East Meets West by Han River, Da Nang

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We reached Da Nang from Hoi An quite late that day and we wasted some more time to the taxi driver who couldn't find the right way to our hotel. A phone call to the hotel staff also didn't help much. He was still unable to find his way to Loseby Street, where our cheap lodging was located. As usual, a Google map printout always be so helpful to us. Within minutes after looking at the map, he managed to take us there. Yes, finally. At the hotel reservation desk, we requested for rooms on a higher floor and we got a couple on the highest. Sweet.

We checked those rooms and satisfied. From up there we could see the beach side of Da Nang township. The long sandy beach of My Khe added a beautiful landscape to the laid back city. Far to the west, a huge statue of Kuanyin, the Buddha's Goddess of Mercy statue stands tall at 67 meters on a hill protruded on the Son Tra Peninsula.

We realized that we still got time to check out briefly what Da Nang has to offer. We rented some motorbikes from the hotel (USD8 each) and we rode along the beach drive. We parked our bikes across the street, inside the compound of a school, I think. Parking fee for motorbikes here or anywhere in Da Nang was VND5,000, paid to the parking attendant.

We then walked to the beach to taste some fresh evening air. Despite a few "No swimming" signs, locals can be seen having some good time in the water. Perhaps they knew several lifeguards were on duty that day. We however didn't let ourselves wet since we wanted to go somewhere further.

We took our bikes and hit the road again. This time, we headed in the direction of the Kuanyin pagoda. It was almost 6pm and in less than an hour, the sun would disappear in the western horizon. We must hurry. Increasing speed on the coastal road of Da Nang was one of the simplest thing to do about driving or riding in the city. Road users were mostly motorbikes and in spite of the road 'calmness', most of them were going way slower than any typical Malaysian bikers do on busier roads with potholes everywhere. Along the way to reach the Kuanyin, we made a few stops to enjoy some sceneries of Da Nang coastline. When we reached there about half an hour later, it was almost dark. We made a u-turn and headed back to the hotel.

Later that night, after a simple dinner of a few slices of bread and meat floss, we went out to stock up some food items. According to one hotel staff, Big C would be the easiest (and nearest) for us to go but it required us to cross the famous Song Han Bridge to get to the west of Han River, where business and culture of Da Nang are centered. On the bridge itself there were groups of local people having some activities like fishing or just celebrating the Saturday night with some friends. We went west on Le Duan St. but didn't see any groceries or food marts on it. The road then merged into Ly Thai To St, which took us back eastward. Minutes later we found a moderate-sized Vinh Trung Plaza on our right with a huge Big C business logo next to its name. Big C Supercenter is a Bangkok-based hypermarket chain offering cheaper options for grocery and food items. There was where we finally restored our depleting halal food supply.

On our way back to Pearl Sea hotel, we stopped a bit at Han River promenade. It is a place for older Da Nang folks to spend their weekend nights. Some of them just sit back enjoying the night view or eating home-made snacks while some other playing some localized street poker. To me, whatever they do, they do it to rejoice another peaceful night in their beloved city.

As for us, we were there to enjoy the colorful lights emitted from the Song Han Bridge. Arrays of multi-color lightbulbs were arranged to give a glowing effect to the bridge at night and looking at those lights changing colors was really enthralling. The night ended with green...red...yellow...colors of the traffic light before we reached the hotel.

As promised, the next day after we've had completed our Marble Mountains and Hai Van Pass outing schedules, it was time for shopping. Where do people go for tourism-related items in Da Nang? It's a huge question mark there. There is in fact none. Da Nang does not really cater for souvenir merchandises. Each time we asked around, the only response would be either "Hoi An" or just a headshake. It looks like Da Nang was not ready for tourists yet. One good-hearted girl from Hanoi, who was on vacation in Da Nang was the one who told us of this market called Cho Han. Yeah, it was in our Cookbook too. So, we checked out one of the biggest markets in Da Nang, the Han Market.

Due to its central location not far from Han River promenade and can be accessed from four different streets, the Tran Phu St., Bach Dang St., Hung Vuong St., and Tran Hung Dao St., finding Han market wasn't so difficult.

It's a two-storey building with almost everything that a local Vietnamese could think of finding can be found here. Raw cooking materials like fish, meat, and vege, fishing equipment, dry food, household items, shirts, and bags, all can be found under one roof. You can also find dried seahorses and sharkfins here and they're reasonably priced.

I wonder how the dish looks like with some seahorses in it. However, we were not locals. What we wanted were some souvenirs for people back home. Out of almost 100 outlets, only two were selling souvenirs. Pricewise, they were less expensive than those in Hoi An. That also means we couldn't bargain too hard. Getting a 20% off from the retail price is good enough here. If you're planning to get here and stay for long hours at Han Market, please bring along a bottle of drinking water as there will be only one shop selling beverages and quite pricey.

One final thing before we left Da Nang, we stopped for a while at the promenade by the river Han. There were sculptures along the riverfront walkway as if there was an exhibition of modern sculpture.

Although it was an interesting sight with the construction of the soon Dragon River Bridge in the background, the heat from the hot afternoon sun limited us from getting exposed for too long. Before we got here we also stopped briefly at two other separate attractions in downtown Da Nang. There were the Cao Dai temple and Da Nang cathedral, located within 1km to 2km radius from Han Market area.

I've come to the end of Da Nang trip and while waiting for departure plane to arrive from KL, we waited in the departure hall which was full of other air travelers. There were only a couple of flights scheduled for that evening but the number of passengers seemed to be tremendous.

Earlier on, at the final security checkpoint, a fussy security officer had instructed my luggage to be inspected. She might have caught something suspicious when my luggage gone through the scanner, I guessed. I first thought it must be the ciggy lighter but it wasn't the lighter that she was after. She was actually searching for something else, something sharp according to what I understood from her body language. She'd never found anything after running a manual check on my luggage, she looked a little frustrated and in disbelief. Maybe to cover her embarassment, she asked me to check-in my tripod. Never in any of my previous trips I've been needed to check my tripod in. Heck! I first ignored her order but later she came to us in the waiting hall and with her sour face, insisted that the tripod has to be checked in. Since she looked so serious this time, I didn't want to get into trouble just for a tripod. Luckily, Mr Danarif dot com came to my rescue I can put my tripod using his luggage allowance. Thanks Dan!

Filed Under: South East Asia

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