this place – especially for the price point and the location.
My rating: 🧡🧡🧡🧡 (4/5)
My Khe Beach
My Khe Beach is famous for its blue sky, smooth white sand, clear & warm water year round and beautiful areas surrounded by coconut trees. Everything around you is peaceful, natural, relaxing …. those reasons and more are why Forbes Magazine selected My Khe beach as “one of the most attractive beaches on the planet”.
I loved it, being in the heart of a major city, it wasn’t at all crowded – I had ample of beach space to choose to set down my towel and create a space for myself for the day. You can rent a chair for 40,000 VDN, but I opted to save money and just lay down a towel, as I would have at the beach back home. Most places offer drinks/beer for purchase. I paid 15,000 VDN for a Larue bia and settled in for a few hours of peace and quiet, reading and a little bit of heaven (don’t forget to wear your sunscreen!).
I decided to talk up to the Dragon Bridge one evening. This 1,864-foot-long bridge has a steel dragon that breathes fire every Saturday and Sunday evening or during the country’s major festivals.
To celebrate the 38th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, authorities in the port city of Da Nang have opened the world’s largest dragon bridge. It has six lanes for traffic. I mean it beats any of the bridges we have back home in Ontario (CANADA) so this fire breathing bridge is pretty cool. I had missed it on the Sunday by 1 hour (because my flight was delayed).
Lady Buddha @ Chùa Linh Ứng Pogoda
I met up with one of the girls I met while in Ha Noi. We grabbed lunch and decided to take a Grab car over to Lady Buddha. Being the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam, Lady Buddha is located at Chùa Linh Ứng Pogoda on Son Tra Peninsula in Da Nang which is only 9 km away from My Khe beach and my hotel. Lady Buddha is 67 m and the lotus diameter is 35 m.
Admission is free – Grab car cost Kim and I 130,000 VDN (about $7.40 CDN) – it’s less expensive to take a Grab bike, but they don’t accept two passengers.
I took a Grab car to Hội An. Old Town Hội An, the city’s historic district, is recognized as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century, its buildings and street plan reflecting a blend of indigenous and foreign influences. Prominent in the city’s old town, is its covered “Japanese Bridge,” dating to the 16th-17th century.
Two great things about Hội An’s Ancient Town are that it is small enough to get around in on foot and the traffic is nowhere near as heavy as in bigger cities (but it’s still very much tourist driven). Some of the streets only allow bike and motorbike traffic and some are pedestrian only.
You will notice Hội An lanterns best at night. Silk lanterns are everywhere. Locals say they hang them in front of their homes to bring health, happiness and good luck. They really were breathtaking. Hội An has a monthly lantern festival, this month it’s on February 18, 2019 – I am missing it. But, I cannot imagine how much different it would be – Hội An is filled with colourful silk lanterns every night.
Lantern Making Class
At the suggestion of some friends I met during my travel (thank you Miek and Kim), I joined a lantern making class with The Lantern Lady.
She offered two options:
1) she provides the bamboo that forms the base of your frame or
2) you build your lantern from scratch, including making the bamboo frame
I opted for #1. Once completed, my lantern was easy to fold and put in my luggage. I’m not a fan of souvenirs – this is the ONLY thing I’m taking back to Canada with me because it’s my own hand-made souvenir home from my visit to Hội An.
This is a must do experience in my books.
Sac Xanh Homestay
While in Hội An I stayed at the Sac Xanh Homestay for 2 nights at a cost of VND 512,000 – $29.22 CDN. I stayed in a Double Room, which included free (SPOTTY) WiFi. To be quite honest, I wasn’t super pleased with this accommodation. For $15.00 CDN per night I would have expected a bit more. I know $15.00 doesn’t sound like a lot of $, but here it’s a decent chunk. My room was a bit moldy and damp feeling. The A/C didn’t get super cold (or maybe just as cold as I like it to be). However, I suppose it may have been a fair representation of a Vietnamese “home” stay. The homestay couple were polite. The food for breakfast was good – they also offered tea and coffee and free drinkable water. They seemed to struggle a bit with communication (English), but we managed. The homestay does offer free bikes for use so you can bike to old town, around the neighbourhood or other sightseeing. They were kind enough to assist me in securing a better deal to Da Nang Airport – Grab was 347,000 – I paid 250,000.
The stay was to include:
- Minibar • NONE
- Safety Deposit Box • NONE
- Air conditioning • WORKED OK BUT DIDN’T GET REALLY COLD
- Balcony • WOULDN’T REALLY CALL IT A BALCONY PER SE
- Bathrobe • NONE
- Desk • MORE LIKE A PLASTIC TABLE AND CHAIR
- Seating Area • AT THE TABLE?
- Free toiletries • NOTHING PROVIDED OTHER THAN A TOOTHBRUSH
- Fan • NONE
- Private bathroom • PROVIDED
- Slippers • NONE
- Flat-screen TV/Cable Channels • A SMALL 20″ TV WAS PROVIDED, I DID NOT TURN IT ON
- Bath or Shower • SHOWER
- View • OF THE SIDE OF THE OTHER HOUSE
- Mosquito net • PROVIDED
- Towels/Sheets (extra fee) • OHHH EXTRA FEE TO USE A TOWEL! FOR $15.00/NIGHT I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED FREE TOWELS TO USE
- Wardrobe or closet • PROVIDED
My review of this one, is just ok — 🧡 🧡 (2.5/5)
Chùa Long Tuyền Buddhist Temple
I really enjoyed Chùa Long Tuyền, a Buddhist temple located just around the corner from my homestay. It’s a bit off the beaten track and away from the Old Town… which I didn’t mind at all – this meant it was totally empty.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have found this temple nor the rice paddies had my Grab driver decided to take the usual way back to my homestay after the old quarter. Instead he took me the back way through the less busy roads and I came across this temple – which I went back to the next morning with the free bikes offered by my homestay.
Aside from taking in ancient town, another thing I loved to do in Hoi An was take the scenic route around town on my bike to see the city’s lush, green, rice fields. The locals probably thought I was crazy for stopping every few meters to take pics. But, this is so new to me and we certainly do not have rice fields back in Canada 🇨🇦.
Next Stop …
I’m currently at the airport waiting to board my flight to Ho Chi Minh City (flight is delayed an hour). I’m excited to see my daughter (I haven’t seen her since she moved here 6 months ago) I’m not sure how I’m gonna handle Vietnam’s largest city … with a population of 8.4 million (13 million in the metropolitan area) as I thought Ha Noi was crazy at 7.58 million.
I hear I am missing miserable weather back home … 2 major snow storms, a freezing rain storm and temperatures still down in the minuses —- awwww zut lol
Keep posted for next week’s blog when I cover HCMC, Vung Tau and The Mekong Delta.
Comment below, if you’d like to know more about the places I’ve been so far or if you have any questions or comments 🙂