What kind of city is Da Nang?
Da Nang is a pearl of a city on the coast of Vietnam. Placed just south of Hai Van Pass, halfway up Vietnam, it’s a cultural melting pot of Western and Vietnamese.
Just north of the gorgeous Hai Van pass you have the old emperor city of Hue and the large Bach Ma National Park. South, you have the white sandy beaches of Hoi An. West, you have the mountainous highlands. And East? Well, you have Cham islands and the Pacific ocean.
In Da Nang, you can get everything from cheap student street food to high-end Western and Asian food – absolutely on par with what with you can get in the rest of the world. There are local watering holes serving cheap beer till the early morning and world-class cocktail bars serving freshly prepared cocktails utilizing those mouth-drippingly tasty tasty fruits they have in Vietnam.
They have resorts costing you a few thousand $’s/night and hostels for a few $’s/night. And anything in between. About $15-$20 will get you a cute little hotel room with a double bed including breakfast – if you know where to look.
I think the point is that, whatever you want, Da Nang’s got it. From budget to Luxury. From beach-relaxing to mountain climbing. Let’s dive into how you can get the most out of your visit to Da Nang.
The 3 areas of Da Nang
Da Nang is a busy city. I usually divide Da Nang in three parts.
You have the most expensive hotels and resorts directly on the beach. Some of these are like self-sustaining cities. They arrange tours and take you around. You can enjoy your whole stay without actually needing to go into the city as such.
Then you have the normal hotels (and hostels) that are not directly at the beach. Looking at a map you’ll see that a great river (Hàn river) divides Da Nang and on the east side of this river, towards the water, is where you’ll find 95% of the tourists. They enjoy life there, lots of western options, hotels in any range. It’s clean, safe and enjoyable.
Finally, you have the main city of Da Nang on the west side of the river. After you cross the Dragon Bridge. This is where you’ll really experience that hectic traffic you’ve probably heard about. There are noise, motorbikes and lots of life. This is where you’ll get the most authentic experience. It’s still a clean, safe city but compared to the east side of the river which has definitely been polished to better accommodate westerners, the west side has a much more raw feel.
If you need any help you can contact my friend, Tony, and he will help out with anything – tours, car rental, motorbike rental, bike rental, etc.
Phone number/ Whatsapp number: +84 931647994
How to get around in Da Nang
First of all, pay attention to the 3 areas of Da Nang I mentioned above.
The resorts and roads around the resorts are peaceful and controlled. Safe walking, safe motorbiking.
The east side of the river is a bit more hectic and especially the big main road going along the beach can be terrifying to cross the first time you do it. You’ll get used to it.
The west side of the river is very hectic and so do not drive here with your bike before you’ve gotten used to it. Expect serious merging. Chances are though, that you’ll never actually have to go there unless you’re tagging along with some locals that know the good places.
To get around, the motorbike is definitely the easiest. You can rent them at any hotel and they’re fully automatic and easy to drive. Driving a motorbike can be daunting at first and the first time you merge into a never-ending stream of motorbikes and trucks is something you’ll probably remember.
The thing to notice about riding a motorbike is that you’ve gotta follow the stream – like fish in the water. Just follow the other motorbikes, go slowly towards the place you’re going and don’t do anything unexpected. No sharp turns, no sudden breaks. Don’t just sit there and wait for people to wave you over – it’ll never happen.
The motorbike will take you anywhere and they can be parked anywhere. So with a motorbike, you’re as flexible as you can be. You just have to get used to traffic.
Grab car / Taxis
There are taxis everywhere. If you don’t like riding a motorbike, this is the way to go. They’ll take you anywhere for cheap. They are air-conditioned and it puts a little distance between you and the traffic.
Your best friend is going to be the grab car app. It works exactly like Über.
If you prefer to hail a cab on the street, use the white Vinasun taxis and always use metered taxis.
There are also Grab bikes which is a motorbike taxi. It’s faster than a grab car but also a lot more adventurous. It’s half price of a grab car but can only take one person and a car is so much more comfortable.
Walking is another option. It’s hot and humid in Vietnam, traffic is terrible and people do not walk a lot. Of course, you can walk 100 meters from your hotel to the beach. You’ll see and make up your mind for yourself.
Driving in car yourself
Not recommended! It’s hectic traffic and insurance is a mess if you do get into an accident. Taxis/private drivers are cheap – save yourself the trouble.
There is something called top deck city bus tour which is a hop-on hop-off kinda thing that’s worth trying.
There are also a few real public buses but nothing to speak of.
10 Things to do in Da Nang
Let’s get to it. Here’s a list of cool things to do in Da Nang.
Ban Co Peak
Ban Co peak is a great viewing spot if you want to see the whole city from above. In the cool atmosphere of the mountains and forests at an altitude of 700m’s above sea level, you’ll be certain to enjoy the view.
Ban Co Peak is located on Son Tra mountain (Monkey Mountain) and is the ideal place for escaping the hustle and the bustle of Da Nang city and to enjoy some fresh air.
Just off the Danang Beach coastal road, the Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh Son) consist of five craggy marble outcrops topped with pagodas. Each mountain is named for the natural element it’s said to represent: Thuy Son (Water), Moc Son (Wood), Hoa Son (Fire), Kim Son (Metal or Gold) and Tho Son (Earth).
It’s a nice view and you can easily spend some hours there, just walking around. Especially if you’re into marble.
Opening hours: 7:00 AM – 5:30 PM daily
Linh Ung Temple
Also known as the Lady Buddha, the statue rises high above the mountains just outside Da Nang City on the way to Son Tra Beach.
As you drive the coastal road you’ll notice her no doubt. Be sure to stop and visit this temple. It’s a large temple complex with an active shrine.
Remember, to show respect and keep your voice down. Don’t walk into the praying area unless you’ve covered yourself appropriately (usually no bare shoulders or shorts).
More info: http://ladybuddha.org/linh-ung-pagoda.php
The dragon bridge connects the east and west side of the city over the river Hàn. It’s very iconic and you can’t miss it when you’re driving it.
The relatively new bridge was opened for traffic in 2013 and was designed and built to look like a dragon.
Every Saturday and Sunday at 9 pm the dragon will breathe fire and water which is worth seeing.
The nearby, Love Bridge, is a great place to watch the fire show
Hai Van Pass
North of Da Nang there is a large pass called the Hai Van pass. It’s a spectacular road with amazing views.
Besides creating massive traffic jams and acting as a serious bottle-neck, this pass used to be very dangerous with trucks, buses, and motorbikes going on the same very narrow hairpin bends.
However, since 2005, with the opening of the Hai Van tunnel, all traffic that only used this road as a practical way to cross the pass is now going through the tunnel instead. In effect, only tourists and tour agencies use the old road over the pass making it a lot more safe to drive! It’s still mountain road so if you’re taking your bike there yourself be aware that the road can be considered advanced to drive.
There are many ways to enjoy this as a day-trip from Da Nang. My favorite is of course on a bike but otherwise, you hire a tour agency to take you around.
For those of you continuing to Hue after, you can either rent a bike one way and drop the bike off in Hue, or as before, hire a tour agency.
It’s also possible to take the train which is an amazing train ride. The only downside is that you can’t stop to take pictures.
Be sure not to take the bus as you’ll then miss the view (because of the tunnel).
Ba Na Hills
Matthew Pike from Culture Trip, writes:
“Ba Na Hills is one of the newest and most exciting projects in Vietnam. It’s a mountaintop resort complex that looks like a medieval castle, but inside these stone walls are modern accommodations, world class restaurants and a Fantasy Park full of exciting rides.”
Personally, I haven’t been there yet but there’s a lot to do as you can see from the below link.
Bach Ma National Park
Bac Ma National Park is a large beautiful national park not far from Hue. Taking a day-trip from Da Nang is possible but intense and will be a full day thing. You can hire a guide for this or plan it yourself.
This is another place, I haven’t been, but from what I gather the road there can be dangerous with narrow hairpin bends and fog dimming your vision.
I suggest you go there on the way to Hue, if you’re going that way.
My Khe Beach
It’s the main beach of Da nang. White sandy beaches for miles and miles. Enjoy delicious fresh seafood, go jet-skiing, take a dip, or bathe in the sun.
It’s named by the American troops who used it to rest during the Vietnam War
Night markets are excellent past-time. There’s almost always something going on. Eat food, drink beer and shop clothes.
Go for a walk in the market and be sure to be hungry because food is a central part of any night-market. Small delicious dishes.
Helio night market is a good place for food.
Hometown.Asia is a network of free (remember to tip!!) tours around Da Nang hosted by students. Many of them offer free tours to practice English. It’s a great way to meet locals