|The Golden Bridge stands 1400 m above sea level at Baa Na hills|
Important things to do before you go to Vietnam
- Find rules about vaccination, RT PCR and make sure that these are complied with. In any case one should always carry vaccination certificate and no harm in getting RT PCR test done.
- Ask your travel agent to fill up the Air Suvidha declaration and ‘check you in’ a day before you are coming back. Or one can do that oneself on phone/laptop. Just keep pdf copies of vaccination certificate on your device.
- Carry a spare phone and buy a sim card on arrival ait airport with a few phone calls and 3-5 GB data. I bought a 3 GB Sim and it cost around Rs 650.
- Best app for taxi is GRAB in Vietnam. Download it with new Sim card and ideally link it to a credit card. I had a forex card so I linked it to that. Grab was a boon - very nice cars and would arrive in no time at all. Made life very easy. But you can pay by cash as well.
- Other radio taxis like Mailinh or Vinasun are also good though more expensive than grab. It was easy getting taxi’s from everywhere.
- Vietnamese Dong can make you nervous as exchange rate is 1 USD = VD 24000. My formula for converting Dong to INR was - delete last 2 zeroes and divide rest by 3. So 10,00,000 or 1 million Dong would become 10000/3 = 3333 INR
- It would help if you make a day-wise rough itinerary. You don’t have to follow that but it will help you get organised and making changes becomes easy.
- Vietnamese eat very low salt and chili diet. Salt you can always get but carry chili flakes with you to make food more interesting or show them picture of chili in soya sauce to get it.
- Language is a problem so best would be to use some kind of translator on mobile. Once you have data on phone- it becomes easy.
- It takes just about 4-5 days for E Visas to come. Better to apply for e visas rather than visa on arrival.
- The Vietnam Airways counter at Delhi was managed by Air India personnel. Most inefficient staff there could be. Their check in process was extremely slow and painful. They confirmed to me that luggage was booked through to Da Nang. I did not trust them and checked conveyer belt at Hanoi (The transit airport). Sure enough - our luggage had been booked only till Hanoi and it was on the belt.
Vietnam is a top travel destination in Southeast Asia. The country receives an average of 6 million tourists each year - visiting the country for its affordable tourist destinations, archaeological sites, historic cities, beautiful beaches, and amazing culture.
Vietnam is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the East Vietnam Sea – to the east.
While Hanoi is towards the North and Ho Chi Minh city is towards the South - Da Nang is somewhere in the middle. It is Da Nang which was our destination for this holiday.
There is not yet a direct flight between Delhi and Da Nang. It is expected to start soon. We had done Hanoi, Ha Long bay cruise, HCM (Ho Chi Minh) city along with Cu Chi caves & Mekong Delta and beach resort of Nha Trang a few years ago. At that time we skipped Da Nang as the reviews said that you need 4-5 days in Da Nang and there wasn’t enough time.
Links to my previous visit to Vietnam :
Arriving at Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi
Our flight arrived in Hanoi at around 10.30 PM and we had booked a small hotel in the vicinity called Paragon Noi Bai hotel & Pool. As mentioned above, we were lucky that we checked the conveyor belt and found our luggage as we had been told that we should collect it at our final destination- Da Nang. The hotel car picked us up and kept the kitchen open for us to have something to eat before crashing out. Our flight was next morning so it was a matter of spending the night only. Hotel was a basic place in a lane quite near the airport, but rooms were clean and Air Conditioned. We had a windowless room but we didn't think about it as it was a matter of spending a few hours only. An Indian honeymooning couple who had arrived by the same flight as us were most disappointed that they were given hotel of this quality in a 'package' that they had booked from India. The hotel car dropped us to airport in the morning to catch our flight. I don’t know if the honeymooning couple continued staying here or checked out the next morning.
Sheraton Grand Da Nang
From the reception area of the hotel the view was beautiful. We could see a very long swimming pool joining the infinity pool and then the sea almost merging in it. This is perhaps the largest swimming pool I have seen in any hotel. Even the luxury hotels in tourist destinations like Goa, Jaipur etc make very small pools which get over filled by guests making everyone uncomfortable. They should look to make larger pools as most people on a holiday like to swim if weather is conducive. There were mountains on the one side of the sea.
|The swimming pool was never ending and the infinity pool almost merged into the sea|
It was cloudy and it all looked divine. We were ready for our 4 day holiday.
It wasn’t long before I was in the pool. For me doing laps in a pool is a way of relaxing and stretching. It really refreshed me after all those flights.
Sheraton Grand was a huge hotel with nice rooms and villas. I liked the view from my room as it faced the Bay area. The hotel had 3 great golf courses in the vicinity and I was told that 'Dragon golf' will book a game for you and even hire out golf clubs. I decided to keep golf at abeyance till I made a trip with my golfing friends. Hope that happens soon.
Hoi An - The lantern city
|The Bon River is full of boats with Lanterns. It is a spectacular sight.|
Devicka and I are not the ones to waste time. We were on way Hoi An after relaxing for an hour. Hoi An is a small town next to Da Nang known for its old town and the lanterns. Old town has small shops selling a lot of traditional stuff but the specialization is in garments and shoes. They have excellent variety of fabrics and can stitch anything for you in a few hours. They even make shoes of your size once you like the design in 2 hours ! If the order is good they will deliver it to your hotel. Bargaining is a way of life here. They also have a night market. We roamed around for a couple of hours and saw the streets come alive as the sun set with beautifully lit lanterns. Many shops were selling the lanterns as well.
|The Lantern shops|
We walked till the famous covered Japanese bridge and then turned to where the real action was.
|At the Japanese Covered bridge, Hoi An|
The river front was bustling with activity. The boats in the river Bon were covered with lanterns and there were hundreds of them crisscrossing each other. It was a spectacle worth watching. We preferred to watch the boats and the activity rather than go boating ourselves. There were bars and restaurants on the other side of river and we needed to rest our feet and sit down so we sat in the Tiger bar which advised people not to be pussies but be a Tiger. Tiger of course happens to be a famous Beer brand. We had a few drinks with grilled pork as snack before walking and exploring the area for another half an hour or so. Entire area was lit up and the place had some real positive energy which reflected in the crowds.
Dinner was at famous riverside Morning Glory Signature famous for sizzling pepper beef, snapper with mango , and fish in caramel sauce. It was huge restaurant cum bar with outdoor, indoor and rooftop seating. As I could only eat one dish I chose the sizzling pepper beef and was happy at my choice.
Baa Na Hills
The hands bridge known as the golden bridge has become the main image for Vietnam tourism. I found this ironic as for a country endowed with such natural beauty - a man made bridge has been projected as the most famous landmark as far as tourism is concerned. Actually this is not a bridge over some river or crevasse. It has been made on a mountain and for people to access it, they have to travel out of Da Nang, buy tickets, go up on the longest ropeway in the world and then cross the famed bridge on their feet while admiring the beautiful view below . On holidays and weekends the crowds throng the place and it is difficult to even cross the bridge. Vietnam has a bustling internal tourism . International tourists are very few now due to restrictions imposed during Covid19 and visas not being issued.
|Huge Buddha statue at Baa Na hills can be seen from miles|
After breakfast we had planned to go to marble mountains but as weather prediction looked good and it was a weekday - we called for Grab cab for Baa Na hills. It takes a good 45 minute ride to reach the base of hills from where you can buy tickets. ( If going on a weekend or in Vietnamese holiday season- buy tickets online.) Our driver was good, he knew English and he asked us to call him when we were ready to go back. We used him a few times including our drop off to the airport early in morning.
|View from Cable Car as you go up the Baa Na Hills.|
Baa Na hills was good fun. The cable car was picture perfect. Near the base was a sprawling Baa Na hills golf course. Up there at the top they had made good gardens, a huge Buddha statue and eateries. Then you go further up on another cable car and you reach their Fantasy world with an amusement park, restaurants, shows etc. I had a major thrill coming down at full speed down the mountain on Alpine coaster. Lot of construction activities are going on in Baa Na hills. We will hear a lot more about it as new facilities come up.
|Having fun coming down the mountain at great speed on Alpine coaster|
It was almost 5 in the evening when we reached back. People normally go in the morning and come back late at night. I guess soon they will expand the entertainment area and add hotels and convention centers. I was soon in the sea followed by the pool. In an hour I was all relaxed and ready for second innings of the day.
My Khe Beach - The activity Centre of Da Nang
|My Khe beach is broad & clean and the bars/restaurants are pretty good|
My Khe beach is the main beach of the city. It is a lively beach area which has a road passing through which divides the beach from the high rise hotels. On the side of the beach are bars and restaurants and the beach itself has beach beds and games like volleyball. If you stay in one of the hotels you can choose a sea facing room and to visit the beach you just have to cross the road. Most of these hotels are good with sky bars and restaurants on top floor and swimming pools & spa. Advantage of staying here is that you can come down by elevator and you are in thick of action. Restaurants, Bars and Spas were all walking distances.
|There are many good hotels opposite My Khe beach and they are reasonable and good value for money|
In Sheraton and other top hotels like Hyatt and Melia they have excellent facilities with low rise rooms, huge swimming pools and dining areas and they are on the beach but to go anywhere you had to get a cab. There was nothing interesting outside the hotel so one had to venture far to do anything. A hotel next to My Khe beach called the Premier Village looked good as you could walk to nearby places.
|View of the city from 21st floor of the Sky Bar|
Evening on day 2 was spent at a beachside restaurant with the sound of waves and restaurant music and then we crossed the road to hotel Belle Mason which is famous for its Sky21 bar & restaurant. We strolled in that area observing the locals and watched how they selected the seafood from aquariums to be cooked - and then it was time to call it a day.
The Marble mountains
|The Caves of Marble mountains have Buddhist shrines in them.|
The first 2 days had been perfect as it had been cloudy and cool. We woke up on day 3 to a bright morning. Much too bright to our liking. The sun was sharp and from the room even the beach sand looked hot or so I imagined. We could see the Marble mountains from the hotel. Named after 5 elements - these 5 mountains are made up of marble and limestone. Immediately after breakfast we decided to go to the Marble mountains. Thankfully they had an option of going up by elevator. Even then there were loads of steep uneven steps to go up and down to reach several caves and Buddhist statues. The atmosphere up there was very religious with chants of hymns reverberating everywhere on the mountain that we had climbed.
|These steps of Marble mountains are tough to climb. During rains they become slippery.|
It was hot and we were exhausted as we walked in all directions exploring the caves and shrines and then all the way down till the bottom. We were tired but not defeated. I had a solution of getting rid of this tiredness and immediately I called a Grab cab and we reached a very famous spa called the Herbal Spa. (email@example.com; whatsapp (+84) 0901825789). They have 2 spas near each other and they were both occupied for next couple of hours. We walked again under the blazing sun till we found another spa which looked good. It turned out to be fabulous. A 90 minute Vietnamese traditional massage with hot stone therapy cost approximately Rs 1500 each and it was most satisfying. The girls used a lot of elbows and knees and it was most refreshing though a bit strong on the back at times. Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the place though it was walking distance from a large restaurant called the Tokyo. Unfortunately Tokyo gave us terrible food and it was the beer that saved the meal.
Once again it was time for afternoon siesta and to decide what to do in the evening after my customary swim.
|The Dragon Bridge on River Han|
It was time to go to Han river and the famed Dragon Bridge in evening. The area around the Han river is called Hai Chau and could be termed as city centre of Da Nang with famous markets like Han market and Helio night market. We had gone there after sunset as didn’t want to go in heat so there was no point going towards Han market as it shuts early. Instead we roamed around the night market of Son Tra as we waited for the dragon to blow fire. On Saturdays and Sundays the area comes alive, the bridge is shut off and thousands gather all over the place to witness dragon blowing fire at 9 PM. I was more fascinated to see the number of the people than the show itself. I guess people need some entertainment.
|Next to the Dragon Bridge is the Son Tra night market|
This area also has several good restaurants and Olivia’s Prime Steakhouse (firstname.lastname@example.org; +84908163352) was on my list. The steaks and chops were superb and they had a great collection of wines. A place worth dining in if you like this kind of food.
The final day of our holiday
|The Hoi An Old Town|
Devicka wanted to go to Hoi An again so we were back there but this time in morning hours. She wanted to buy a few things so we explored the old town at leisure and then as it got very hot - we went to ‘The Deckhouse’ which was a beach club at An Bang beach.
|The beach side of 'The Deckhouse.'|
This wasn’t far from Hoi An. There were several beach clubs in a row and it was a great place to relax near the sea with some great music playing. I would intermittently go for sea swims and then come back and savour sea food and cocktails. Here we saw several tourists from Western world. I will do more beach clubs the next time I go as it is the best way to spend afternoons. Many beach clubs become nightclubs at sunset and are open till 2 AM.
|Relaxing at the beach club called 'The Deckhouse.'|
We went for massage in the evening to My Khe beach area and walked at beachside till we came to ‘4U’ beach bar and steakhouse. A leisurely evening was spent there. We had an early morning flight the next day so didn’t stay here till very late.
|My Khe beach has some real good places to chill|
It must be clear by now that for Devicka and me a holiday cannot be just checking into a luxury hotel and just stay put enjoying the hotel facilities. We were staying in a fantastic hotel but were out twice a day and other than breakfast and a few snacks we didn’t eat at the hotel at all. I did use the pool and the beach every single day and it was lovely getting up in the morning to get a lovely view of the sea from room.
During the time we were in Da Nang I think we did justice to the place.
The food we had during the trip
|There are many mid level restaurants like this which locals love.|
|Great choice of Seafood to select|
|My favourite dish - Pho - Noodle soup with beef|
|Prawns were a plenty|
|3 different type of Steaks|
|Burger at our hotel|
|Devicka lived on Lamb Chops|
|Scallops with onion and tomato|