While not as popular as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang in Central Vietnam offers a great variety of things to see and do. These range from some of the country’s most spectacular beaches to ancient old towns, mountain retreats and even a peek into Vietnam’s imperial history. Throw in a strong regional culinary tradition and you’ve got yourself a compelling travel destination.
I have personally been to Central Vietnam 4 times! It is one of my favorite places in Southeast Asia and I look forward to each trip as I always get to discover something totally new. Without further ado, here are some of my suggested things to do in Da Nang and Hoi An.
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Explore the Old Town of Hoi An
Hoi An is one of Southeast Asia’s prettiest and best preserved old towns. It is full of ancient shophouses painted in pale yellow. Known as Faifo in the olden times, the city was once a busy trading port that drew in merchants from all over the world, particular from China. Many of them eventually settled in town and established clan associations to help other immigrants settle in. Here, one finds clan associations from the Cantonese, Hokkien as well as one from the all-community Chinese. It is a joy to just stroll around town as the streets are mostly pedestrianized. One can easily spend a day or two appreciating the marvelous architecture and pretty lanterns dotted around the streets.
Elevate Your Merit at the Marble Mountain
The Marble Mountains are a series of limestone and marble hills located in the outskirts of Da Nang. An easy 15 to 20 minute car ride from the center of town, the hills are each named after the Chinese elements. The Marble Mountains all feature caverns and tunnels which are often filled with Buddhist temples. Some of them make for an insta-worthy sight depending on the time of the day when you can spot the sun’s rays peering in from one of the holes in the ceiling.
Have a Bowl of Cao Lau
When you’re in Hoi An, you’ll no doubt encounter restaurants with the words “Cao Lau” prominently displayed in front. Cao Lau or (高楼) in old Vietnamese, is a noodle dish that originates from this town. It’s a bit like char siew noodles but the noodles used for cao lau are springy, chewy and much thicker. It also comes with a host of other herbs. The name is believed to have been derived from the ancient traders who plied this city and who often stayed well above ground when having this dish.
Shoot Some Insta-Worthy Snaps at the Golden Bridge
Mention the word “Da Nang” and the first image on most people’s minds is probably the curved mountainside bridge supported by hands. Although it is not nearly as big as it looks in photos, the Golden Bridge remains one of the most photo-worthy spots in Da Nang. The bridge itself is just one section of Sunworld Ba Na Hills – a highland theme park/resort with a myriad of other attractions.
Pretend You’re in Europe at Sunworld Ba Na Hills
Ba Na Hills was originally founded by the French as a mountainside summer retreat. Today, little of the original structures remain but the site has been turned into a theme park with a heavy French influence. It is not a big stretch to imagine oneself in Europe when one is surrounded by gothic buildings, rose gardens, a wine cellar, patisseries, chateaus and cobblestone streets. Ba Na Hills makes for an easy day trip from either Da Nang or Hoi An. You can easily book an all-inclusive day tour here or purchase tickets to the theme park here.
Don’t forget to book with your Citi Credit Card and enjoy 10% off with min. S$50 spend with your Klook bookings. Promo code: 10CITI2022
Sunbathe at My Khe Beach
Da Nang has become a popular beach destination among locals and westerners alike. The city boasts of a long coastline with powdery sands. While the water is not as spectacular as Boracay or Ko Phi Phi, I would certainly regard it as above average especially if you consider that no other large city in Southeast Asia possesses a good, swimmable beach. For those who plan to spend a morning or afternoon sunbathing – fret not. This public beach has shower facilities available. There are also a number of beach bars dotted across the coastline. Don’t forget to grab a bottle of beer and some oysters while you lie on a beach hammock
Go For a Massage
Great and cheap massage places abound in Vietnam and the Central Region is no exception. A full body massage can cost as little as VND 120,000 (around S$7 or slightly more than US$5) in non-airconditioned establishments. For something more luxurious, you can go for a hot stone massage or candle massage for as little as VND 370,000 (around S$23 or US$17) per person.
Shop for Clothes
Hoi An is well-known for its tailors and visitors will easily find several touts offering to take you to a tailoring shop, often with the promise that they can get a suit made for you by the next day. This is not entirely unfounded as Hoi An really does have a notable clothes manufacturing sector. However, do note that most touts work on a commission basis and chances are that they’ll take you to a shop that outsources the work to a central tailor. For better quality tailoring, choose a shop that actually does the tailoring work inhouse. While it is very much possible to have the output by the next day, do allow a 2 or 3 night stay so that you can have a 2nd or 3rd fitting in case any rework is required. If you don’t have time to get any tailoring work done, you can always buy ready-to-wear items off the rack. Prices are cheap. Be prepared to haggle up to half of what you’re quoted.
Sample Da Nang’ Specialty Dish – Mi Quang
A dish native to Da Nang, Mi Quang is a noodle soup infused with turmeric. The noodles can be topped with a variety of meats such as shrimp, fish, chicken, pork of beef – or even an assortment of these – and then topped with peanuts. The one I had came with fish and the turmeric gave the dish a distinct yellowish hue. Mi Quang stalls abound in Da Nang. The one I had was at Mi Quang Dung (121 Do Ba, Daily 5:30AM to 2PM).
Have a Luxurious Resort Stay at InterContinental Da Nang and Banyan Tree Lang Co
Central Vietnam has risen in prominence as a resort-style destination and many international chains have moved in. Still, the most iconic places to stay here remain to be the Bill Bensley designed InterContinental Da Nang as well as the Banyan Tree Lang Co closer to Hue. These two resorts represent the best of what Central Vietnam’s hospitality can offer. Both properties are surrounded by lush forests and the InterContinental in particular, boasts of a cliffside setting.
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Explore the ruins of My Son
My Son is an ensemble of 70+ abandoned Hindu temples built as early as the 4th century AD. Located about an hour’s drive from Hoi An, many of the temples lie in partial ruin and overgrown with grass and bushes. It’s quite atmospheric especially early in the morning or late in the afternoon under the golden light. Unlike the many groups of temples found in Angkor or Bagan, My Son is much more manageable. The temples are grouped from A to K and most are within walking distance to each other. You can easily visit My Son as a day trip from Hoi An by booking a local tour. Use promo code: 10CITI2022 and enjoy 10% off with min. S$50 spend on your Klook booking with your Citi Credit Card.
Twirl on a Basket Boat
One of the fun activities to do in Hoi An is to go aboard one of Vietnam’s iconic round basket boats and meander through a coconut palm tree-lined mangrove. The boat ride itself takes roughly an hour and passengers are given the opportunities to throw a fishing net and to paddle for part of the journey. An especially fun part of the ride is when the paddler spins rapidly in circles, making for a great insta-worthy video.
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T&Cs apply. Valid until 31 July 2022. Applicable for new Citi Credit Cardmembers only.