“Ah damn-near lost mah leg in Da Nang!”
That’s about the only context I’d ever heard in reference to Đà Nẵng before moving to Vietnam. At one point it was evidently home to the busiest single-runway airfield in the world. But it’s not just a war reference; Đà Nẵng is a real place, and quite an enjoyable one at that.
The city, about equidistant from Hanoi and Saigon, straddles the Hàn river, but also features a gorgeous, miles-long beach. It’s not nearly as busy as its bigger cousins in the north and south, but is growing fast, and has recently been named “most livable city in Vietnam.”
A visit will demonstrate why it gets the moniker. You’ll find Đà Nẵng’s downtown and nightlife along the riverside, looking out on its many iconic bridges. And if a little beach relaxin’ is more your style, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away. In recent years a large amusement park (Bà Nà Hills) has grown up near the city as well, which, in classic Đà Nẵng fashion, features its own unmistakable bridge.
Though Trang and I are not usually big night-life folks, our short stay largely centered around the riverside. We made sure to catch the city’s most famous attraction: the fire-breathing dragon bridge. I’m not kidding here – the river-spanning dragon literally blows fire at 9:00 pm on weekends. And if that’s too hot, it’s followed by a spray of water afterwards. The riverside draws large crowds ahead of the show. Vendors upsell their coconuts and tea a bit, but it’s still worthwhile. Plus, once the fire show concludes, you’re already downtown.
It’s a large enough city to have a good bit of variety, though. We wandered through a big, cramped market for some sights and some lunch. It’s a surprisingly claustrophobic space, even in the open-air portions.
I know from experience that there are times during a long trip that you just need to take a day or two for a break. Đà Nẵng largely ended up being that for us this time around. If you’re traveling long-term like this, don’t forget to give yourself a rest here and there. Running yourself ragged will just mean you burn out prematurely. Take some time to recover – get your shit in a sock, as they say – and be ready for the next series of adventures.
Our next adventure? That would be the country’s former capitol city, Huế! See you there!