Danang is NOT a tourist city. In fact the guidebooks have approximately a third of a page on it, and basically say “oh it’s a city, nothing major here, you can skip it” which is really too bad because it’s such a cool city and has incredible beaches!! It’s modern and growing like crazy with gorgeous new architecture, and fun hip social scene. It’s definitely not on the tourist trail – which was great for us, we wanted to experience the real Vietnam.
As such, though, it’s not a particularly walkable city and we quickly learned we needed a moto (motorbike, scooter, moped). There are very few cars, but about a one to one ratio of motos to people. We rented our scooter from “Mama’s Motos” at Bread of Life Bakery and Café. It was a Yamaha Deluxe LX edition, with faux leather trim that had “LX” embossed into the naugahyde in a very familiar pattern; it looked exactly like a Louis Vutton purse pattern, Our moto affectionately became known as “Louie!” Rick and I really liked calling it a scooter for some reason – and Rick really liked driving it – and singing about driving it while driving it!
We were so glad we had a moto, we would have missed out on so much without it. Here are our favorite Danang adventures on a moto:
Scootin’ around out on the town with friends
This was just after our friends Christophe and Sakura invited us out to dinner with their local friend and tutor to experience real locals food. It was such an awesome dinner. Afterward we all rode around beautiful Danang!
Exploring the Marble Mountains
We took our moto on and adventure to these crazy mini-mountains made of limestone and marble with caves running throughout them. We climbed mountains and dove into exploring the caves. Many have temples and massive Buddha statues in the caves… we got a secret tip that if you really want to see the caves you have to go up on the alters and around behind the statues and there are stairs and pathways to deeper caves there – we had a blast exploring.
Historic Hoi An
We met up with our friends from Cat Ba Island here. Hoi An was a great port city in the 1800’s, but then the river filled up with mud and cut it off, so this grand city was basically abandoned and forgotten. Which means that when the American War (as they call it in Vietnam) was going on, it had no value to either side and was left alone, and therefore not destroyed. It’s main economy now is tourism. And at night the city is lit by lanterns which give it a magical glow. Oh and I got a custom made pair of leather sandals!
Just make sure you know how late your scooter parking lot is open… we found out the hard way when we went to get our motorbike at 9pm and they lot that had hundreds of motors earlier was now dark and empty. Our Louie was nowhere to be seen. Through charades we managed to get a guy to wake-up an older lady that had our moto locked up in her kitchen… we paid a dollar to get it out of “lock-up.”
Admiring the awesome bridges of Danang
Crazy bridges! There are nine in total (some still being built) – We learned a feng shui expert advised the city 20 years ago that to be prosperous it needed to build nine prominent bridges across the river. Here are a few of our favorites: The Dragon Bridge: made to look like a huge dragon and on Saturday and Sunday nights it shoots fire and water out of it’s mouth; The Han Bridge: all lit up with a rainbow of lights that change and at midnight every night it spins sideways; The Sail Bridge: beautiful artistic suspension bridge/scripture that is lit with vibrant colors.
Tam’s epic tales
Christophe suggested we go get a burger at Tam’s Pub & Surf Shop because she had good stories – and that was the under statement of the century!! Tam was 12 years old when the Vietnam/American War started. She was befriended by a Navy man and started selling Cokes and beers to the troops to make money for her family. She couldn’t wait to tell us her incredible tales. She was buried alive once and American troops rescued her. She was told to take a bomb disguised as a Coke can into an American base by the NVA, but instead told the Americans what it was and saved dozens of lives, she was almost killed by the NVA for doing this. She escaped from a war prison. Survived being a cast away on an island. And she absolutely loves to be reunited with American soldiers that she knew during the war – and has the photos to prove it.
Tam’s joy is contagious and we felt so fortunate to get to hear about her amazing life. Oh and she still surfs and rents out surf boards! Here is a video (that we didn’t make) that gives you a quick introduction to Tam:
See a Real Fire-breathing Dragon
I know we already mentioned the bridges, but the Dragon Bridge’s weekend displays really shouldn’t be missed. We parked Louie on the sidewalk with all the other locals right next to the bridge. There are tons of little pop-up restaurants selling drinks, and street food. We saw a big circles of kids with guitars and drums playing music. Just a fun little party that lasts about an hour or so every Saturday and Sunday night. The vendors start setting up about 8 pm the fire and water show starts at 9 pm and the whole thing is wrapped up and gone before 10 pm. It’s kind of like the moto equivalent of tailgating I guess.
Beautiful beaches – China Beach, My Kye, Etc.
The beaches were great and stretch for miles – we played in the sugary soft sand and the surf. The waves were quite strong, in fact they have lifeguards out all day everyday and they only allow swimming in a small areas due to the really strong undertow; they even have a lifeguard in the water keeping tabs on the ever changing currents. But in that area we had so much fun body surfing into the beach. The breaks were just perfect.
Want to know more about what we did in Danang?