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Sapa Mountain Retreat 2 nights victoria resort
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Price from: 12.380.000 VND ~ $619.00

Da Nang

Da Nang

0511 . pop 1,100,000

Back in the heady days of the American War, DaNang was often referred to as the “Saigon of the North”. This held a note of both praise and condemnation - like its big sister to the south, Danang was notable for its booming economy, fien restaurants, busy traffic and glittering shops. Entertaining the military was also a profitable business – bars and prostitution were major industries, and that legasy lingers. As in Saigon , corruption also ran rampant. Liberation arrived in 1975, promptly putting a sizeable dent in the city’s economy. Vietnam’s recent economic liberalisation has helped Danang get back on its feet and the city is undergoing a huge programme of renovation and infrastructure development. At present is rather resembles a massive construction site. Hopefully most of the public works will be finished bythe time you read it.

Danang is Vietnam’s fourth-largest city. It also marks the northern limits of Vietnam’s tropical zone and boast a pleasant climate all year round: nearby Hue is much colder in winter. Travellers pass through Danang when they visit the Museum of Cham Sculture and also to make transport connections. Most people prefer to stay in Hoi An or out at nearby China Beach, though if all the hotels in Hoi An are full you may need to stay in Danang.

History

Danang, known during the Frech-colonial rule as Tourane, succeeded Hoi An as the most important port in central Vietnam during the 19th century.

In late March 1975, Danang, which is the second-largestcity in South Vietnam, was the scene of utter chaos. Saigon government forces were ordered to abandon Hue, while Quang Ngai had fallen to the communists, cutting South Vietnam in two. Desperate civilians tried to flee the city, as soldiers of the disintegrating South Vietnamese army engaged in an orgy of looting, pillage and rape. On 29 March 1975, two truckloads of communist guerrillas, more than half of them women, drove into what had been the most heavily defended city South Vietnam and, without firing a shot, declared Danang “liberated”.

Almost the only fighting that took place as Danang fell was between South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians battling for space on flights and ships out of the city. On 27 March, the president of World Airways, Ed Daly, ignored explicit US government orders and sent two 727s from Saigon to Danang to evacuate refugees. When the first plane landed, about a thousand desperate and panicked people mobbed the tarmac. Soldiers fired assault rifles at each other and at the plane as they tried to shove their way  through the rear door. As the aircraft taxied down the runway trying to take off, people climbed up into the landing-gear wells and someone threw a hand grenate, damaging the right wing.

Those who managed to fight their way abroad, kicking and punching aside anyone in their way, included over 200 soldiers, mostly members of the elite (Vietnamese) Black Panthers company. The only civilians on board were two women and one baby-and the baby was only there after being thrown abroad by its desperate mother who was left on the tarmac. Several of the stowaways in the wheel wells couldn’t hold on and, as the plane flew southwards, TV cameras on the second 727 filmed them falling into the South China Sea.

Orientation

Danang is on the western bank of the Han River. The eastern bank is accessible via the new Song Han Bridge or Nguyen Van Troi Bridge further south. The city is part of a long, thin panisula, at the northern tip of which is Nui Son Tra (called Monkey Montain by US soldiers). A newish road is gradually circling Nui Son Tra, and it’s slowly opening to tourism. China Beach and the Marble Mountains lie south of the city and Hai Van Pass overlooks Danang from the north.

Information

Money There’s a branch of Vietcombank (140 Duong Le Loi) near the corner of D Hai Phong. It’s the only place in town that will change travellers cheques. The VID PublicBank (2 duong Tran Phu) and the Danang Commercial Joint Stock Bank, just across Duong Hung Vuong from Dana Tours, will also change money.

Email & Internet Access There is plenty of Internet access in Danang, including a gaggle of Internet cafe on Duong Tran Quoc Toan, between Duong Yen Bai and Duong Nguyen Chi Thanh.

Travel Agencies If you need to organise tours, transport and tickets head for Dana Tour (tel 822516, fax 821312; danamarle@dng.vnn.vn, 76 D Hung Vuong), Danang’s main tour agency. It has an enlightened attitude compared with most of the state-run agencies and so is a good place to ask about tours. it will also organise car rentals, boat trips, visa extensions and treks to the nearby Ba Na hill station or further afield to Bach Ma National Park.

Truong Van Trong’ Tour (tel 0903597971; trongn59@yahoo.com) offers sighseeing with a diffirence. Trong conducts tours of the central highlands by motorbike, one-way motorbike tours to Hanoi or HCMC, or day tours from Danang. He and his co-bikers between them speak good English, French, Japanese, German and Italian and they get good raves from travllers.

Medical Services There are four hospitals in town. Hospital C (Benh vien C, tel 822480; 35 Duong Hai Phong) is Danang’s most advanced medical facility.

Visas There is a Lao Consulate (12 Duong Tran Qui Cap, open 8am-11.30am & 2pm-4.30pm Mon-Fri) at the northern end of town.

There is a talk of a Thai Conulate opening when the direct Vietnam-Laos-Thailand road link id finished; check current details when you’re in town.

Museum of Cham Sculpture

The best sigh in Danang city has to be the Museum of Cham Sculpture (Cham Museum, Bao tang Cham; Duong Trung Nu Vuong & Duong Bach Dang; admission 20,000d; open 7am-5pam daily). Founded in 1915 by the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient, this collection of Cham Sculpture is the finest in the world. Many of the sandstone carvings (altars, lingas, garudas, ganeshas, and images of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu) are exquisitely detailed; take time to look closely.

A trilingual guidebook about the museun, Bao tang Dieu khac Cham Da Nang (Museum of Cham Sculpture-Danang) was written by its director, Tran Ky Phuong Vietnam’s most eminent scholar of Cham civilization. The book provides excellent background on the art of Champa; it also includes details on the museum’s exhibits. The book is usually on sale at the entrance. Guides wait at the entrance to offer their services. If you do decide to take a guide, agree on a price before you begin.

The museum’s artefacts, which date from 7th to 15th centuries, were discovered at Dong Duong (Indrapura), Khuong My, My Son, Tra Kieu (Simhapura), Thap Mam (Binh Dinh)her sites, mostly in Quang Nam and Danang provinces. The museum’s rooms are named after the localities in which the objects displayed in them were found.

The four scenes carved around the base of the 7th century Tra Kieu Altar tell parts of the Ramayana epic amd are influenced by the Amaravati style of South India. Scene A (16 characters) tells the story of Prince Rama, who broke the sacred bow (Rudra)at the Citadel of Videha, thus winning the right to wed King Janak’s daughter, Princess Sita.

Scene B (16 characters) shows the ambassadors sent by King Janakto Price Rama’s father, King Dasaratha, at Ayodhya. The emissaries inform King Dasaratha of his son’s exploits, presnt him with gifts and invite him to Videha to celebrate the wedding.

Scene C (18 chracters) shows the royal wedding ceremony (including three of Prince Rama’s brothers, who are marrying three of Princess Sita’s cousins).

In Scene C, 11 heavently maidens (apsaras) dance and present flowers to the newlyweds under the guidance of the two gandhara musicians who appear at the beginning of Sence A.

Danang Cathedral

Known to locals asCon Ga Church (Rooster Church) because of the weathercock on top of the steeple, Danang Cathedral (Chinh Toa Danang; D Tran Phu) was built for the city’s French residents in 1923. Today, it serves a Catholic community of 4000. The cathedral’s candy-pink architecture is interesting,as are the medieval-style stained-glass windows of variuos saints.

Next door to the cathedral are the offices of the diocese of Danang and the St Paul Convent. About 100 nuns – who wear white habits in summer, black in winter – divide their time between here and another convent building across the Han River.

Masses are usually held from Monday to Saturday at 5am and 5pm, and on Sunday at 5am, 6.30 am and 4.30pm.

Caodai Temple

Built in 1956, Caodai Temple (Thanh That Cao Dai; D Hai Phong), is the largest such structure outside the sect’s headquarters in Tay Ninh (see the Around Ho Chi Minh City Chapter). There are 50,000 Caodais in Quang Nam and Danang provinces – 20,000 in Danang itself. The temple is across the street from Hospital C. As with all Caodai temples, prayers are held four times a day at 6am, noon, 6pmand midnight.

The left-hand gate to the complex, marked nu phai, is for women; the right-hand gate, marked nam phai, is for men. The doors to the sanctuary are also segre-gated: wome to the left, men to the right and priests of either sex through the central door. Behind the main altar sits an enormous globe with the “divine eye”, a symbol of Caodaism, on it.

A sign reading van giao nhat ly, which mean “all religions have the same reason”, hangs from the ceiling in front of the altar. Behind the gilded letters is a picture of the founders of five of the world’d great religions. From left to righ they are: Mohammed; Laotse (wearing blue robes cut in style of the Greek Orthodox); Jesus (portrayed as he is in French icons); Buddha (who has a distinctly Southeast Asian Appearance); and Confucius (looking as Chinese as could be).

Portraits of early Caodai leaders, dreesed in turbans and white robes, are displayed in the building behind the main sanctuary. Ngo Van Chieu, the founder of Caodaism, is shown standing, wearing a pointed white turban and a long white robe with blue markings.

Pagodas

Phap Lam Pagoda (Chua Phap Lam; opposite 373 D Ong Ich Khiem) is also known as Chua Tinh Hoi. Built in 1936, this pagoda has a brass statue of Dia Tang, the King of Hell, near the entrance. Several monks live here.

The main building of Tam Bao Pagoda (Chua Tam Bao; 253 D Phan Chu Trinh) is topped with a five-tiered tower. Only a few monks live at this large pagoda, which was built in 1953.

Pho Da Pagoda (Chua Pho Da; across from 293 D Phan Chu Trinh) was built in 1923 in a traditional architectural configuration. Today, about 40 monks, most of them young, live and study here. Local people and their children participate actively in the pagoda’s lively religious life.

Ho Chi Minh Museum

There are three sections to the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Around Danang map; Bao Tang Ho Chi Minh; D Nguyen Van Troi; open 7am-11am and 1.30pm-4.30pm daily). There’s a museum of military history in front of which American, Soviet and Chinese weaponry is diaplayed; a replicea of Ho Chi Minh’s house in HaNoi (complete with a small lake); and across the pond from the house, a museum about Uncle Ho.

The replica house is a must-see for anyone who won’t make it to the bone fidestilt house in Hanoi (or to one of the other many reproductions scattered throughout the country).

The museum is 250m west of D Nui Thanh.

Boating

The Thuy Tu River north of Danang (near Hai Van pass) has clean water and is good for boating. Soma boats leave from the village of Nam O, which is famous for nuoc mam. There is another local specially here called goi ca, which is fresh, raw fish fillets marinated in a special sauce and coated in a spicy powder – something like Vietnamese sushi. There are also sandy river beaches here that are fine for swimming. See Nam O Beach in the Around Danang section.

Yoy might also ask about night cruises on the Han River in Danang; there’s a cruising restaurant moored opposite the Museum of Cham Sculpture.

Swimming

An enormous water park (admission 5000d open 9am-9pm Wed-Mon) opened in early 2002 and it’s on the riverbank, 1km beyondthe Ho Chi MinhMuseum.

Don’t even think about swimming in the run-down public pool by Danang stadium unless you can protect every orifice in your body and have the constitution of an ox.

Places to stay

The folloing places are clusterd around central and northen Danang. They range from standard-for-the-price, to very ordinary, to extremely dumpy for the price. If you don’t like what you’re being offered, shop around; the list given here is quite extensive. At busy times in Hoi An, Danang becomes the overflow accommodation centre and you may have no choice but to stay here.

For information on accommodation at My Khe and China Beaches, see Around Danang section.

Places to Stay – Budget & Mid-Range

There’s a group of budget hotels located at the northern tip of Danang Peninsula. The adjacent cargo shipping terminal is a bit of an eyesore, but it’s quieter then the traffic clogged city centre about 2km to the south. It’s also a fair old hike into town, or to the waterfront to eat. The town is noisy, but traffic dies right off from about 9pm to 6am; it is possible to sleep if you’re not next to one of the zillion karaoke bars in town.

Danang Hotel – Old Wing (tel 823258; 3 D Dogn Da; rooms with fan/air-con US$5/7) remains a total dump. The building was built in the late 1960s to house US military personnel and it hasn’t seen much improvement since. Rooms are spartan and grubby.

Danang Hotel – New Wing (tel 834662, fax 823431; air-con rooms US$16-40) hasn’t ages well, but it is slightly better than the old wing. Both are slated for refurbishment, so fingers crossed.

Harmony Hotel (tel 829146, fax 829145; 20 D Dong Da; air-con rooms from US$15) is just about ok. You’ll need earplugs.

More towards town, Bank’s Guest House (Nha khach Ngan Hang; tel 821090; 195 D Dong Da; fan rooms from US$ 5) is a decent enough budget place for the price.

Guest House 34 (Nha Nghi 34, tel 822732; 34 D Bach Dang; fan/air-con rooms US$ 5/7) is the best value in town. A few basic, clean rooms are set around a quite garden courtyard on the waterfront; air-con rooms have hot water, fan ones have cold.

Dai A Hotel (tel 827532, fax 825760; 27 D Yen Bai; rooms from US$ 15) is an all air-con place; it’s fine, but there are newer, quieter places for the same price.

Binh Duong Mini Hotel (tel 821930, fax 827666; 30-32 D Tran Phu, air-con rooms US$ 15-30) is a standard minihotel that has good-sized rooms. It’s on a relatively central and quiet road.

Hoa Sne Hotek (tel 824505, fax 829001; 101-105 D Hung Vuong; rooms US$ 15-40), relatively close to the traun station, is just a few blocks from Con Market (Cho Con). It’s a newer minihotel but the cheaper rooms are windowless and gloomy. The lobby walls are decorated with provocative quotations.

Song Han Hotel (tel 822540, fax 821109; 36 D Bach Dang; rooms US$ 16-55), right on the Han River, offers good views. It’s OK for the cheaper price.

Bach Dang Hotel (tel 823649, fax 821659; bdhotel@dng.vnn.vn; 50 D Bach Dang; rear/river-view rooms US$18/50) is a large place that boats river views from the upper-floor rooms. The huge, cheaper rooms are at the back, where it’s quieter.

Thu Bon Hotel (tel 821101, fax 822854; 10 D Ly Thuong Kiet; air-con rooms US$ 20-30)is an OK older place. There are some quite rooms with small balconies at the back, and the prices include satellite TV and breakfast.

Elegant Hotel (tel 892893, fax 835179; elegant@dng.vnn.vn; 22A D Bach Dang; rooms from US$60) lives up to its name and many rooms have river views. You can expect 30% off the rack rates, when there’s availability.

Saigon Tourane Hotel (tel 821021, fac 895285; sgtouran@dng.vnn.vn; 14A D Tran Qui Cap & 5 D Dong Da; rooms US$ 60-150), close to the top of top-ens accommodation in Danang, is a stylish place. Rates for well-appointed rooms include tax, service and breakfast; walk-in room rates can drop to ad little US$28, which is a great deal. There is a pleasant roof-top terrace restaurant overlooking the river.

Royal Hotel (823295, fax 827279; royalhotel@dng.vnn.vn; 17 D Quang Trung; rooms from US$55) is a three-star, stylish hotel with an in-house Japanese restaurant. It’s on a quietish road.

Bamboo Green Riverside (tel 832591, fax 832593; riversidets@dng.vnn.vn; 68 D Bach Dang; rooms US$55-1200, also with river views, is good, and offer a standard 30% discount off the rack rates.

Bamboo Green Harbourside (tel822722, fax 824165; bamboogreen@dng.vnn.vn; 177 D Tran Phu; single/double US$ 35/40) is a new place conveniently located near the centre of town, across the road from Danang Cathedral. It’s good value if you’re offered the walk-in-rate US$25.

Daesco Hotel (tel 892807, fax 892988; daescohotel@dng.vnn.vn; 155 D Tran Phu; rooms US$ 35-70), a standard business hotel, has facilities such as a fitness centre with sauna (and steam bath), bar and restaurant.

Places to Eat

Christie’s Restaurant (tel 824040, fax 829323, fax 826645; christies@hotmail.com; 112 D Tran Phu, pasta from 20,000d; open 10am-10pm daily) is a 2nd-storey bar-restaurant that serves passable burgers, pizza, pasta, and Japanese and Vietnamese food. There is a smaill, mastly Japanese, book exchange.

Hong Ngoc Restaurant (193 D Nguyen Chi Thanh) is a fine and busy Chinese restaurant.

As is Phi Lu Restaurant (225 D Nguyen Chi Thanh; meals from 20,000d; open lunch and dinner), which doesn’t have a great atmosphere, but it does excellent Chinese food.

Hanakim Dinh restaurant (15 D Bach Dang; dishes around 40,000d), a Japanese joint venture, is a riverside restaurant and bar with an extensive food and cocktail menu, and pleasant outdoor seating.

Mi Quang Restaurant (1A D Hai Phong), near the Caodai Temple, is a popular lunch place serving filling and good bowls of mi quang – yellow noodle soup with salad greens stirred through it.

Com Chay Chua Tinh Hoi (500 D Ong Ich Khiem; dishes around 3000d; open 6am-10pm daily) is cited by locals as the best vegeteriant food in town; it’s just inside the entrance gate to the Phap Lam Pagoda. There are more vegie places in the streets outside the pagoda.

Bamboo Bar (tel 837175; bamboo_dn@dng.vnn.vn, 5 D Bach Dang) is a rustic riverside place that is a good spot to enjoy drinks, a game of pool or some pub grub on the outdoor terrace. The friendly owners here speak English, French and German, and can help organise boat tours and motobike rentals.

Near the Bamboo Bar, two other placeds serving Vietnamese, Chinese and Western dishes in a great location on the river are Mien Trung (9 D Bach Dang) and Thoi Dai (tel 826404; 5 D Bach Dang).

Entertainment

Traditional Vietnamese music  and dance is performed at the Ngueyn Hien Dinh Theater (cnr D Le Hong Phong & D Phan Chu Trinh; admission 20,000d; 7.30am Fri, Sat & Sun) a new in 2002 venture.

The Cool Spot Bar is below Christie’s Restaurant. It’s comfortable and has air-con, but is decidedly lacking in atmosphere and service.

Shopping

Han Market (Cho Han; cnr Hung Vuong & D Tran Phu) usually stays open late and is a fien place for a casual stroll or to shop in the evenings.

The Con Market (Cho Con) is Danang’s largets, but functions mostly during the day. This huge, colourful market has a selection of just about everything sold in Vietnam including household items, ceramics, stationery, cultery, fruit, flowers and polyester clothes.

Getting there and away

Air During the Aemrican War, Danang had one of the busiest airport in the world. It still distinguishes itself by having one of Vietnam’s three international airport. Recently direct flights from Bangkok, HongKong and Singapore were re-established . Most international flights from Danang fly via HCMC so you can complete your immigration and customs formalities in Danang.

Vietnam Airlines (tel 821130; 35 D Tran Phu) has an extensive schedule to/from Danang (see the bosboxed text “Domestic Airline Schedule” in the Getting Aroung chaptter).

Pacific Airline (tel 583583; 35 Nguyen Van Linh; open 9am-5pm daily) flies from Danang to HongKong.

Bus The Danang intercity bus station (Around Danang map; Ben Xe khach Danang; open 7am-11am & 1pm-5pm) is about 3km from the city centre on the thoroughfare known, at various points along its length, as D Hung Vuong, D Ly Thai To and D Dien Bien Phu. There is an efficient ticket office for long-distance services, just inside the bus station, with prices clearly marked.

First/last services leave for Hanoi at 6am and 8am (87,000d); for Saigon at 5.30am and 2pm (104,000d); for Hue at 5.30amand 5pm (22,000d).

You can book and board buses here for Savanakhet in Laos, via Dong Ha and the Lao Bao boder crossing (see Border Crossings in the getting There and Away Chapter ). Presently buses leave the interchange Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 7pm (120,000d) but this may change.

Hoi An buses (10,000d) go from a local busstation 200m away from the bus interchange, and leave regularly in daylight hours.

Minibus Most travellers prefer to stay in HOi An rather than Danang, so Hoi An has better minibus services. Nevertheless, it is possible to get a seat on an upmarket minibus in Danang. Check at the Bamboo Bar for information ont he minibuses to Hue and Nha Trang.There is also dailyminibus service between Danang and Hoi An. The bus leaves Danang at 8am and return at 5pm (US$3/5.50 one way/return) depending on the demand (it always requires a minimum of four passengers).

Train Danang is , of course , served by all Reunificaiton Express trains (see the Train section in the Getting Around chapter) and there are several trains daily to HCMC, Hanoi and point between.

The Danang train station (Ga Da Nang) is about 1.5km from the city centre on D Hai Phong, at the northern end of D Hoang Hoa Tham. The train ride to Hue (20,000d) is one of the nicest in the country (although the drive up and over Hai Van Pass is also spectacular).

Northbound, the quickest train takes about 31/4 hours to reach Hue and leaves at 6.15am; the local train leaves at 2.20pm and take about 6 hours. Watch your belongings as you pass through the pitch-black tunnels.

Car & Motorbike The simplest way to get to Hoi An is to hire a car for around US$10 from a local travel agency, or a motorbike for around US$8 from one of the guys on the street corners. For a slightly higher fee you can ask the driver to stop off and wait for you, while you visit the Marble Mountains and China Beach. You can also reach My Son by motorbike (US$12) or car (US$35), with the option of being dropped off in Hoi An on the way back if you don’t wish to return to Danang.

The following are road distance from Danang:

Hanoi                                       764km

Ho chi Minh city                      972km

Hoi An                                     30km

Hue                                         108km

Lao Bao                                   350km

Nha Trang                               541km

Quang Ngai                             130km

Qui Nhon                                 303km

Savanakhet, Lao                     500km

Getting Around

To/From Airport Danang’s airport is just 2km west of city centre, close enogh to reach by cyclo in 15mins.

Cyclo & Motorbike Danang has plenty of motorbike taxis and cyclo drivers; take the usual caution and be prepared to bargainthe fare.

Self-drive motorbike can be rented at the Bamboo Bar.

Taxi Both Airprot Taxi (tel 825555) and Dana Taxi (tel 815815) provide morden vehicles with air-con and meters.

Boat Inquire at the Bamboo Bar about chartered boat trips in the area.

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