Da Nang is a city that lights up at night; its riverfront is alive with people enjoying the gentle breeze coming from the water (at night the temperature can still reach a sticky 30 degrees). Women, young and old, gather on the boulevard to dance together. Men, dressed in chinos and light cotton shirts practise Tai Chi as though they have been moving through the same sequence every day for their entire lives and no longer think of the movements but just glide through, their minds appreciating the ebb and flow of life around them. There are tourists, of course, but they blend in, attracting little more than idle curiosity from the locals. A small child will double take at the tall, white skinned couple whose shoulders and cheeks are pink and glowing from the unfamiliar sun, but everyone is relaxed and happily enjoying their evening.
Our plane had taken off from Ho Chi Minh over 40 minutes late, which meant that by the time we arrived in Da Nang International airport our hotel transfer was long gone. After flapping around for a good 15 minutes in arrivals we decided we had to take a taxi, though given the experience in Ho Chi Minh we were more than a little apprehensive! Thankfully we had chosen a good ‘un this time and were promptly dropped off at our hotel for a reasonable fee (47,000VND or £1.37, for around 5km). When we arrived at the Dai A Hotel , we were a little unnerved. There were mopeds parked inside the lobby, and the only member of staff awake (it was nearly midnight by this point) welcomed us with “passport”, promptly took them and led us, via a claustrophobic lift that could have passed for a dumb waiter,to our room. No explanation other than a “breakfast ticket” which promised us something to eat between 7 and 10am (if we made it through the night…) I was tired, stressed out and- having stayed in the opulent splendor of the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon for the previous week- enormously underwhelmed by the no-frills accommodation. I won’t lie to you Reader: I threw a diva strop!
But everything was better in the light of day. The staff were incredibly friendly, and apologised that the night receptionist was unable to speak a word of English (yep, I felt guilty for judging him harshly!). The breakfast was delicious and the hotel was spotless. Oh, and did I mention it cost us USD 60 for three nights?
The next evening we took that walk along the river and found The Orient bar, where I sipped cocktails and watched the spectacle of the Dragon Bridge as it breathed fire and steam at 9pm. Mr LW, meanwhile, was enjoying a compromise on our “no football on holiday” ban and happily facing the other way watching Chelsea win the Champions League. Win:Win.
I would love to spend more time in Da Nang if we ever go back to Vietnam (which I’m sure we will!); it seems incredibly metropolitan and I bet there are some real gems hidden in the shadows of the high rises. We ate at Quan Com Hue Ngon bbq restuarant on our second evening and , boy, was that a find! (The link to TripAdvisor listing is here, because their actual website doesn’t seem to be valid). The owner was wonderfully attentive and talked us through the whole menu before suggesting his favourites. He seemed impressed that I wanted to try the local delicacy- jellyfish salad- while Mr LW started with banana flower salad. To follow, we chose one beef and one pork plate and a white hot grill was promptly carried to our table for us to cook our own slivers of meat on. The experience was surpassed only by the delicious flavours. FYI: jellyfish has a similar texture to cucumbers! I was relieved when we had finished cooking though and the BBQ was removed, sitting next to a coal fire in 30+ degree heat is akin to how I imagine it feels to smelt iron. We were the only westerners in this restaurant, so I think we got the real deal. We paid around £10 for our meaty feast, and were warmly encouraged to come back again. I think the owner really meant it and, you know what? If I went back to Da Nang that would be my first stop.