Da Nang

Da Nang
Da Nang was the landing point of both the French and the Americans during their stints in Vietnam. When the French established a garrison in Da Nang (then called Tourane), more soldiers died from disease than the associated fighting in establishing the garrison. There is now a small cemetery dedicated to them.
During the Vietnam War, Da Nang was the home to one fifth of all US servicemen based in Vietnam. This made Da Nang on of the heaviest defended cities in South Vietnam, yet it eventually fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975 with hardly a bullet fired.

Da Nang marks the halfway point between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and was the first place to organize its own local communist party committee. The city is fairly featureless, and if you are coming from the tranquil setting of Lang Co beach, Hoi An, or anywhere for that matter, Da Nang is an extreme disappointment. It is a busy, dusty, colorless city, the fourth largest in Vietnam, and one of the largest business centers. Unless you are in Da Nang for business, chances are you will pass straight through. Da Nang does have a fascinating Cham Museum that contains an excellent collection of Cham art. However, the main reason for staying in Da Nang is in the surrounding region. My Khe Beach, the Marble Mountains, Hoi An and My Son are all within striking distance of Da mange, though it is more pleasant to stay in Hoi An and visit these sights.

Lang Co Beach
If you are not planning on staying in Lang Co, if you do get a chance to visit the area, you most likely will change your mind. The main street is lined with palm trees and the ocean is just wonderful for swimming. Crystal clear waters lap onto fine white sandy beaches. Lang Co is on a sand peninsula with a sparkling lagoon on one side, and a long beach lining the South China Sea on the other. This is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam, and is yet to be developed extensively for tourists, which is probably a good thing.

Hai Van Pass
Traveling by road between Lang Co and Da Nang, you will have to drive over the Hai Van Pass. This pass is created by a spur from the Truong Son Mountain Range that extends to the coast. The views as you go up and through the pass are sensational. Of course, because of the demands of this extremely mountainous road does cause many of the local vehicles to break down. So if you are going with a local vehicle, allow yourself plenty of time. The view from the top of the pass is extraordinary and well worth it.
Should you be traveling by train, the train passes through tunnels at the base of the mountain as well as along the shoreline, so you will miss the spectacular views from the mountain top. However you will nonetheless see some awesome scenery..

Cham Museum
The Cham Museum is the main attraction of Da Nang and is worth the trip, even if it is from Hoi An. This old sandstone building houses an excellent collection of Cham art and sculpture. The museum was built between 1915 and 1916, with Da Nang being chosen due to its proximity to the themes of Cham architecture, and was enlarged in 1936 as the collection of works increased. There are now over 300 pieces of sculpture and they are all original pieces of work. The sculptures are located in ten different rooms which are individually named for the name of the district in which the relics were found.

My Khe Beach
My Khe is the beach directly east of Da Nang. It is about 6 km from the centre of town. To get there, you must cross the Han River via the Nguyen Van Troi Bridge. Turn left after the river crossing onto the main road, then a right after a couple of kilometers, and follow this street until you reach the beach. My Khe Beach is only 65 km apart and they are connected by the same stretch of coastline of uninterrupted sand. This proximity to each other makes it easy to understand why there is a certain confusion as to which is the real 'China Beach', as it is essentially the same beach. In fact, there are some who argue that the 1992 International Surfing Competition actually took place at My Khe Beach!

Marble Mountains
The Marble Mountains are made up of five limestone outcrops in isolation from the surrounding plains. Each of the mountains is riddled with caves and grottoes, with some made into pagodas and shrines. Each mountain represents one of the five elements of the universe; water, wood, fire, metal and earth. The principal or larger mountain represents water and has a path to the top with two entrances available to tourists. The main entrance is at the front while the second entrance situate on the reverse side, farther down the road, provides a much less strenuous climb. The mountain top offers spectacular views of Da Nang and the other surrounding Marble Mountains. There is even a better vantage point which can be reached by going through a small opening at the top of one of the caves. Here you will also be able to see China Beach and Cham island.

As you start climbing the stairs that lead to the top of the mountain, you will be approached by young children offering to guide you or sell you stone carvings. The young guides are very good and very knowledgeable. All they usually want as payment is for you to buy a small stone carving, which will also serve as a great souvenir for yourself or someone back home. Some of the larger caves have been transformed for religious purposes. Statues of Buddha have been built in most of these caves along with statues of all the associated guardians. Some of these caves are quite eerie with the smell of incense floating in the air. One thing that you will notice on the walls are the large number of bullet marks made from fighting which took place during the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam war there was some heavy fighting in this area. Troops fought in violent cave to cave battles.

In Huyen Khong cave, one of the large holes in the ceiling was caused by a bomb. In this cave, there are a number of shrines, temple guards and Buddha statues. There are still stalactites on the ceiling. Off to one side of the cave there are two small stalactites that are believed to represent breasts, one is dripping whilst the other is dry. According to legend, when Emperor Tu Duc entered and touched one of the stalactites, it stopped dripping forever.

At the base of Marble Mountains there are a large number of stone carving shops reminiscent of Mahalliburipuram, India. As you approach these shops, you can hear the endless chipping away of stone. All these stores are very keen to sell you a three foot high temple dog.