While most tourists neglect Vietnam’s fourth-largest city in favour of nearby Hué and Hoi An, Danang has considerable charm in its own right. The economic powerhouse of central Vietnam, it combines the buzz of a bigger city with beautiful beaches and great restaurants. A lot of money has recently been poured into tree-lined boulevards, bridges and beachside resorts.
Back in the heady days of the American War, Danang was referred to as the ‘Saigon of the North’. This held a note of both praise and condemnation: like its big southern sister, Danang was notable for its booming economy, fine restaurants, busy traffic and glittering shops. Entertaining the soldiers from the nearby American base was a profitable business – bars and prostitution were major industries, and that sleazy legacy lingers. Men travelling together or alone may find themselves (or more accurately, their wallets) subjected to unwanted attention in even the ritziest of bars.
Getting there & away
The large Danang intercity bus station (821 265; 33 Ð Dien Bien Phu; ticket office 7-11am & 1-5pm) is 3km west from the city centre. A metered taxi to the riverside will cost 50, 000d.
Buses leave for all major centres, including Dong Hoi (56, 000d, five hours, six daily), Hué (40, 000d, three hours, six daily), Quy Nhon (65, 000d, six hours, 11 daily) and Kon Tum (85, 000d, five hours, three daily).
There are three weekly services to Savannakhet (240, 000d, 14 hours), crossing the border at Lao Bao. Phone Nguyen Phuoc for bookings (0913-412 442).
Regular buses to Hoi An (8000d, one hour) depart from a local bus station 200m away from the intercity bus station. Foreigners tend to be overcharged, especially if you pick up the bus from street. Check the price before boarding and stand your ground.
With an advance booking, Sinh Café (0510-863 948) open-tour buses will pick up from outside the Cham museum twice a day en route to Hué (US$3, 2½ hours).
Car & motorbike
The simplest way to get to Hoi An (30km) is to hire a car for around US$10 from a local travel agency, or a motorbike for around US$4 to US$6 from one of the guys on the street corners. For a slightly higher fee you can ask the driver to stop off and wait while you visit the Marble Mountains and China Beach.
You can also reach My Son by motorbike (US$12) or car (US$32), with the option of being dropped off in Hoi An on the way back.
Distances to major destinations from Danang include Hanoi (764km), Hué (108km) and HCMC (972km).
Danang’s train station (823 810; 202 Ð Haiphong) is served by all Reunification Express trains, with stops including Hué (40, 000d, 2½ to four hours, seven daily), Lang Co (13, 000d, 1½ to two hours, four daily), Quang Ngai (47, 000d, 2½ to four hours, six daily), Tuy Hoa (153, 000d, seven to 10 hours, five daily) and Nha Trang (203, 000d, 8½ to 12½ hours, seven daily).
The train ride to Hué is one of the best in the country – it’s worth taking as an excursion in itself.
During the American War, Danang had one of the busiest airports in the world. Now it settles for being the third busiest in Vietnam.
Pacific Airlines (583 583; 35 Ð Nguyen Van Linh) Daily flights from Danang to HCMC and Hanoi.
Vietnam Airlines (821 130; 35 Ð Tran Phu; 7-11am & 1.30-5pm Mon-Fri, 7.30-11am & 1.30-4.30pm Sat & Sun) Connects Danang with Hanoi, HCMC, Pleiku, Buon Ma Thuot, Cam Ranh (Nha Trang) and Quy Nhon.
Place To Visit
Cao Dai Temple
Built in 1956, Cao Dai Temple is the largest such structure outside the sect's headquarters in Tay Ninh. There are 50,000 Cao Dai faithful in Quang Nam and Danang provinces - 20,000 in Danang itself. As with all Cao Dai temples, prayers are held four times a day: at 06:00 , noon, 18:00 and midnight.
Known to locals as Con Ga Church (Rooster Church) because of the weathercock on top of the steeple, the candy-pink Danang Cathedral was built for the city's French residents in 1923. Today, it serves a Catholic community of 4000 - it's standing room only if you arrive late for Mass.
Ho Chi Minh Museum
There are three sections to the Ho Chi Minh Museum - a museum of military history in front of which US, Soviet and Chinese weaponry is displayed; a replica 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.
Museum of Cham Sculpture
The leading sight in Danang is the internationally renowned Museum of Cham Sculpture. Founded in 1915 by the École Française d'Extrême Orient, this collection is the finest of its kind in the world. Many of the sandstone carvings - including altars, lingas , garudas, Ganeshas, and images of Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu - are exquisitely detailed. Allow yourself at least a good hour to soak it up.
Phap Lam Pagoda
Built in 1936, Phap Lam Pagoda has in its grounds a brass statue of Dia Tang (the King of Hell), a large yellow Happy Buddha and a giant pink Buddha with a swastika (a common Buddhist symbol) on his chest. A massive new pagoda was being built here at the time of research.
Pho Da Nang Pagoda
Pho Da Nang Pagoda was built in 1923 in a traditional architectural configuration. Local people participate actively in the pagoda's lively religious life.
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