The regions surrounding Da Nang (My Son, Quang Nam) was founded by the Cham practicing Hindus most possibly 3000 years ago, serving as the capital city and centre of the Hindu Champa Dynasty. Vietnamese invasion into the region in the 17th century significantly halted Cham development and during the Vietnam War, vast monuments and buildings were bombed. Given Danang was the first point of colonial invasion, many vestiges of French architecture are present in the historic buildings. The city has grown rapidly in recent years, and has a 2008 population estimated at 900,000. Until recently, this growth was mostly outward and infill, but now there are high-rises going up. There are many remnants of the "American War" leftover in Da Nang. Each bridge has a different builder, whether they be French, American, or Vietnamese. On the way to the popular tourist spot; China Beach, the ruins of a military base remain in the form of helicopter hangars, although these are now more easily spotted at the airport, which serves both civil and military flights.
The city is often overlooked by tourists but is one of the most friendly to backpackers in all of Vietnam. China Beach, a former R&R destination for American G.I.'s, is now home to a small community of guest house owners, marble statue shops, and other various trades. Some of the most beautiful and isolated beaches in Vietnam are found here, among some of the friendliest people. This is a must stop for the budget traveller.
Until relatively recently, Da Nang was somewhat hostile to foreigners, a consequence of the attitudes of those who then controlled the provincial government. In the early 90s, however, this changed, and since the late 90s the provincial [actually autonomous city] government has been enthusiastically pursuing foreign investment and developing infrastructure. Da Nang has some of the best roads in the country -- the coast road is at least four lanes from northern provincial boundary to southern provincial boundary. Compared to either Hanoi or HCMC, traffic in Da Nang is always relatively light, although huge trucks blare along every now and again and there are brief 'rush hours.' Development is visible and rapid; the city has expanded tremendously in the last ten years, and several multi-story buildings as well as more beach resorts are under construction, and there are now at least three large supermarkets as well as a Metro wholesaler. This also involves redevelopment of areas near the city beaches across the river, with whole blocks of old housing being razed and new roads installed and luxurious villas constructed.
The downside to the very laid back, less serious and frenetic, aspect of Da Nang is that even locals frequently complain that there is nothing to do except drink, which they do a lot. This is not really true -- there is a zoo, a soccer stadium, many tennis courts and pool halls, several large modern discos/night clubs, etc., and of course the beaches and Son Tra peninsula. However, it is also true that coffee and beer drinking are the most common leisure activities of most local residents.
The hottest months of the year are June, July, and August, when the temperature can get to as high as 40 degrees Celsius, and it is generally very dry. There are usually tropical storms in October and November.
Da Nang International Airport (IATA: DAD) is the smallest of Vietnam's three international airports. There are frequent flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on both Vietnam and Jetstar Pacific, as well as limited services direct to Nha Trang, Buon Ma Thuot. Silk Air operates the only international flights to Singapore and Siem Reap. Aside from a money changer, airport amenities are rather minimal, although some upgrading was done to the airport in late 2007 and early 2008. As of November 2006, international departure taxes should be included in the price of your ticket. Compared to larger Vietnamese airports, Da Nang is a little bit laid back; local travelers often arrive less than 30 minutes before their flights; there are also a couple of restaurants/coffee shops opposite the terminal, which offer more choice, if not lower prices, than inside the departure area.
The airport is located within the city, just 3 km south-west of the center of Danang, a 10-minute trip at most. Many travelers now choose to stay in Da Nang as it is considered as a gateway to Central Vietnam World Heritages Sites: Hoi An (25-30 min, US$15) or Hue (2 hours, US$35), My Son (1,5 hours). The hotels and resorts in Da Nang have their own travel desks which offer some half day or a day trip to those destinations. It is easy to get a meter taxi immediately outside the terminal building. If you arrive on a late night flight, you may encounter an unscrupulous taxi driver who has a fast meter, but usually there are lots of taxis and companies like Mai Linh, Taxi Xanh, or Song Han are reliable; avoid Airport Taxi, especially at night.
The Reunification Express makes a stop in Da Nang. Many motorbikes and taxis are available outside of the station. Scheduled arrival and departure times are loosely followed. If you just want to get to Hue, you can also take the 'local' train which is slow (about four to four and a half hours from Da Nang to Hue, with several stops along the way; a car or taxi does it in two), but incredibly cheap (25,000 dong including a meal) and passes through some spectacular coastal scenery.
Sinh Cafe, the popular bus-pass service, makes a stop in Hoi An, a short distance from the city. It is of a distance where a taxi is better than a motorbike.
At least two other bus-pass services make stops in Da Nang, and can be taken to either Hue or Hoi An or further in either direction. Fare to Hue is $3 as of late 2007, trip takes about three hours with one refreshment stop on the way. The bus uses the tunnel so does not go over the spectacular pass between Da Nang and Hue.
A bus station serves transport to several cities including a few locations in Laos. It have dairly bus to Savannakhet,Tha Khek and Vian Tieng in morning
Sustainable Tour operator & vegetarian restaurant "Karma Waters" (www.karmawaters.com) 47 Cua Dai Street, Hoi An tel. 0510 3927632 operates Danang - Hoi An boat tours & shuttle service.
In order to get to Hoi An, as many tourists do, there are a couple of options:
It is difficult to learn Vietnamese in Da Nang as the ex-pat community is quite small and the demand for the language learning is not great. You will be able to find many people who are willing to do language exchange with you and there are a number of qualified Vietnamese teachers. The current rate is about US$5/hour. You can also contact some volunteers to speak vietnamese to them. It is absolutely free.
Be aware that the Da Nang dialect of Vietnamese is distinct from both Hanoi and HCMC versions, although closer to HCMC than to Hanoi. If you learnt your Vietnamese in Hanoi, many ordinary people in Da Nang will have some difficulty understanding you until they realize you are trying to talk like the presenters they see on TV. Even trained teachers will tend to teach you to speak like a Da Nang person unless you emphasize that you want to learn Hanoi dialect, which is understood [eventually] throughout the country as it is the 'official' version and that used on TV. If you spend a fair amount of time in Da Nang, either employed or as a volunteer, it is fairly easy to find recent English graduates, or current students studying English, from the College of Foreign Languages of the University of Danang who will happily work through a Vietnamese textbook with you for a lot less than $5/hour, and this is probably as good a way as any to acquire some Vietnamese; there are lots of books that are Vietnamese courses for foreigners; Teach Yourself Vietnamese [Huong Dan Tu Hoc Tieng Viet, a Complete Course for Beginners] by Dana Healy is one of the best; Jake Catlett and Huong Nguyen's Vietnamese for Beginners is easier and less comprehensive; Nguyen Anh Que's Vietnamese for Foreigners is good and has a lot of material and vocabulary.
There are a number of schools (ILA, Apollo and the University of Da Nang) where qualified teachers can teach English. The salaries are many times above the average national wage.
There are several local shopping markets scattered around the city and a few shopping centres. Hung Vuong, Hoang Dieu, Phan Chu Trinh and surrounding streets offers a wealth of quality goods; clothes, shoes, homewares, dvds etc..
There are many places in which you can have a good meal in Danang city. Because of its position, in the middle of Vietnam, you can find many sorts of food come from the other parts of the country. If you prefer the fresh air and fresh seafood, it's a great idea to have a walk along the street named Pham Van Dong. There are lots of seafood restaurants and seafood bars there. Get into a named restaurant, not the ones on the street side, to have safe and good quality seafood.
There are several seafood restaurants along the My Khe beach, the other side of Cau Song Han -- the big lit-up suspension swing bridge. It is a couple of kilometers straight from the bridge to the My Khe beach, then if you turn right there are seven upscale restaurants on the beach side of the road, and many local restaurants on the land side, with beach side seating a bit further along from the upscale ones. Further South on the beach road are two nice seafood restaurants next to My Khe Beach Hotel [My Khe is the oldest], and the Czech microbrewery restaurant across the street from the new My Khe 3 Hotel. Highly recommended to try are grilled cuttlefish, grilled oysters and clams [you will find the latter two are different at every restaurant], and everywhere you can find 'hotpot' or lau, the Vietnamese hot fish soups. The seafood restaurant Trieu Chau is one block closer to the beach and one long block in to the right from the Golden Sea Hotel that serves a wonderful Lau Thai Lan.(Spicy Thailand style fish soup)
If you prefer a cheap meal with safe and quite good quality food, the small bars are the best choice. There are many kinds of small bar in Danang, but they seem to be the same in the food they sell, quite good but not the best. Best if you go with a local person who can order for you.
There are also many specialty restaurants, such as the goat restaurant on Tran Hung Dao [across the Han River from downtown], or the smaller Czech brewery restaurant near the airport that specializes in turtle [although many other places serve turtle; don't worry, they are farmed, mostly for export to China. Farmed crocodile is also available many places.]
Hoa's Guesthouse at China Beach. The gathering spot for backpackers in the evenings, as Hoa hosts "family dinners." For about US$1.50 you get treated to an all-you-can-eat buffet, courtesy of Hoa's wife. Picnic tables are full of travellers inside this tiny cafe, starting at around 7PM.
Bao Nam Tran- fine, private and popular place for coffee, business dealings, meals and light Vietnamese pastries,drinks and desserts. The restaurant/coffee house's ancient Vietnamese architecture; incorporating heavy dark ornate wooden panels and furniture mixed with modern amenities (escalator) is a must-see. Wireless internet connection and a selection of reading material is available. The restaurant has a lovely ambience at night. Come here for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Located on 27 Nguyen Chi Thanh St.
Waterfront 150 Bach Dang , opened late 2009, open to street, view of Han River, modern international decor, bar on ground floor, good gathering place, comfortable seating, good selection of local & imported beer & large selection of wines by the glass or bottle. Good service. Full restaurant for lunch & dinner on 2nd level , balcony seating with great view of Han River, good ambiance, owned by expatriates open seven days.
Bambino a boutique style restaurant 122 Quang Trung, quiet location, good food wine selection, Australian steak grilled to order, international, French and local foods, run by a nice French couple, a good place for a quiet meal with friends.
Another popular haunt for local ex pats is the Bamboo Bar 2. Bamboo 2's owner speaks excellent English, there are always foreigners there, and it is easy to find at the corner of Bach Dang and Thai Phien. Eve Pub on Tran Phu near Prince hotel also stays open late, although its clientele is mostly Vietnamese. The discos all stay open until 12.30 or later. Many street side beer places stay open until the last customers leave, but most operators have no English.
Avoid the infamous "Coolspot" which has developed quite a reputation for overpricing and sub standard quality. It's in all the guide books so you know it's truly a place to be avoided.
If you are not concerned about mixing it with the locals, there are literally thousands of drinking places where beer is cheap as chips and the food is superb and cheap. Head down to the beach for excellent seafood meals. Try some of the "shacks" that line the road along the beach.
If you are really not in the mood for a bar environment, there are some fantastic cafes in Danang. Try Wonder Cafe or New Life Cafe on Le Loi Street. Or just wander down Nguyen Chi Thanh Street where there are quite a few good quality cafes.
For lovers of Micro Brewery Beverages try: The Czech beer place on Nguyen Tri Phuong Street and Tulip Danang in 2 Thang 9 Street. There are also some restaurants, New World Cafe on Tran Phu Street, and No.1 Disco.
This refers to the restaurants on the service road along the road leading to the twin bridges over the river from the roundabout. To get to Green Island, cross the small bridge past the New World Cafe, to Sa Sa Gelato, [ gelato, an Italian specialty], the Gelato is expensive, but excellent, and the staff speaks English.
No 1. Disco the most upscale disco in town is quite small. The two discos are near the mouth of the Han River. New Phuong Dong at 20 Dong Da is the less crowded [but still a scrum on weekends] and probably most fun for a traveler to visit, bigger in size, and more eclectic in their clientele, and with better entertainment [For example New Phuong Dong has a resident Ghanaian DJ and many visiting singers from Sai Gon and Ha Noi].
Festival, on the second corner going up river from Cau Song Han on Tran Hung Dao, is the newest disco and the only one on the My Khe beach side of the river. It's part of a complex with a restaurant and karaoke rooms. If you buy the staff a drink here [a normal thing to do in this kind of disco-night club] they can be very aggressive about drinking it fast and running up a big bill for you.
And finally for a real late night place hit "Red Hot" Bar on Nguyen Van Linh Street.
'Late night' is more flexible in Da Nang than in Ha Noi; most of the time the discos and places like Red Hot [an approximation of a Thai girlie-bar] close at 1 a.m. or 1.30, but if the police decide to say the national rules should not be flouted quite so blatantly, they may unexpectedly close at midnight or 00.30. However, roadside open-air establishments will continue to serve beer long after that, if they still have customers; and there are some places along the main roads that cater to truck drivers and the like that appear to be open all night.
As drinking coffee is a part of Vietnamese culture, it's a good idea if you spend your time on drinking coffee there. Coffee in Vietnam, especially coffee in the middle of Vietnam, is very strong and has a very wonderful smell. In Danang, people spend a lot of time drinking coffee and chatting with friends and family in coffee shops. There are several kinds of coffee shop in Danang: Luxurious coffee shops, mid-class coffee shops and special coffee shops.
Luxurious coffee shops can be found on many streets of the city, they are quite nice and of course the prices quite high. Many can be found along Along Phan Chau Trinh Street.
Mid-class coffee shops are found everywhere; the drinks are quite cheap and it's a place for a rest or meeting friends.
Special coffee shops are the most interesting, where you not only drink coffee or many kinds of drinks, but also have some special types of entertainment. For example, the Rock coffee shop where you can enjoy coffee and listen to rock music at the same time; you can ask them to play songs you like. Usually, they play ballads and soft rock in the daytime and hard rock and metal in the evening(very loudly).
Other kind of special coffee shop is Chess Coffee Shop where you can drink soft drinks, fruit juices and play chess with other people. You can easily find a person to play with you. The drinks there are quite cheap and everyone is very polite when playing chess. This kind of coffee is a part of Vietnamese coffee drinking culture and it's a wonderful idea to try it.
One kind of special coffee shop is chatting coffee shop. There you can drink coffee on the street side and chat with you friend while you enjoy you drink. It's very cheap.
Famous coffee shops in Danang city:
The most famous couple of chatting coffee shops are Long Coffee shop and An Coffee shop located on the corner of Le Loi Street and Quang Trung Street.
Don't be fooled by the guide books - Danang is a great place to visit and much cheaper than touristy Hoi An.
Cocktails and light snacks, relaxed setting decorated with cane chairs and carved Vietnamese furniture. A pianist followed by a resident Filipino band in the evenings. Free WiFi. Happy Hour buy 1 get 1 free from 6 pm to 7 pm. Open: daily 10:00AM-02:00AM. Drinks from 2 to 5 USD.
There are plenty of budget hotels in Da Nang.
It is a comparatively safe city but be sure to lock up your belongings at night (as everyone does) which includes not leaving your bike out on the street. Everyone generally brings them into their houses.
Da Nang is less Westernised than Hanoi or HCMC so it can be more difficult to feel settled here. The locals are friendly/curious enough to always be willing to help you (even when there is no language).
Frequent bus service to Hoi An (15,000 dong - but foreigners may be refused passage at this price), as well as other destinations throughout Vietnam is available at the intercity bus station. Very near Danang is the village of Lang Co.