A place to do… nothing.
While Da Nang is also known as where the US Marines landed in 1965 and therefor has a lot of history attached to it, we decided to stop in there just to have a few days to relax as it is also known for its white sandy beaches. We arrived very late at night with plans to use the popular ride share app in Asia, Grab. Upon leaving the airport and calling our ride we found ourselves completely out of luck as the Grabs here are unable to pick up from the airport. Forced to take a cab, we quickly realized that, like many other places, this is where they take advantage of the tourists. The Grab app stated that the short mile and a half to our hotel should cost about 36,000 dong, about $1.50. The cabs said they’d do it for $10. That’s when we knew we were going to have a problem. Visibly upset, one cab driver said he’d do it for $5. Okay, I know what you’re thinking… save yourself the hassle and just do it for $5, but when you’re literally counting your pennies and the extra $3.50 you’re paying buys an entire meal for two… you stand your ground. We ended up asking for a metered taxi to make sure we didn’t get taken advantage of and still ended up getting screwed over. The taxi came out to be 49,000 dong and the driver charged us 61,000 claiming we had to pay for his parking. From an hour earlier. After him threatening to call the police, which must have been the only English he knew because he couldn’t understand anything else we said, we ended up giving him what he asked for and chalking it up to knowing never to take a taxi here again. We did some research after, looks like this is a common occurrence in Da Nang. So heads up.
After our long, late night at a hotel close to the airport, we transferred to one closer to the beach, The BlueSun Hotel. Of course we booked through Ebates in Hotels.com to get our cash back! (Click our links and make a purchase so we get credit!) Located right across from the beach, in a nice sized clean room, it was a great hotel to stay at. The staff were incredibly friendly. Even over the top at some points. They pushed the elevator buttons for you, opened every door, even asked to pour the milk in my coffee for me! We were very impressed! 5 star service at our 3 star price.
While it’s not quite there yet in terms of things to do and build up, you can tell that Da Nang is going to be the next paradise hot spot. The city is busy and colorful and the beaches are long and wide. Since this part of Vietnam is still getting discovered by tourists there also not very many places to eat, (unless you want the freshest seafood available). They were literally pulling the fish in from sea in the afternoon for the restaurants evening service. Since we both don’t eat seafood, we were out of luck at a lot of places! Every time we told them “no seafood” they looked at us in horror. There were a ton of higher end hotels being built and we could tell this place was going to explode soon. It reminded us of Ao Nang in Thailand. We’re sure in 5-10 years this will be a hopping place with many more restaurant choices and activities for tourists.
We found ourselves having to take Grab whenever we wanted to get a meal or head into the “city”. The beaches were deserted during the day, which was nice, but in the afternoon around 4ish, it seemed all the locals got their kids and went to go play in the sand and the warm water. It got completely crowded! We learned to head out early and were literally the only ones there. That part we liked!
When it cooled down in the evenings, we were able to check out the city a bit more. They sure do love their colorful lights there! They had a few bridges crossing from the main part of the city to the beach side, each one different in design and all had brilliant color changing displays. It was clear that the city put thought into them and their people. You could just have a bridge, but why not make it a landmark of the city?! We like that attitude. It wasn’t just us who were impressed, lots of locals pulled their motorbikes over on the side of the road to enjoy them too. The most remarkable of them was Cau Rong, a bridge which is made up of a color changing dragons body that spans the river. On the weekend, it even spits out fire from its nostrils! Too bad we were there during the week!
Noticeable as as you drive closer to the beach from the city, you can see a large statue in the mountains. Upon some research, we learned that it was Lady Buddha peering down at us, taunting us to come say hello. We took the picturesque 10 minute drive up the mountain where along the way you can see authentic fishing boats bobbing in the harbor. Lady Buddha proved to be MUCH bigger than either of us realized, reaching 67 meters or 220 feet! She was surrounded by other Buddhist temples and pagodas who’s colorful and laughing buddhas surrounding it begged us to hang out too. Whether you’re there to pray or just take in all the beauty, visiting this landmark was a remarkable way to enjoy part of Da Nang’s culture, not to mention the sweeping views of the city and gorgeous South China Sea.
Since we only had a few days here and it was meant for relaxation, we really didn’t do too much here!
Taco Ngon: This place was rated #1 under Cheap Eats in Da Nang and we can see why! Taco Ngon was little escape from Vietnam and into a fusion of Asian and Mexican cuisine. It seems unassuming at first, a tiny restaurant built into the owners mothers house, just enough to seat 15-20 people in the tiny tables and chairs we’ve come to know in Vietnam, but this place packs a punch. They serve 3 kinds of tacos, crispy chicken, fried fish or pork and you can choose one of 4 “salsas”, Wasabi Coleslaw, Yogurt Salsa, Ginger Lime or Tamarind BBQ all on a soft flour “tortilla” which was more like a giant round wonton. On Tuesday’s they bring in an outsider who’s submitted their recipe a few weeks prior to make their creation. Each week something new. At about $1.50 each, it’s hard not to get a few with different combinations. We got a few crispy chicken with one of each of the toppings, a fish taco with wasabi coleslaw for me and the special “Muy Thai Taco” of crispy pork belly with Sriracha mayo and shredded green mango for Dean. The perfect meld of the Mexican dish with Asian flavor. Asian tacos, how could that be bad?! Each month they had a crowned king and queen for whomever could eat the most tacos. The most recent king ate 16… Dean and I both agreed he could totally out do him but, in the end, decided we’d let him stay on the throne and we’d save our money.
Authentic Hoian Restaurant: Yep, that’s its name! Dean really enjoyed himself here… I on the other hand was not so impressed. Probably due to my pickiness, but still! We started with some appetizers, Wonton Soup and Fried Bread, but due to some language mishaps they both came out with pork! I know, I should just start eating it but I can’t manage to get over the thought of it! Dean described the wonton soup as a distant relative to the version you get in your local Chinese restaurant. The thin silky wontons wrapped around ginger scented pork with additional naked pork balls bobbing in the broth. We expected the fried bread to be just that, but when it arrived we realized that there was a thick coating of minced pork spread on top of the bread before it was deep-fried! I tried a bite, it was actually pretty good! Nevertheless I couldn’t bring myself to have more than a few bites so Dean enjoyed most of that too. It was served with a sauce that can only resemble a combination of sweet chili sauce, duck sauce (if you non-east coasters don’t know what duck sauce is, you’re missing out!) and a heavy dose of dried ginger. Yum! For our main dishes I got Chicken Rice, rice with pulled chicken on top, served with a bowl of chicken broth, chili paste and chicken livers. It wasn’t very exciting. I can’t complain too much…at least it doesn’t have fried pork coating on top! It definitely wasn’t anything to write home about. Dean got grilled pork with rice noodles and sautéed spinach with garlic. Thinly sliced, sesame seed coated pork, served within rice noodle cakes that soaked up the sweet chili sauce it was served with. He ate every last bite and was one happy guy!
We were happy to leave Da Nang, sorry. Maybe if we had spent more time in the city versus the beach we would have had more things to do and therefor would have enjoyed ourselves more. Sometimes even though you’re in a remote beach area looking to relax, you still need some stimulation to make you enjoy your stay a little better. Next and last stop in Vietnam is Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon!
**We are using Ebates and Hotels.com to book everything we do! We get cash back from Ebates and earn free nights on Hotels.com so you get rewarded for doing what you would normally do anyway! On Hotels.com, they provide excellent service and will match hotel prices if you find something cheaper elsewhere. If you stay 10 nights, you get 1 free and if you become a gold member (30 stays in 1 year) you get early access to deals and special rates. Also 24/7 service. On Ebates, while the percentage cash back varies depending on the store, you legitimately get cash back on almost every store you would shop online for anyway and get a check every quarter with your savings. They also have special coupon codes to get discounts on the site that you can’t get otherwise. We’ve gotten over $600 cash back! That’s nothing to sneeze at! We get credit if you use our links (hyperlinked in the names) and would love if you could help us out! But really, you’re helping yourself too!!**