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The coastal city of Da Nang bustles with French colonial influence and a low-key, beachy spirit. It’s been overlooked by tourists even though it’s the fifth largest city in Vietnam, but that’s slowly beginning to change as Da Nang grows and evolves. After all, Da Nang is a convenient gateway to other Asia destinations like Hong Kong and Singapore.
Stopped on a Da Nang cruise, you’ll quickly discover the city’s quirky side. At Dragon Bridge, a dragon sculpture spits out water and fire every weekend night in a crazy spectacle. Then there’s the Marble Mountains, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Central Vietnam, where a set of limestone mountains are dedicated to the five elements. You can explore the caves at Water Mountain, or tour several ornate pagodas and learn the history of this part of Vietnam all at once. A must-do on any Asia cruise, Da Nang will surprise you with its ancient history, charming and unique attractions, and some well-kept secret street foods.
Hue is a UNESCO World Heritage site located along the beautiful Perfume River. This city near Da Nang is home to the massive Đại Nội Citadel. A tour of the palace starts at the ornate Meridian Gate. The temples, ruins, and the Purple Forbidden City are must-sees during your time here on a Da Nang cruise.
Hoi An is a small village that offers travelers a peek into the daily life of the Vietnamese people who live here. Like Hue, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and just a 45-minute drive from Da Nang. Whether you relax at the white sandy An Bang Beach or walk through Hoi An’s Ancient Town district, there’s plenty to see on foot in the expertly preserved Hoi An.
Lang Co Beach is regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Vietnam. Bring a beach towel and sit beneath one of the hatched umbrellas, or enjoy a relaxed lunch at Lap An Lagoon, a local restaurant. It’s less than an hour to get there by car from Da Nang.
One of Da Nang’s quirkiest sights is Dragon Bridge, which is a yellow-orange bridge that breathes fire and water into the air. Both a bridge and a stunning modern sculpture, the Dragon Bridge lights up at night and promises fun shows every Saturday and Sunday night. You won’t find a bridge like this anywhere else.
There’s another bridge in Da Nang that attracts tourists and offers plenty of photo ops, and that’s Cau Vang Golden Bridge. Two giant stone hands hold up the massive, bright yellow walking bridge, which extends nearly 500 feet across. The Golden Bridge hands are called “the hands of God,” so you’ll be awed by their scale and magnificence as you walk across.
Walk the grounds of this seven-story pagoda along the Perfume River, which is also where the Purple Forbidden City is located. History buffs will enjoy learning about the pagoda and its significance in Vietnamese history.
Not far from Da Nang is the sanctuary of My Son, which dates all the way back to the 4th century. The temples here hold precious Hindu significance and are dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
In Da Nang, freshness of fruits and vegetables and the proximity to the water as a port city has greatly influenced the cuisine of the area. Get some relief from the hot, humid climate with the area’s rich, fresh juices and smoothies. Try banh beo, or steamed rice cakes with mung bean paste and shrimp, or a crispy pork belly dish called banh khoai. What’s interesting about this part of Central Vietnam is that vegetarianism is incredibly common here, so those following vegetarian diets will find plenty of options in Da Nang.
Da Nang’s role in Vietnamese history is primarily as a port city which rose to prominence in the 19th century. Before that, Da Nang was a relatively small village that was colonized by the French in the 17th century. In 1954, the French ceded control of the port city, and Da Nang experienced a period of substantial population growth. Today, Da Nang is beginning to come into its own as a trade center and a place where jobs in web and technology are booming, too. Da Nang’s culinary scene is remarkable yet unpretentious, so don’t expect an overly fussy dining experience. Some of the best eats are found in street markets and back streets.
The Chan May port is about an hour from the center of Da Nang, and some travelers pass through Hoi An from there. The Da Nang cruise port is minimally equipped, but there are some basic open-air market stalls with jewelry, clothes, and other Vietnamese souvenirs available for tourists to purchase.
There are limited transportation options from the port of Chan May. The best ways to get around are to book private transportation or take one of the local taxis into the city from the Da Nang cruise port. From the Chan May port, it’ll take about an hour to get into Da Nang. Car rentals are also an option for travelers during a stop in Da Nang. When you book a shore excursion, transportation comes included.
There’s not much at the cruise terminal itself in the way of shopping, but once you head into Da Nang, bargains await along Le Loi Street. Riverside Market in Hoi An is popular with locals. Some of the best silk in the area is sold here, like at the Hoi An Silk Village, where you can tour a silk manufacturing plant. Open-air markets and a walkable set of storefronts in Hoi An make it an easy, relaxed day of shopping.
Use the official currency of Vietnam, the dong, or VND, while you’re traveling in the country. Cash is preferred when you’re making purchases in Da Nang, but sometimes American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted at bigger establishments and restaurants. When you’re at a restaurant, there’s already a service charge included in the total bill. Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip either, but you can leave an additional VND if you’d like.