How to spend your days (successfully) in Da Nang

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It is easy -go to Hoi An !!!!!

a lady offering boat trip on the river

a lady offering boat trip on the river

Danang is a very friendly and relaxing place, and it is very easy to just stay here and spend some time. If the weather is up for it – there is a bunch of beaches to choose from, and many good restaurants as well. Only downside, is that Danang is rather big to its area, so you need your own vehicle to go around (taxi is cheap so that is an alternative – but I always find it difficult using taxi when I am not really going anywhere specific).

View from our room on a sunny day

View from our room on a sunny day

View from our room on a rainy day

View from our room on a rainy day

The weeks we stayed here, in February, the weather did not invite us to long and lazy days on the beach (windy and around 18 degrees Celsius) so we rented a motorbike from the coffee-shop next door (100. 000 vdn/day) – and went for day trips to Hoi An – only 30 minutes away.

Hoi An - just like we remember it

Hoi An – just like we remember it

We visited Hoi An back in 2003 (before the heavy flooding) and remember it to be very beautiful and picturesque, a little bit like being in the middle of a Tin Tin album, so it was with mixed emotions we planned for the re-entry. But no reason to fear – a few km outside the city we start seeing all the tourists out on bicycle – and it was just to “follow the stream” into town. And the first sight f Hoi An was just as beautiful as we remembered it – with one difference – now the entire old city has turned into a huge tourist market with restaurants, tailor-shops, shoe-shops and art galleries in absolute every building.

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Tourist scam

And then we faced the tourist scam. On our first day we were approached for tourist scam 3 times: First scam: on the restaurant – it was really good, reasonable priced and we even told the lady in charge that we would come back – but when we were going to pay she would not give us the bill, just said the amount. First when we have asked for the menu several times to double check the prices on our food and drink, she gave us the written bill – with the correct amount  (about 60.000 vdn) below her first attempt.
Second scam: we had an ice-coffee in a normal Vietnamese coffee-corner, but when we paid, he “accidentally” forgot to give us change back on our 200.000 bill and pretends he only receive a 100.000 bill.
Third scam: on our way back we needed to fill petrol – and had to pay for the guest prior to us as well.

On our next visit, we had trouble on the restaurant – again! The bill was much higher than expected, but the price for each dishes was correct, but the sum at the end around 60.000 extra. What are we doing wrong????

When first visiting Hoi An we want to sit in an old building in the middle of the old city – it is partly because of that atmosphere we do our (daily) visits. For the rest of our visits we were more lucky – found restaurants serving good food – and  paid according to the prices in their menu

Going to the tailor

party smoking anyone???

party smoking anyone???

Hoi An is well known for all its tailors, and during our first day we stopped by at a small tailor shop to see what they offer and to get an idea of the price. Back in Danang we visited the markets, looked at the fabric on offer there and tried to find some English speaking persons making men clothes. Failure (a week later we realized we were at the wrong market). We started looking for tailor-shops out on the street, and when we finally found one that was open,  the price for a shirt (with same kind of fabric) was 40 US$ and 10 days for delivery compared to 17 US$ in Hoi An and ready within 1-2 days. So we went back to Hoi An and was met with a warm welcome at the same tailor–shop.

so many fabric to choose from

so many fabric to choose from

 

 

In total we paid 455 US$ for

  • 10 men shirts (long sleeve)
  • 3 women blouses (long sleeve)
  • 1 women top
  • 2 men suit-jackets
  • 1 woman suit-jacket (in wool)

3 days and 4 fittings later we could bring it all back. I red somewhere that it should be possible to buy men shirt for as low as 10 US$ – but we were very pleased with the price we got, taken into consideration that we agreed on the final designs together with the tailors, when it comes to colour on thread, button, fabric inside neck, pocket shape and placement etc.

What else???

We had daily biking trips around in Danang, Visited the Marble Mountain – actually better than expected, and when you got further away from the elevator it was more relaxed, no guides anymore stressing around you, only families having their picnic or sitting relaxing on a bench and looking at the beautiful flowers/garden/temples.

Dark Beer from Tulip

Dark Beer from Tulip

Tried also the Check brewery Tulip (after advice from the guy we rented motorbike from). Lovely cold, dark beer – at last the first one. The second glass was unfortunately a big disappointment, warm and without no freshness. As we forgot to take a table close to the bar we could not check if we were served fresh tapped beer each time.

 

 

Even if the weather did not invite for lazy sun-bathing days on the beach – it was still nice enough to sit on the pedestrian watching the sun-set, drinking freshly pressed sugar-cane lemonade. Or we had a good cup of coffee (7.000 vnd only) and a chat at our next door coffee-shop.

Danang Bay

Danang Bay

relaxing at Danang bay with freshy squeesed sucar-cane lemonade

relaxing at Danang bay with freshy squeesed sucar-cane lemonade

one of the Danang beaches

one of the Danang beaches

In Hoi An we also found a favorite spot, next to the old Japanese bridge was a simple and cheap café with plastic chair, where you could have some noodle lunch, a beer, or just a refreshing ice-coffee, while watching couples taking photos of themselves in front of the bridge.

Têt – its all about Flowers

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This is our memories from this years Têt celebration. Preparation and New Years Eve was celebrated in Phan Thiet including dinner with the hotel manager. The rest of Têt periode we spend in Saigon – with pure luxury at the old Rex hotel.

Mui Ne – more than the sand dunes?????

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for us this time, not really, as we stayed in Phan Thiet, and only visited the red sand dunes by local bus. Even though the white sand dunes might be more beautiful, the red ones are so much more easy to access, and since we arrive with the local bus, none bother to approach us for help and we could walk up into the red sand dunes all by ourselves.

This a quick glimpse of Phan Thiet

 

and Ke Ga in the south is also nice

“ice-cleam, ice-cleam”

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We have headed up to Da Nang, a very relaxed and friendly destination. For the first time since our Surin visit in November, we are hiring motor-bike again, and are enjoying ourselves cruising around. A sunny saturday we were headed towards the big statue on the Son Tra Peninsula. Many locals were going in the same direction, and we just followed them. Fantastic views, so we had to stop for some photo events. The statue was reached – and fast passed by – as none of the locals in front of us stopped. So we just continue as well. The view is just getting nicer and nicer, with plenty of empty beaches to the left. Would have been a perfect stop for a picnic or just relaxing on the beach, if we had brought any swimming suits with us. So we kept going on. Finally, the roads turned into a T-cross, and we had to choose direction.

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We turned left, and started our new adventure. Small, small winding road going upwards, in the beginning so steep that closing my eyes was appropriate (I was not our driver). Then getting used to the road quality, rather good actually, betong all the way, and stunning views. In each cross, we kept to the left (so it should be easy to remember how we get there when turning back). Met a few bikers on their way down, but mostly we’re on our own. And then we reached the first top, amazed that we could travel here, as we thought the area belong to the military. At the first top, some of the area was restricted with no trespassing, but we could continue moving forward and going even higher. On the next top, we noticed tourists up on a viewpoint, so we headed there, parked our bike, and started climbing. Up there we had time for a game of chess (?) before planning where to go next.

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Then we heard a very familiar and welcoming pling-pling sound. It was the icecream seller, on motorbike, coming the same way as we. P1040322

Everyone bought the cold and refreshing icecream cone for 20.000 vnd. We didn’t plan going so far and had not brought any cold drinks, so as this was a sunny day, his ice-cream offer was more than welcoming.

P1040318The road continued, and the ice-cream man confirmed that if we continued straight we would reach Danang. So we kept going, up, up and up – until we reached the next viewpoint – new positive surprise as a young couple has started a small drink & coffee stand here – and very reasonable priced. Refreshing ourselves, listening to the sounds from the jungle, was there maybe monkeys???? The Son Tra Peninsula is also called Monkey Mountain named after the monkeys living there. The way down to Danang from here was easy, since it now was a normal two-lane asphalt road.

The weather changes quickly, ad since this first Saturday it has been cloudy and rather cold. One late afternoon we went up to the top once more, but this time by the two-lane asphalt road. Just arrived to the top, then the fog came, and we could not see anything. But as quickly as it arrived, the fog disappeared again and we had a fantastic sunset view, but difficult to imagine that a few days earlier we were welcoming cold refreshments while we this day only wanted something hot ……

“same, same but different” – it is the same place but on two different occasions

We have also managed to make the drive through the Hai Van Mountain Pass. The history of this route is better described by another blogger, so read his story here. We enjoyed our ride, and when we watch the train going in and out of tunnels along the pass it felt that we had shrunk and became models in a huge Merchline Railway. Now we are waiting for a sunny day to arrive so we can repeat the trip once more.

At the end of the pass, is the small village of Lang Co, it looked so beautiful from a distance, but really difficult to travel through, specially since we arrived when the school closed for lunch and we found ourselves in the middle of all the bikes.

 

Below you can enjoy part our ride through the Hai Van Mountain Pass.

Happy Traveling & Happy Travelers :)

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But do we live as we learn??? Not always – but below is a few of our main rules (if they are followed)  the traveling both easy and happy 😉

  1. Do not create a massive travel plan with a very detailed agenda. Knowing the dates you should leave or enter the country is probably good enough + any idea of what direction you want to go.
  2. Do not travel long hours (except your first and last flight – usually there is no choice) We think the travel time (on the road) should not be more than 4-6 hours.
  3. Do not pre-book your stay for too many days – 2 days is recommended, then you will have time to test the “sleeping quality” of your pick and if not good enough, you have one day for looking around for a better choice. It is always easier to negotiate a good deal when you don’t carry all you luggage
  4. Book in advance to get comfortable seats (but not so long in advance that it is in conflict with Do-not-plan….

So how do we manage, do we travel according to this????

# Rule No 1 – partly failure?

Starting this trip in Thailand with already a fixed destination 3 weeks ahead, as we would meet up with friends in Kho Chang are not according to our “do-not-create-a-fixed-travel-plan”. On the other hand, that fixed date and destination gave us our direction and starting out in Pattaya we had plenty of destination to stop at (or skip) before we should be at Kho Chang.

While being in Kho Chang I read an add in Bangkok Post about the yearly Elephant Festival in Surin – staring in a few days – and I really, really wanted to go. Kho Chang is Eastern part of Thailand, so is Surin, but there were no short cuts to get there. So in order to make it we had to brake all our travel rules.

Since then we have been pretty good in following rule #No 1 – except that we missed our departure date out of Thailand with 2 days. Our next destination has been chosen to be a place reached within 4-6 hours by bus, we have not had any “MUST-GO-TO” or any dates we need to be at a certain place.

# Rule No 2 – partly failure?

Going from Kho Chang to Surin made us break this rule several time. As we didn’t want to spend 12-15 hours on a direct bus (or more or less direct) we decided to go via Bangkok and then continue some days later by VIP bus or train. As we had difficulties finding out if any VIP buses left in day-time, we decided to go by train, but both our travel days (Kho Chang via Trat to Bangkok and Bangkok to Surin) really extended our recommended (total) travel time of 4-6 hours. For the rest of the time in Thailand we then managed to keep traveling time short(er).

In Vietnam we could not stick to our recommendation when going to Dalat. First of all we did not find any suitable destination half-way between HCMC to Dalat to spend a night or two at, train did not exist, flying seem unnecessary expensive so it has to be bus – even if we know beforehand that it means an 8 hours (which in reality probably could be more) long bus drive

Since then we have managed pretty well to not exceed the  6-hours-travel-time

# Rule No 3 – major failure?

Do not pre-book you stay too many nights, sounds so easy and still so easy to forget thanks to good booking systems like agoda. Starting our trip very well, a couple of nights booked on the place in Pattaya with high review score on agoda (needed a few extra days to sleep out the jet-leg). Since we liked the hotel (actually it was a one-bedroom studio) very much, we extended the stay several times, but only a few days at the time – all according to our rules (so far so good).

When entering Kho Chang we did not book anything, as we were unsure if we will go directly from Pattaya or spend one night in Trat, and it was low season, and therefore normally no big issue finding a place to stay. We found the place we had checked out, first night we had to take a small room in the annex building (smelled very much of smoke), even if we were promised a better room the day after we were not sure if it was worth staying. But sleeping quality was good as the place were very quite and the included breakfast was also good, we decided to stay. When our next room was one of the better, on a corner with hill top view – we quickly made a one week reservation, and after some days we extended it to additional weeks (but at the end we checked out earlier than planned due to our Surin destination) Still according to the rules – sleep a night or two to check out the sleeping quality before extending your reservation.

On our way to Surin we got 3-4 days in Bangkok – no reason to shop around for better hotel, so all days pre-booked, and in Surin – due to the festival – we had to pre-book in order to get any room at all.

And for the rest of our stay in Thailand – we pre-booked all our rooms for 4 to 7 days.

Moving on to Vietnam we started pre-booking 6 nights in HCMC – even thought we now by experience that you get the best deals by walking around. But we were arriving pretty late and wanted to be sure, but quite stupid of us to pre-book 6 nights (special since we did not find our hotel extremely fantastic). In Dalat we also pre-booked, 3 days (again a stupid number of days as we had decided to try to stay long time), we were arriving pretty late, and wanted to have an address for the bus company to drop us off. Our first choice was a disaster, but our next (found by walk-in) was a nice one.

Next destination Nha Trang, and we were arriving close to New Year – starting out with 2 nights of pre-booking (= very good) but as the hotel was fully booked after that we got slightly panic (asked around for a couple of hotels in the close neighbourhood and they were all fully booked the coming weeks as well) so when they received a cancellation we made an extra week reservation immediately  (before trying out the sleeping quality). Again terrible experience – the hotel, location, room size and room interior was nice, but that doesn’t help when it is so noisy around you with only a couple of quiet hours during night.

# Rule No 4 – accomplished

Due to the fact that we almost have no dates we need to follow, we normally knows a few days before when it is time to move on, and since we are flexible we always close the date&time where we can be seated in front. If they do not have any good seat available for our chosen dates, we try the day after or we try at a different company – or in worst case we decide to go somewhere else.

All in all I think we mostly manage to travel happily 🙂

Where will we sleep tonight????

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…..was the question asked when sitting on the bus from Nha Trang.

For the third time on this trip we used the same bus company (Phuong Troung) but the services provided from their Nha Trang office was not the best (so far). We wanted to go to Mui Ne or Phan Thiet but the first girl said they had no buss, we had to buy the HCMC ticket and be dropped off on the road. No problem, bus ticket to HCMC cost only 220.000vdn so we accepted, then we were aksed to buy the ticket at an other counter. At this counter it was now possible to buy ticket to Phan Thiet for 155.000 vdn but when we asked where the bus will stop it was not so easy to get a straight answer. At least we understood it will not stop at the Phan Thiet bus station, but at the bus company office, but when we asked about the address to that office, the answer was ” don’t know”. Anyhow – it can not be that far off – so a taxi drive into where we would stay are probably available to a reasonable price.

On our ticket it now says Phan Thiet. On the ticket backside the different addresses of the bus companies offices were listed, and there it was a Mui Ne address. When we were on the bus the luggage guy / conductor asked where we were going, and we said Mui Ne. But when we were getting closer the same luggage guy / conductor was sleeping very hard and our bus did not turn left into Mui Ne. No worries, then it will stop at their Phan Thiet office instead, but when arriving to Phan Thiet it did not turn here either. The conductor was still sleeping so we have to shout to the bus driver to stop. So off we go in the middle of the road outside Phan Thiet………

As we had no pre-booked hotel it was ok, a xe-om into town and to the hotels at the beach. We had stayed in this area once before so we know what to expect – except that our first choice was fully booked during Têt- holiday (starting around a week from now). The next day we went with the local bus to Mui Ne to check-out some hotel / guest house choices there as well. But prices have increased dramatically so we did not think any of the available places we checked out gave enough value for money. So we are still in Phan Thiet – but do not know for how long we actually can stay – and maybe we will end up travelling again in the middle of Têt-Holiday………….but for a couple of nights we are happy staying where we are – at a somewhat old beach hotel with majority of vietnamese guest (and many Karaoke parties entertaining the whole hotel)

Leaving Nha Trang

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……..and we will probably not come back!!! Why – didn’t we like it???? Oh yea – we wouldn’t have stayed almost 4 weeks if we didn’t like it, but now it is time to try something else, and next time we want to enjoy a Beach&City we will try another spot – looking at the map of Vietnam it must be plenty of nice, undiscovered places to explore………

Below some of our images from our stay – all in all we have enjoyed it – otherwise we would of course have left much earlier.  (click on any of the images to open the gallery)

On the last day I’ll try to make a quick sum-up of our stay – and its ups and downs.

Why choose Nha Trang???

  • Nice climate (at last in January) around 25 degree celsius with easy breeze and slightly clouded
  • Extremely beautiful beaches (and surprisingly clean as well)
  • Extremely beautiful parks next to the Beach
  • Long and nice beach walk way (between the beach and the parks)
  • Nice combination of Beach & City as well as pleasant mix of Tourist & Local Vietnamese life
  • Good (western) restaurant – we have had many really nice Italian, French and Russian meals
  • Good beer with the Louisiana microbrewery
  • Good coffee and many nice cafées to enjoy it at – reasonable priced
  • Good (and cheap) sea-food
  • Easy to travel within the city by local bus – 5000 vdn per trip
  • Fun things to do – we enjoyed our Vinpearl day as well as our day in the Thapa Mud bath

Why skip Nha Trang???

  • Kind of “unfriendly” feeling between many of the locals and the tourists
  • Traffic – a completely lack of traffic rule and a common understanding of how to help each other
  • No room for pedestrians in the traffic – why must all mopedist turn in exactly in front of you when walking???? And all mopeds be parked in double lines in front of shops/restaurants so that it is impossible to find your way in???
  • Tourist prices on food and drink on too many places (i.e. as tourist you are charged more than the locals for the same food and drink)
  • Noisy – everywhere it is construction works going on
  • Low internet capacity all over town

Many choose Nha Trang due to all the surrounding Islands and nice snorkeling & diving – but the weather has not made it possible for us to try. Too windy and too heavy waves every day. But thanks to that we have not seen any water sports either, so what we lose on underwater life we win on quiet beach life.