Da Nang, Vietnam – January 25 to Feb 1, 2014
We spent a week in Da Nang, Vietnam, enjoying the slow pace and the beach. As we were being taxied to our hotel, we knew that we were going to love Da Nang once we saw and crossed the Dragon Bridge and then we saw the giant lighted Ferris Wheel in the distance. The Dragon Bridge was completed in 2013 and is lit up by over 2,500 LED lights. Every Saturday and Sunday night at about 9pm people gather near the bridge to watch the dragon’s head spew fire from its mouth and watch a fireworks show. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see this, we had planned to, but it didn’t turn out. Maybe next time.
We found an inexpensive hotel about 200 metres from the beach at a cost of $22 night. After the first night we were upgraded to a larger room with a large balcony. Our room was simple but had everything we needed… air conditioning and a hot shower.
We took a break from museums, pagodas and temples and just enjoyed our surroundings. Most days were spent soaking up the sun and looking for sea shells on the uncrowded sandy beach. We splurged and rented beach chairs and umbrellas a few times down at the shore. Other days we walked the 30 minutes into town to enjoy a supper and the hustle and bustle of the busy city. We tried finding good local restaurants off the beaten path, and we did. Most days included time for schoolwork.
Deciding to get a little exercise one day, we decided to walk to see the Lady Buddha. We were told that it was about 10 kilometers from the hotel, but when we were at the beach it looked so much closer, so we decided to walk to it. We thought it would only be about 4 or 5 kilometers walking along the beach because the beach route looked like a much more direct route than the road. Assuming it was not as far as we had been told, we began our “leisurely walk”. We weren’t in any hurry so we took the time to find awesome sea shells, watch fishermen bring in their days catch, throw beached coin sized jellyfish back into the waves and admire the changing seascape. We sauntered along the China Sea for about two hours before we had to leave the beach and move to the road and continue on the way to the Lady Buddha. By this time we had walked about 5 kilometres (we didn’t know at the time how far we had gone, until later when we looked at Google Maps). After all that walking the Lady Buddha was not looking any closer. We continued on and up the pedestrian unfriendly busy hairpin mountain road, but the Lady Buddha kept moving. Every time we thought she was just about the bend, she “moved”, so we had to keep going. Of course being the experienced well travelled Family Bucketeers, we powered up in the morning with a hearty breakfast, sunscreened ourselves and brought ample drinking water…. Not!!!!! We had walked for hours under the beating heat of the sun, parched, a little sunburn, hungry, tired (up hill most of the last half of the way) and we were becoming more frustrated with every step and turn.
At one point we stopped to rest, unsure if we could walk any further. Flashbacks of walking the Camino, were coming upon us. We decided we had come too far not to see the giant Lady Buddha and we tried to wave down a taxi. But most taxis were heading down the hill and we needed one going up the hill. We finally were able to wave one down and after explaining where we wanted to go, the taxi driver laughed and pointed to the main gates that were about 200 metres up the road. More relieved than embarrassed we thanked the driver and began walking the last 200 metres. Once in the grounds we sat down and enjoyed a well-deserved ice cream treat and a few bottles of water. While sitting there savouring our ice cream and admiring our surroundings a Buddhist Monk came and sat down with us and asked to have a photo with us. Of course we seized the opportunity to have a photo with a monk.
The Lady Buddha stands 72 meters tall and dominates the landscape. She can be seen everywhere in Da Nang and the surrounding areas. Locals believe she is the protector of sailors. To us she looked a little like the Virgin Mary.
So you are probably wondering just how far the Lady Buddha was from where we started. According to our FitBit, we walked almost 12 km. A far cry from the 4 or 5 km we originally thought. I guess we should have listened to the locals when they said it was too far to walk; especially the private guide who chased us down on the beach trying to convince us to hire him to drive us to the Lady Buddha and other tourist sites. We had that conversation when we were just a few kilometres into our walk and were feeling 10 feet tall. We thought we’ll show him, we don’t need a taxi. Boy oh boy, did we ever show him, hey? For our return to the city, we were a little more wise and we hired a taxi to downtown, where we all enjoyed pizza. It was at a place called, “Pizza Hug”. We enjoyed the place so much we went back a few more times.
I am so glad we were able to experience Da Nang before it becomes too much of a tourist destination. The beaches were quiet, nobody was walking up and down the beach trying to sell you anything. But this may change in the near future. All over Da Nang you can see cranes and buildings popping up, especially down close to the beach. There are a few huge beachfront resorts running already in the area and there are plans for more. The beaches are sandy and beautiful. The streets are lined with restaurants/bars serving local and western food. Internet cafés are everywhere. If you have the chance to visit Da Nang, take the time to enjoy it and don’t just use it as a rest stop before heading to your next destination. Da Nang deserves a few days to truly enjoy it. Besides, we found it to be one of our least expensive destinations so far.