“But really. Why Da Nang?”
That’s the response I usually get when I tell people I have moved to Da Nang, the third biggest city in Vietnam. Travelers who spend weeks in Vietnam usually skip right over it, and travel guides sometimes have a short little paragraph about it. Expats moving to Vietnam usually go straight to Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi, not even giving Da Nang a single thought. Sure, it might not have the historical tourist attractions like Hoi An and Hanoi, or the wild rooftop clubs like Ho Chi Minh City. But you know what I gotta say to all those people? In the words of a New Yorker… Ya’ll are trippin’!
Digging deeper into Da Nang, you’ll find a city of surprises. There are hidden gems concealed in every corner of the city, waiting to be discovered. it’s time Da Nang gets some much-deserved love from the world! Not convinced yet?
Here are 10 Reasons why.
1.) The city is a real slice of Vietnamese life
Street after street, you’ll find groups of businessmen drinking tra da (iced tea) in open-air tea shops at all hours of the day, teenage girls huddled in trendy cafes drinking mysterious rainbow milk teas, women wearing rice hats selling bananas on the streets, motorbikes zipping by carrying anything and everything imaginable (live chickens hanging by the feet, 10-foot-long bamboo shoots, four toddlers, living room furniture…you dream it, they’ve got it.) The sensory experience is Vietnamese culture in its 100% true form, without being touched by external influences. If you want a true cultural immersion into Vietnamese culture, Da Nang will give you just that. Don’t worry about falling into a tourist trap, because there are (almost) none.
2.) It’s got a gorgeous beach
I’ve gotta state the obvious. THE BEACH. Da Nang is a beach city! Not only does it have a beach, but its beach is downright gorgeous. (1 point- Da Nang, 0 points- Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City)
3.) And there are INCREDIBLE gems hiding along the coast
There’s more to the beach than what meets the eye. Rent a motorbike for $5 a day and ride to the top of Son Tra Mountain, only 15 minutes from the city. There, you’ll find breathtaking views over the South China Sea looking back at Da Nang city on one side, and the silhouette of the Cham Islands in the distance on the other. Along the way, don’t be shy to hop off your motorbike and explore what’s around! You’ll find a GIANT buddha and temple overlooking the city (ya’ can’t miss it), and little paths off the road that will lead you to secluded beach cabanas and coves.
4.) Not a beach person? There’s a river! (With a cool dragon bridge)
The city is divided by the Han River, breaking the city up into two halves: the city center side and the beach side. Along the city center side, there’s a beautiful river walk that’ll take you all the way down the river from one end of the city to the next. Along the way, you’ll pass the famous fire-breathing Dragon Bridge, cute riverside bars, lots of restaurants, and dozens of boats.
5.) At night the city comes alight!
OK, cheesy rhyme I know. But it’s true! Da Nang turns into a city-wide light show come dark. The fire-breathing Dragon Bridge comes to life with magnificent hues of red, blue, green and yellow. The ferry boats cruise along the river displaying fabulous arrays of neon colors, and the ferris wheel (yes, there’s even a ferris wheel!), lights up in a display of trippy geometric shapes, while the two iconic skyscrapers light up the city’s skyline.
(Catch the Dragon Bridge fire show at 9pm on Saturday and Sunday)
6.) It’s ridiculously cheap.
No tourists means no tourist prices! Even the nicest restaurants in town are ridiculously cheap by Western standards (we balled out one night at one of the most expensive restaurants… and spent $15 bucks per person). Ho Chi Minh City is crazy cheap (just see my food guide here!), but believe it or not…Da Nang makes HCMC (almost) look expensive.
7.) It’s got some of the best seafood in Vietnam
Forget farm to table. In Da Nang, we go sea to table! You’ll find countless open-air seafood restaurants lining the beach (for my beloved Spaniards out there, it’s like a Vietnamese chiringuito!). Don’t know what fish to get? Walk over to the buckets lying on the ground filled with cold water and a wild assortment of unnameable sea animals, point to the fish or crustacean of your liking, and voila! You “seafood”, you eat it.
8.) It’s got an international airport and a perfect geographical location
No excuses for not putting it on your traveling itinerary! Smack in the center of Vietnam, it’s geographically the perfect stop between southern HCMC and northern Hanoi. Besides, chances are you’ll be visiting the fan-favorite French colonial town Hoi An on your visit, which means you’ll fly into the Da Nang airport. In addition to Hoi An, there are countless day trips accessible from Da Nang: the imperial city of Hue, Marble Mountain, Ba Na Hills, and the Cham Islands to name a few. In other words, it couldn’t be more perfectly located!
9.) It’s the best place to test out your motorbiking career.
If you want to see Vietnam like a local, the only way to do it is on motorbike, and driving a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi can be, well, daunting. No, scratch that. DOWNRIGHT POOP-IN-YOUR-PANTS TERRIFYING. Motorbikes flying out from every corner left and right, frantic taxis weaving in and out of seas of bikers, no such thing as traffic signals or road rules…yea. In Da Nang, motorbiking is almost relaxing. The streets are wide, people abide by traffic rules and there are about 1/8 of bikes on the road at a time as in HCMC and Hanoi. Oh, and you can bike along the coast.
10.) There are endless secrets to discover.
And the coolest part about it is YOU are discovering them. No other tourists, no other white guy in a Hawaiian shirt. YOU. From hidden live music beach bars (go to Minsk, although not right on the beach, it’s my fave bar!), secluded coves, mud bath mountains, night markets, concealed alley street food stands, rooftop bars by the river…the surprises are endless.