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Around Danang

Around Danang

tel 0511

Nui Son Tra

Much of Son Tra peninsula is a military and naval base, and is therefore off limits. However there’s a nice rural road partway around the coast, a very low-key beach area and memorial to an episode of colonial history that aren’t.

Spanish-led Filipino and French troops attacked Danang in August 1858, ostensibly to end Emperor Tu Duc’s mistreatment of Vietnamese Catholics and Catholic missionaries. The city quickly fell, but the invaders had to contend with cholera, dysentery, scurvy, typhus and mysteriuos fevers. By the summer of 1859, the number of

invaders that had died of illness was 20 times the number that had been killed in combat. many of the tombs of the Spanish and French soldiers are below a chapel (Bai Mo Phap Va Ta Ban Nha; Around Danang map) about 15km north of the city. The names of the dead are written on the walls.

To get there, cross the Song Han bridge and turn left onto D Ngo Quyen. Continue north to Tien Sa Port (Cang Tien Sa). The assuary, a small white building, stands on the right on a low hill, about 500m before the gate of the port and below the chapel.

The sheltered Tien Sa Beach, behind the port and the chapel, is quiet and calm and with clear water. It’s nice for a swim if you can ignore the picnic litter on the sand, and there are great views across to the Hai Van Pass. Several tourist bungalow were beng built when we visited, and more are planned; hopefully it won’t become overdeveloped.

Heading east around the coast you’ll notice the nuoc mam factories: you might not see them, but you’ll certainly smell them! After a few bumpy kilometres you come to the beachside settlement of Bai But. It’s a rather strange place of low-key, tiny bungalows (50,000-100,000s) that dot the hillside above the beach and look great, but are basic inside-take a sleeping mat if you choose to stay – and a few ugly restaurant, set in a placid and gorgeous bay. It’s a nice spot to while away an hour or so.

Nam O Beach

Nam O Beach is on the Bay of Danang about 15km northwest of the city. The smaill community of Nam O has supported itself for yesars by producing firecrackers. Unfortunately, since the ban on firecrackers by the goverment in 1995, the community has fallen on hard times. However, the resourceful locals have recently gone into making nuoc mam instead – and while it;s not as profitable as firecrackers, it’s better than nothing.

China Beach

made famous in the American TV series of the same nam, China Beach stretches for many kilometres north and south of the Marble Mountains. During the American War, US solders were airlifted here for rest and relaxation (R& R), which often included a picnic on the Beach, For some, it was their last meal before their return to combat by helicopter.

The Jumbo beach stretches some 30 km south from Son Tra almost all the way to Hoi An, It has become a very popular sea side escape for both domestic and foreign tourists, and is now home to one of Vietnam’s plushest resort hotels.

Thought the entire stretch of ocean front here is collectively known as China Beach, It is worth nothing that the name is a recent creation. The Beachfront is, in fact, divided into sections, each with its own local name.

The most populated areas are My Khe Beach ( Bai Tam My Khe), where the Americans did most of their R&R, and the tract of seashore by the Non Nuoc Seaside Resort. Expect an onslaught of vendors flogging “china Beach” baseball caps, woodcarvings of Buddha, Jade bracelets, new antiques and other tourist paraphernalia, but there are plenty of other peaceful, secluded areas to explore along the coastline.

Many people insist that My Khe Beach was the real China Beach of wartime fame and that the present China Beach is a fake. My Khe is about 6km by road from central Danang. The Beach has a dangerous undertow, especially in winter. However, it is safer than the rest of China Beach – The bulk of Son Tra Mountain protects it from winds that cause rough surf.

The best time for swimming along Danang’s beaches is from May to July, when the sea is at its calmest. During other times the water can get rough; lifeguards patrol only Non Nuoc, My An and sometime My Khe Beaches, Ironically, the Dangerous winter condition go hand in hand with large breakers, which are ideal for surfingassuming that you know what you’re doing. The surf can be very good from around mid september to December, particularly in the morning when wind conditions are right. In December 1992, China Beach was the site of the first international serfing competition to be held in Vietnam.

Places to Stay & Eat

A cavernous Soviet Built place, Non Nuoc seaside Resort ( Tel: 836214 Fax: 936335, singles/double with fan US$6/12,rooms with air-con US$11-18) is essentially an old concrete block. Rooms are nothing to write home about, but it’s cheap and within crawling distance of the beach. It’s quite surreal and nice to rattle around the enormous property when it’s quite, but check that there isn’t a busy conference on while you’re there. there’s a wast, ocean view restaurant there, too.

Dong Hai Seaside Resort ( Tel: 961009 Cottages US$ 7) is on the way to the Non Nuoc Seaside Resort. It has very basic rooms in cute little brick cottages, and you can eat at restaurants on the Beach or on the nearby laneway.

My Khe Beach Hotel (Tel: 836125, fax 836123; Single/double from US$10/12) is another cheap sport right on the Beach, although it is ageing and badly needs refurbishing. At the time of writing a new wing was almost complete. There’s a good Restaurant here as well, which offers friendly service, and donates 10% of its proceeds to a local charity.

Tourane Hotel (Tel: 932666, Fax 844328: Email: touranehotel@dng.vnn.vn From US$25 – 40), absolutely no relation to the plush Saigon Tourane in Twon, is jest across the road from the beach and has aged quickly and become tatty, at the time of writing, however, it was due for major renovations.

Furama Resort Danang (Tel: 847333 Fax: 847666 Email: furamadn@dng.vnn.vn; rooms US$160-400++) Is Danang’ luxury hotel. In fact, it’s Vietnam’s Luxury hotel. Perched on its own private slice of China Beach, this stylish resort feafures a diving facility, a putt-putt golf range and two landscaped swimming pools. If you can’t afford more than a taste of luxury, day – use of the stunning grounds, pools and fitness centre is available for US$ 10++

My Khe beach is the place to go for seafood, A short walk north of tourane Hotel, and south of My Khe Beach Hotel, are two strings of seafood Restaurants with open decks overlooking the ocean.

Getting there & away To get to My Khe Beach from central Danang, Cross the Song Han Bridge and head toward the sea. A xe om can take you, and wait for a couple of hours or so, for about US$ 2.

To rach the Non Nuoc Seaside Resort by private transport, head towards the Marble Mountains and turn left into Non Nuoc Hamlet, follow the road and look for the signs to Non Nuoc Seaside Resort. Then take the track through the casuarina trees.

Marble Mountains

These mountains (admission 10,000d) consist of five sizeable rock outcrops that are made of ...Marble.

Each is said to represent a natural element and is named accordingly: Thuy Son (Water), Moc Son (Wood), Hoa Son (Fire), Kim Son (metal or Gold) and Tho Son (Earth). The largest and most famous, Thuy Son, has anumber of natural caves in which first Hindu, and later Buddhist, sanctuaries have been build over the centuries. Thuy Son is a popular pilgrimage site, especially on days of the full and sliver moons and during Tet, when its’ a very beautiful place to visit.

 A torch (flashlight) is useful inside the caves, local children have learned that forwigners buy souverirs and leave tips for unsolicited guided tours, so you are not likely to begin your visit aline, and Watch your wallets! The local government adopted a regulation (which it sternly enforces) that the children cannot take tips, but can sell you souverirs. This seems counterproductive; most travellers would rather tip the kids for the guided tours than buy the crappy souvenir. In general, the kids are good natured, if extremely persitent, and some of the caves are difficult to find without their assistance.

Of the two paths leading up Thuy Son, the one closer to the beach (at the end of the village) makes for a better circuit once you get up the top. So, unless you want to walk the following route in reserve, don’t go up the staircase with concrete kiosks. The admission fee is collected at either entrance.

At the top of the staircase (from where Cham Island is visible) is a gate, Ong Chon, which is pockmarked with bullet holes. Behind Ong Chon is Linh Ong Pagoda. As you enter the sanctuary, look to the left to see a fantastic figure with a huge tongue. To the right of Linh Ong Pagoda are monk’s quarters and a small orchid garden.

Behind Linh Ong, a path leads left through two short tunnels to several caverns known as Tang Chong Dong. There are several concrete Buddhas and blocks of carved stone of Cham origin in these caves. Near one of the altars is a flight of steps leading up to another cave, partially open to the sky, with two seated Buddhas in it.

To the left of the small building left of Ling Ong (ie, immediately to the left as you enter Ong Chon Gate) is the main path to the rest of Thuy Son. Stairs off the main pathway lead to Vong Hai Da, a viewpoint for a brilliant panorama of China Beach and the South Chian Sea.

The stone-paved path continues to the right and into canyon.On the leftis Van Thong Cave. Opposite the entrance is a cement Buddha and behind that, there is a narrow passage, which leads up to a natural chimney open to the sky.

Exit the canyon and pass through a battle-scarred msonry gate. There’s a rocky path to the right, ưhich goé to Linh Nham,, a tall chimney- shaped cave with a small altar inside. Nearby, another path leads to Hoa Nghiem, a shallow cave with a Buddha inside. If you go down the passageway to othe left of the Buddha, you come to cathedral-like Huyen Khong Cave, lit by an opening to the sky. The entrance to this spectacular chamber is guarded by two admisistrative mandarins ( to the left of the doorway) and two military mandarins ( to the right).

Scattered about the cave are Buddhist and Confucian shrines; note the inscriptions carved into the stine walls. On the right, a door leads to two stalactites, dripping water that local legent describes as coming from heaven. Actually, only one stalactite drips; the other one supporsedly ran dry when Emperor Tu Duc touched it, During the American War, this chamber was used by the VC as a field hospital. Inside is a plaque dedicated to a women’s Artillery Group, which destroyed 19 US arcraft as they sat at a base below the mountains in 1972.

Just to the left of the battle-scarred ma sonry gate is Tam Thai Tu, a Pagoda restored by Emperor Minh Mang in 1826. A path heading obliquely to the right goes to the monks’ residence, beyond which are two shrines. From there, ared dirt path leads to five small pagodas. Before you arrive at the Monks’ residence, stairs on the left hand side of the path lead to Vong Giang Dai, which offers a fantastic 180 – degree view of the other Marble Mountains and the surrounding countryside. To get to the stairway down, follow the path straight on from the masonry gate.

Non Nuoc Hamlet

Non Nuoc Hamlet is on the southern side of Thuy Son and is a few hunfred metres west of My An Beach. The marble carvings made here by skilled ( and not so skilled) artisans would make great gifts if they didn’t weigh so much. It;s fun to watch the carvers at work, and there are some tiny carved figures that make nice gifts.

The town has been spruced up for tourism. During the war, the Americans referred to the shanty town near here as “Dogpatch”, after a derelict town in the comic strip L’il Abner. Most of the residents living there at the time were refugees fleeing the fighting in the surrounding countryside.

Getting there & Away

Car & Motorbike The 11km route from Danang to the Marble Mountains passes by the remains of a huge 2km – long compex of former US military bases; aircraft revetments are still visible.

The Marble Mountains are 19km north of Hoi An along the “Korean Hwy”

Boat It is possiple to get to the Marble Mountains from Danang by chartered boat. The 8.5 km trip up the Han and Vinh Diem Rivers takes about 1 ¼ hours.

HAI VAN PASS

Hai Van ( Sea Cloud) Pass crosses over a spur of the Truong Son Mountain Range that juts into the South China Sea. About 30km north of Danang, National Hwy 1 climbs to an elevation of 496m, passing south of the Ai Van Son peak ( 1172). It’s an incredible mountainous stretch of highway with spectacular views. The railway track, with its many tunnels, goes around the peninsula, following the shoreline to avoid the hills.

In the 15th century, Hai Van pass formed the boundary between Vietnam and the Kingdom of Champa, Until the American War, the Pass was heavily forested. At the summit is an old French fort, later used as a bunker by the South Vietnames and US armies.

If you visit it in winter, you will probably find that the pass serves almost as a visible dividing line between the climates of the north and south. Acting as a virtual wall, the pass protects the area to the south of it from the fierce “ Chinese winds” that sweep in from the northeast. From about November to March the exposed side on the north of the pass ( including Lang Co Beach) can be uncomfortably wet and chilly, while just to the south ( on the beaches around Danang and Hoi An) It’s warm and fry. Of course, variataions in this weather pattern occur but, in general, when the winter weather is lousy in Hue, It is ussually good in Danang.

Most buses make a 10 minute rest stop at the top of the pass. You’ll have to fight off a rather large crowd of very persistent souvenir vendors. you would be wise not to agree to change money with anyone on the pass as you’re more than likely to get shortchanged.

In June 2000, Contruction began on a US$ 150 million tunned under Hai Van Pass to facilitate traffic flow. The project is estimated to take four yours.

BA NA HILL STATION

Tel: 0511 – Elivation – 1485m.

Ba Na ( admission 10.000d, 5000/10,000d per motorbike/car), Optimistically called “the Dalat of Danang province’ by the procincial government, it’s likely to be between 15o C to 25o C at Ba Na, Rain often falls between 700m and 1200m above sea level, but around the hill station itself, the sky is unually clear. Mountain tracks in the area lead to a variety of waterfalls and viewpoints.

Ba Na was founded in 1919 and, until WWII, the French were carried up the last 20km of rough mountain road by sedan chair! of the 200 Odd villas that originally stood, a few tattered-but photogenic and atmospheric – ruins remain. The provincial government has high hopes of once again making Ba Na a margnet for tourists, and is redeveloping the site to suit domestic visitors. This means a variety of accommodation and restaurants ( which is good) but also lots of karaoke, constant loud piped music and litter, which are maybe not quite so good.

Views from Le Nim restaurant balcony are fantastic- each lunch there. The Ba Na By Night resort ( don’t be fooled by the name, it’s open all day too) has preserved an ald French wine cellar in its foundations walk in and feel the remarkable coolness. you can also walk along a marked track, Just behind the plushest accommodation section, to the atmospheric ruins of one of the French villas. An enormous Buddha that’s visible for miles around is also being constructed on site.

Place to stay & eat

Each resort has an extraordinarily complex system of different room standards and prices, depending on deason, day of the week, number of people, length of stay and so on, Rates given below are very general guidelines. More resorts are under construction at time of writing.

Ba Na Resort (Tel: 818055 Tel: 746447 Fax: 712307 Email: banatourist@dng.vnn.vn, hotel rooms US$ 15-30, Bungalows, with/without bath 100.000/150,000d) consists of a 30 room hotel and 40 teeny weeny bungalows, that just accommodate two. There is also a large Restaurant located here.

Le Nim (tel 670026; rooms 50,000-200,000d) is on a pathway directly below Ba Na resort. All rooms are around an open courtyard where karaoke campfires take place of a weekend – you have been warned. The restaurantserves up terrific fresh seafood dishes and has an unsurpassed daytime view.

Ba Na By Night Resort (tel 671016; bananight@dng.vnn.vn; rooms 200,000-700,000d) is a nice setup, but misses out on the views. The remnants of a colonial-era wine cellar and French villa at this place are interesting to check out.

Getting There & Away

Ba Na is 42km west of Danang along a beautiful, if somewhat narrow and scary, winding road.

Pay the entry fee at bottom of the access road. If you arrive by public bus from Danang, shuttle buses take passengers up the mountain for another 15,000d.

If you don’t want to drive all the way – or if you want the thrill – there is a cable car that whisks visitors up from a free parking lot a few kilometres below the hill station. Tickets cost 35,000d return. You can also drive up to the top.

SUOI MO

A pleasant detour for an hour or so on the way to Ba Na, is via the waterfall at Suoi Mo (Dream Springs, admission 3000d). To get there, turn right just before the Ba Na access-road entry gate. There’s another entry gate here, where you can pay the entry fee. Continue up the bump track for 2km or so and look for a small arrowed sign “Suoi Mo” on the left. Park here, and walk along the track that leads off to the right, beside a few houses. A 20 minute climb-slippery when wet-takes you past some clear swimming holes and up to the water-fall. It’s a pretty, undeveloped spot, if you can ignore the litter; and go on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

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