The Danang coast is fast becoming Southeast Asia’s hottest new destination. Tim Everton provides the low down on what is has to offer.
Danang has long been a hit with Vietnamese, but its rise as an international destination is a recent phenomenon. For years, dining was limited to food stalls and just one five star hotel graced its beaches; however, all that has now changed – so much so that Danang has been dubbed “the new Deli” in travel agency circles. A host of big names have moved in seeking a slice of what they predict will be an imminent boom in visitor numbers. This means 5 star holidays are now on offer at some very wallet-friendly prices, especially when compared to neighbouring Thailand. And it’s not just the hotels that are grabbing attention. Broad, mountain-backed beaches, insolated bay and nearby UNESCO World Heritage sites, including My Son and Hoi An, are all making the pages of travel mags worldwide. So, this once unassumming city strung along the Han River and the My Khe and Non Nuoc beaches is coming of age, but for now at least, its slow burning charm of remains intact. Go now to grab an opening offer bargain, before somewhere else is claiming to be “the new Danang”.
Ba Na Hills (www.banahills.com.vn) lies a 45 minutes drive from Danang and is clearly visible from the town, sitting on the highest peak for miles around. Built by the French as a retreat from the city heat, little is now left of the original colonial buildings, in their place huge new hotel complex dominates the summit. The cable car ride to the top is stunning, smoothly glidding over the forest canopy which is roken only by a steep waterfall which tumbles for much of the ascent. A golf course is also soon to open and a rather bizarre fantasy park that will likely be a hit with the kids opend recently. Closer to Danang, The Marble Mountains are a series of peaks that stand proud on the flat plain near the beach strip. Visitors can climb among them, stopping at a series of pagodas to make the most of the cooling on-shore breeze. The Mountains are best visited late afternoon. Back in town, the Cham Museum (www.chammuseum.danang.vn) is a must for history buffs, or anyone withplans to visit one of the area’s star attractions, the UNESCO Cham ruins of My Son.
Alongside the football and voleyball played on the beaches every morning and evening, there are plenty of active options for the restless. Two world-class golf courses lay a short drive from central Danang and a little further away, the brand new Laguna Lang CO development has added a third, marking this area out as a Golf Coast of Vietnam. Laguna Lang Co always plays host to the annual Laguna Triathlon (lagunalangcotriathon.com), which this year will feature four-time world champion Chris “Macca” McCormack, making it one of the most significant sporting events Vietnam has hosted to date. Meer mortals also race, with a duathlon (bike/run) option available for the swim-shy. Later in the year, the smaller scale Danang GoPro Traithlon (www.silversuneventsvn.com) and duathlon is slated for either in August or September (TBA). Don’t expect world champions at this race, but do expect lots of friendly competition and family events. If all that sounds a bit too much, the Furama Resort is home to a PADI diving centre, where newbies can get certified or take a taster dive among the coast’s coral. Diving is best from now until September.
It’s not quite in the San Fransicso or Sydney league, but Danang is gaining a reputation as a city of bridges. Three have recently opened and each have striking designs and are lit up with neon by night. The Dragon Bridge is the most outlandish of the bunch. Designed in the shape of a dragon stretching across the river, it glows orange by night, while at weekends, it huge head blasts flames, much to the delight of the huge crowds of Vietnamese tourists that gather to watch. Nearby, the magnificent Tran Thi Ly Bridge was completed in January. Its viewing flatform stands at 145m and promises unparalled views as far as Ba Na Hills. Those planning a trip to Danang for the International Fireworks Show should arrive at one of these bridges arely to stake a claim for vantage point.
The food of central Vietnam is a major draw card and the seafood in Danang is undoubtedly some of the country’s best. Out on the Son Tra peninsula, various no-nonsense restaurants serve all manner of sea creatures straight from the grill. One of the best is Bay Bang Restaurant (look for the motorcycle parking about five minutes from the start of the peninsula road). Here, dinners can hire their own sheltered wooden platform or take a seat in the restaurant which is surrounded by a riot of purple and orange flowers. Don’t miss the grilled king prawns. Closer to town, take tour pick from the many simple open-air eateries lining Hoang Sa Street- Loc Chao is recommended
For two nights every year, the sky over the Han River becomes the canvas of world-class pyrotechnicians and designers, who come from all over the world to compete for the attention of huge crowds. Each team has twenty minutes to convince the jury and the crowd of being the world’s leading fireworks team. This year, teams from Russia, Italy, Japan, the USA and Vietnam with battle is out. The main spectator stand will be erected on Tran Hung Dao Street, but other top spots to see the action are Bach Dang Street, the Han River and Thuan Phuoc Bridges, and boats on the river. Besides the fireworks, plenty will be going on before and after show, with a host of cultural and sports events scheduled.
The show takes place from 29-30 April. This is the busiest time of the year in Danang, so be sure to book ahead.