Onward to Da Nang, but not by train

The Mango Hotel is next to the Hanoi Railway Station, and near the Old Quarter

[Classes began last week, so please accept my apologies for delaying this post.]

HANOI, VIETNAM — Now that I had settled on visiting Da Nang, in hopes of finding some warmer weather and an ocean view, the question was how to get there.

My first plan was to take the overnight train from Hanoi to Da Nang. With that in mind, I figured lodging at the Mango Hotel (above), which is right next to the Hanoi train station, made sense. It was only about $22 a night and offered free breakfast, and I could walk to it from my Airbnb.

Once at the hotel (which is not bad, by the way), I set about finding out how to buy train tickets for a departure two days later. The cost ranged from $40 for a soft seat to $60 for a soft sleeper berth, and the trip would take about 15 to 16 hours. On a lark, I also checked airfares from Hanoi to Da Nang.

It was cheaper to fly! Only $36 for a round-trip ticket to Da Nang. So guess what I did.

My lodging in Da Nang was another Airbnb within walking distance to My Khe beach. For $15.50 a night, I got a clean, modern efficiency apartment with a full kitchen and bath (no tub though). Kris, a representative of the owner, was there waiting for me when I arrived from the airport. A mini-mart was a block away, and the neighborhood was chock-full of restaurants, bars, cafés and bakeries. Just what I wanted.

My Airbnb flat in Da Nang — $15.50 a night

How long these kind of bargains will be around is a big question. There are several high rise hotels, condo blocks and resorts being built all over Da Nang, which I reckon is trying to become a tourist town. [It’s well on the way.] Once those fancy places are finished, I figure Airbnb hosts will likely raise their rents. So, if you want $15 a night apartment rentals, you’d better go soon.

I had anticipated Da Nang to be swamped by holiday travelers, but in fact, it was pretty sleepy the week I was there. I suppose the peak tourist period was during Tet, and I was leaving before it began. The first two days greeted me with more of the cool, wet weather I had had in Hanoi, but once the sun came out on day 3, it was near paradise there. Unfortunately, I had a new editing job to complete, so — as in Hanoi — I delayed doing touristy things until I finished the job.

And that was OK by me. My intention on this trip was not to “see the sights” but to relax and soak up the local environment, living as a local person might — if he had loads of free time and enough money to spend to eat out. In fact, I only ate one meal a day out, aside from snacking or grabbing a coffee and dessert somewhere, and ate in for the other meals. I mean, I had a kitchen and fridge, so why not use them?

The water, unfortunately, was a bit too cold for swimming for my tastes, but it didn’t stop surfers in wetsuits and some hardier middle-aged guys in swim trunks from getting wet. I was content to walk along the shore and grab a drink and a seat to watch the waves roll in.

Cool waters did not faze these guys at all. Hardier than I am!

From Da Nang’s beaches you can see off in the distance the giant white statue of Lady Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy, which turned out to be my only tourist destination this time around. There are several other worthwhile places to visit, including the Marble Mountains and the ancient city of Hoi An, but I decided to visit them sometime in the future.

The statue of Guan Yin is part of a Buddhist Temple complex about 40 minutes by taxi from central Da Nang.

To say I loved Da Nang would be an understatement. Whether it was my mood, the weather, or the environment, or a combination of all three, I felt quite at home there and definitely plan to go back. Other cities and locations get more press, but Da Nang is a sleeper worth visiting before it gets too built up and resort-like.

Here’s some more of the photos I took.

There were quite a few surfers visiting Da Nang while I was there. Most wore wet suits.

Da Nang is being developed into an oceanside resort town.

I did not investigate what this local pig was eating

One of the halls at the Linh Ung – Bai But Pagoda complex northeast of the city.

The gate at the head of the stairs leading to the temple area.

Bodhisattva Guan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. She’s about 70 meters tall and was unveiled in 2011.

One of the many bonsai on the temple grounds

Buddhist temples generally have statues representing other bodhisattvas, who each represent a particular emotion or state of mind. Guess what he represents.

There is a sleeping Buddha alongside one of the pagodas.

Da Nang’s Sky Wheel is part of the Asia Park amusement area on the Han River.

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Also published on Medium.

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