The minute Ryan and I landed in Danang, I let out a big sigh of relief. The air was fresh, the traffic was light, and our hotel was a three minute walk from the beach. I’ve always appreciated the beach, especially since I grew up in Wyoming surrounded by sagebrush. I love the sand and the sound of the waves and the color of the water. When I discovered that My Khe Beach (aka China Beach) stretches for twenty miles, I knew that Danang was going to be my kind of place. And better yet, this was only one of the many beaches in the area, which include some of the best beaches in Vietnam.
Although Danang has a population of roughly a million people, the city didn’t feel especially large or intimidating. I could finally cross the street without worrying about getting hit by a scooter or run over by a car and my ears weren’t plagued by the constant blaring of car horns. The traffic was surprisingly light, so much so that Ryan and I decided to rent a scooter. As it turns out, I really enjoyed exploring the area from the back of a scooter. Our night ride was especially fun because we got to see the dragon bridge all lit up (even though it didn’t shoot fire, which I understand it does do).
Once we were equipped with our very own scooter we were free to zoom around at our leisure. One of our early adventures took us to Son Tra (Monkey) Mountain. The route was green and the breeze in our faces felt great. We stopped at several more beaches along the way. We just had to remember to use caution when we climbed back on the scooter, since the seat could get very warm. And of course, helmets on.
One of my favorite stops along the Monkey Mountain route was at Son Tra Resort & Spa. They have opened up their facility to the public and allow free access to their beach, which was beautiful. Their resort was impressive and I think that it would be a great place for a family get-together. In addition, their restaurant served good smoothies. It was nice to stop in and relax while enjoying a lovely view.
By the second or third day Ryan and I had seen many of Danang’s nearby beaches and we were a little puzzled that there were not more people out enjoying them. As far as beaches go–and nice beaches at that–the beaches around Danang were practically deserted. I had read that there is quite an undertow. We did see many signs posted along the coast that prohibited swimming and I assume that this was the reason. Still, the sand was nice and while the water was a little on the cool side during this time of year, I expected to see more beach bums. The only people we did see out enjoying the beaches were other tourists much like ourselves.
The answer, at least one of them, came the next morning when we got up and ventured out at 6am to watch the sunrise. It turned out that dawn was a happening place on My Khe Beach. People were out running and dancing and swimming and stretching to loud and upbeat music. It was pretty much the only time we saw the locals enjoying the water and Ryan kept insisting (jokingly) that the locals of Danang are vampires. As soon as the sun rose, they were gone. I had to admit that it was pretty funny watching them clear out with the first traces of light. It served as a good reminder that it occasionally pays to drag one’s butt out of bed.
With one mystery nearly solved we were soon onto our next. There are several ways of telling when you’re getting close to Marble Mountain. Not only can it be seen from a good distance away, but the closer you get, the more marble shops begin to line the streets. If you’ve somehow managed to miss both of these signs, you will probably be approached by a local on a scooter. She will zoom up beside you and tell you to follow her–she’ll show you the way. She will (somewhat aggressively) escort you to free parking outside her family’s shop. Once you are there, she will waive you inside. Before you know it, you will have bought a $20 USD marble rooster that was lovingly carved by her father. But what can you do? You loved the rooster.
In all seriousness though, visiting Marble Mountain was definitely worth the trip. We wandered in and out of caves and pagodas and temples until it started to rain. We initially took shelter but when it continued to rain harder and harder, we bought a couple of flimsy rain ponchos and continued on our way. Poor Ryan had a hard time fitting into his, but he made it work.
Ryan and I stayed on the peninsula and I noticed a distinct difference between the peninsula and the city itself. Not only did the peninsula have a distinctly industrial feel, but the food options were much more limited. For the most part, there was one option. Seafood. Normally I would have been thrilled because I love seafood. The problem (for us) was three fold. First you had to pick your dinner from where it was swimming around in a tub. Second you had to tell them how you wanted it prepared. The third and biggest issue was that neither of us speaks Vietnamese. If you happen to make it this far, a fourth problem might appear in the form of chopsticks. Your food might even be brought to you raw, in which case, you’ll have to cook it for yourself.
Another interesting aspect regarding our visit to Danang concerned our accommodations. Our hotel served a great breakfast and the rooms were very nice. However, they didn’t afford a whole lot of privacy and we kept getting locked in our room. Ryan eventually mastered the technique, but every time I tried to open the door from the inside, an alarm would go off and in a panic, I’d hide in the bathroom in front of the see-through glass wall. Don’t ask me why, it was just something that I kept doing…
So, despite some fishy business finding food and an interesting view and an over-priced marble rooster, we really enjoyed our trip to Danang. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we’re going to try to move there once my CELTA course has ended. If I’ll lucky, we’ll be able to find a place near the beach with a good view. I’ll just have to learn how to order (and eat) the seafood.