Da Nang is situated in central Vietnam, on the eastern coast of the country. The city is known for several reasons: foremost its beautiful sandy beaches which are hugged by luscious green mountains, as well as its history as a French Colonial Port and also its base for the American RAF, Army and Navy. While there are few physical reminders that associate Da Nang with the wartime occupation, the American presence between 1959 and 1975 has certainly had a positive influence on present-day Da Nang’s infrastructure. Upon arrival in the city, I was struck by how wide the roads were, how landscaped the central reservations were and also how reminiscent the boulevards are to those in Florida. The city is spectacular; a real cosmopolitan masterpiece full of trendy, young Vietnamese professionals. Only really being built in the last 20 years, I got the impression that there’s been a conscious effort to transform Da Nang into a cousin of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong.
Seeing as the city is so young, and full of young people, during Liberation Week (when we visited), most occupants retreated to their home towns to spend the public holiday with their families. Therefore our brief stay in Da Nang was very peaceful – perhaps a little too peaceful. We stayed in a brilliant hotel called The Cali Hotel, ran by an incredibly friendly and accommodating man named Doan. The hotel was a 5 minute walk to the beach, but a little further away from the city. Having come from Hanoi, which is a little old fashioned and more of a cultural hub, Da Nang was a refreshing contrast with a spectacular skyline, and impressive bridges. We enjoyed walking around in the evenings are admiring the city itself, but I must admit we found it difficult to find affordable Vietnamese or Western restaurants, so perhaps budget a little more for your stay in Da Nang.
Da Nang is very much an up and coming place to be. I’ve seen it on compilation lists of the best beaches, best places to visit in 2015, etc. from reliable travel guides such as Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. However, it seems as though Da Nang hasn’t quite taken off yet, especially for Western tourists. At times I felt as though I was in a ghost town: there is an abundance of hotels and resources for tourists, and yet we felt like we were the city’s only visitors. I can imagine in 10 years time Da Nang will be on par with the south of Thailand but for the time being it has a really uncrowded and spacious feel about it, which certainly appealed to us.
In terms of things to do Da Nang is slightly limited. Besides the beaches and the famous Hai Van pass, there is not a great deal to fill an extended period of time, so I would recommend combining your stay with a trip to Hoi An which offers more culture and history – although it highly depends on your vacation purposes! We were fortunate enough to combine our stay with the Da Nang International Fireworks Competition 2015 which was a spectacular event and attracted tens of thousands of Vietnamese visitors to the city. The firework display really showed of the city’s capacity to host such glamorous events which we were incredibly impressed by.
Overall I would definitely recommend including Da Nang as a part of your trip to Vietnam not only for its natural beauty, but to witness a new era of Vietnam.