A Traveler’s Guide To Da Nang

The city of Da Nang in Vietnam is currently at a sweet spot.

It’s only recently that the city has started to realise its potential for tourism thanks to its stunning coastal location and rich history. Big hotel chains have started building resorts and popping up seaside, but Da Nang isn’t a crowded tourist hotspot. While nearby attractions like Hội An definitely have a lot of tourists, Da Nang itself still bears its local charm as it slowly transforms to accommodate foreigners who have yet to discover what it has to offer.

A Millennial’s Travel Guide To Da Nang

That’s why it’s the perfect time to go. Right now, the city is in the process of gentrification. Though I hope that it still keeps its local charm even when it becomes a big tourist destination, there’s no better time to experience the true culture and beauty of Da Nang than right now, weak knees and back pain be damned.

So close your eyes to ignore your dwindling bank account and book a flight. Here’s the millennial’s travel guide when visiting the Vietnamese coastal city of Da Nang. 

Stay at the seaside Hilton Garden Inn

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Da Nang

As a millennial, we are burdened by the horrible economy and skyrocketing prices that make our money seem to lessen in worth every five seconds. Staying at the Hilton usually means breaking your bank because YOLO or maybe you got a sweet bonus so you can splurge, but rest easy.  Hilton’s Garden Inn line of properties is more affordable but doesn’t skimp on the quality, and their property at Da Nang is a great example of this. 

Located oceanside, Hilton Garden Inn Da Nang is in a great part of the city where everything is easily accessible. Head towards the river and you’ll see the more urban side of Da Nang but walk down the coast and you’ll find a lot of local attractions like streetside bánh mì and fishermen out on their basket boats. Hilton Garden Inn is a perfect “base” of origin when wanting to explore Da Nang. Your knees can’t take too much walking so staying at a good location where everything is accessible is important.

It also helps that their rooms and amenities are top-notch. I’ve always said that the bed is the make-or-break factor in a hotel. Fortunately, Hilton Garden Inn’s beds will make you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud, ensuring your back will have no problems at all. Your only problem will be the difficulty in waking up.

Their rooms with balconies also provide you with enough space to be able to go out to enjoy the ocean breeze. It’s even better when you opt for an ocean view. Despite how comfortable it is, don’t just be stuck in your room. You can head up to the T&Co. Rooftop Pool & Bar to wade in their infinity pool and take in a breathtaking view of the city and the beach. Afterwards, nurse a drink while lounging poolside, preferably during sunset. It’s not just for the golden hues but you can also see the oceanside come alive as Da Nang locals start making their way to the beach and setting up their roadside coffee shops. 

Book your stay at Hilton Garden Inn Da Nang via Booking.com

Enjoy local Vietnam delicacies at Together & Co.

Image credit: Hilton Garden Inn Da Nang

It’s a no-brainer that you have to try out the local cuisine when you’re there. Just spend a few minutes walking around the vicinity of Hilton Garden Inn and you’ll find numerous places you can eat at. But if you don’t want to leave the comfort of the hotel, they’ve got Together & Co. on the fifth floor. Aside from being the place where guests will congregate for breakfast, they also serve some of the famous local cuisine of Vietnam. Craving those popular spring rolls or want to warm your cold heart with some pho? Together & Co. has it. If you’re craving something other than Vietnamese food, you also don’t have to stress. Together & Co. also serves some Western fare.

Fortunately, Vietnamese cuisine isn’t too adventurous and is actually quite healthy since there’s always a ton of veggies, so your ageing aching body will thank you.

Grab a coffee

Vietnam has a great “drinking” culture, and I don’t mean alcohol (as if your millennial self can drink like you’re a college student). Take a stroll around the city and you’ll frequently find small tables and chairs in front of a shophouse. That’s a coffee shop, and they’re as plentiful as the 7–11s here in Bangkok. The locals love to congregate here to just drink coffee and tea—and I mean they drink coffee and tea at the same time— to just converse and chill, so don’t miss the chance to just take things slow and have a cup of joe with some of your buddies. Protip: try the coconut milk coffee. It will change your life. 

Visit the historic Hội An and Ba Na Hills

Ba Na Hills
Both Hội An and Ba Na Hills are just an hour or so away from Da Nang, so don’t miss a chance to visit them. The historic city of Hội An is filled with shops and museums so you can do your souvenir shopping while also learning about the culture and history of the city and the country. Hội An also gives you a glimpse of the Chinese, Japanese, and French influences. On the way there, you can also take a ride on one of the basket boats where the “drivers” will throw a full-on rave on the water. I’m not even joking.

Meanwhile, Ba Na Hills features the famous bridge that’s held up by a statue of two giant hands. Here, you’ll see more of the French influences on the country. It even has an old French church there. It’s perfect for Instagram pics that would undoubtedly be, as the kids these days say, “lit”.

And of course, take a stroll and swim at the beach

It’s just in front of Hilton Garden Inn so it would be a missed opportunity to at least not take a stroll down the pristine and sandy beach of Da Nang. The coastline and the trees are actually reminiscent of Miami except it’s less busy. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t get too crowded once people start flocking to Da Nang. And if there are too many people for your liking because you’ve already transformed into a reclusive elder with a major “get off my lawn” attitude, it helps that the Hilton Garden Inn is just nearby for you to retreat to. 

Watch the dragon spit fire

It seems to be straight out of the sets of Game of Thrones but is modelled on the legendary dragons of the Ly Dynasty. The colour-changing golden dragon is more of a totem, representing power and good fortune as it headlines one of the longest bridges in Da Nang spanning 666 metres across the Han River. Watch one of the most dazzling fire and light shows as the larger-than-life metallic dragon spits fire and water every Saturday and Sunday at 9 pm.

Explore the Old Town which is a UNESCO Heritage Site

The moment you step into the “Yellow Town” you are swept away into a fairy tale world of colourful facades and lanterns. The UNESCO Heritage Site is dotted with markets, temples, merchant houses, assembly halls and bridges. The entrance ticket allows you access to five monuments out of the 22 heritage sights.

Don’t miss the 400-year-old Japanese-covered bridge built across the Thu Bon River and guarded by statues of dogs and monkeys. You must also add the Quan Cong Temple and Quan Am Pagoda to your list.

There are several old merchant houses like the Phung Hung Old House and Duc An Ancient House that are part of the living heritage. Another gem is the Tan Ky House built two hundred years ago.

Hike the Marble Mountains

Towering over the coasts of Da Nang are five craggy limestone hills called Ngu Hanh Son or Marble Mountains, named after the five natural elements, with a warren of caves that beckon intrepid travellers. The Water Mountain or Thuy Son is the largest while the others are Kim (metal), Moc (Wood), Hoa (Fire) and Tho (Earth). Channelise your inner Indiana Jones as you hike up the steep rock-cut steps of the karsts and discover the mystical rugged land of tunnels and temples.

Don’t miss the dark and dingy Hell Cave or Am Phu which represents the world of damnation. The largest grotto is the Huyen Khong Cave where light shines magically on the Buddha sculptures.

The Tam Thai Pagoda and Linh Ung Pagoda with breathtaking views of the Non Nuoc Beach and Xa Loi Tower with 200 Buddha statues should be on your bucket list.

Lose yourself in Hoi An’s Night Markets

Every night is a surreal Lantern Festival in Hoi An. Join in the celebration and get enchanted by the streets of Old Town that are lit by vivid handmade lanterns. If the atmosphere is not intoxicating enough then take a cruise along the Hoai river on a traditional boat and light a small lantern and let it adrift on the waters. Stroll along the night market where there are 50 stalls selling everything from scarves to souvenirs.

Lit by thousands of lanterns that create an ethereal look, the market along the river banks is highly Instagrammable. Nightlife in Hoi An, especially during weekends stretches into the wee hours and there are plenty of lively bars to choose from. Recommendations include the atmospheric Dive Bar, the loud Before and Now Bar, the premium White Marble Wine Bar and Mango Mango.

Other protips when traveling to Da Nang

  • Grab is an app we use a lot here in Thailand, and fortunately, it also works in Da Nang. There’s no need to download it if you already have it. You can use it to book rides to get around the city or even have food delivered to you—y’know, when your knees start hurting from all the walking.
  • Visit Hội early in the afternoon and then stay for a bit as night falls to get on the lantern boats that are reminiscent of Disney’s Tangled. If you’re a millennial who loves Tangled like me, you don’t want to miss this. The crowds get so much bigger at night so it’s best to get out of there when the crowds start coming.
  • Like Chatuchak Market, bartering is the name of the game with the shops at Hội An. Prove you’re a Bangkokian and show ‘em how bartering is done. 
  • I was told by one of the kind-hearted and concerned hotel staff that drinking warm water could help if I couldn’t fall asleep. This was after I ordered coffee at 8:30 pm at night. Caffeine has no effect on me so it was fine, but it’s good to know that Vietnamese coffee is stronger than your regular Starbucks latté, so drink responsibly or stay awake until 4 a.m. 

Best time to visit Da Nang

As in most places in Vietnam, the tropical monsoon weather in Da Nang is divided into two seasons — dry between January and July and wet from August to December. The best time to visit Da Nang is in the dry season from February to May, while the peak tourist season is from April to August. The rains can get very heavy between September and November.

Written By Eric E. Subrano and Lakshmi Sharath

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