Danang: Unknown Sights

Mark Levitin | Live the World

May 29, 2024

The city of Danang is effectively the capital of Central Vietnam. It even has a reasonably well connected international airport. Few travelers skip it, and there is quite a lot to see in and around the city. Many sights are heavily promoted on internet, popularized on Instagram, and covered by regular tours. But then, there is more to Danang than an average guidebook or travel website would list (well, this is probably true for most locations in the world), and a number of beautiful places remain unknown to foreign – and even domestic – tourists.

Son Tra Mountains

© Mark Levitin

Of all the uncommon sights, Son Tra Peninsula is the most popular. It is not exactly off the beaten track. But since the main attraction here is an endemic species of primates, red-shanked douc langurs, and they freely roam the rather broad jungle massif, it still qualifies as proper exploration. Yes, the occasional tour includes Son Tra in its itinerary, but they mostly focus on temples, ignoring the wildlife, and your chances of seeing the rare animals on such a brief visit are zero. The practical way is to reach the grounds of InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort, and start hiking from there. 

Don’t rush, scan the canopies for movement, notice branches swaying out of tune with the wind, and use your ears, not only eyes – the odds of actually spotting a wild animal in thick forest are low, it’s much easier to hear the noises it makes (especially true for monkeys) or see the disturbance it causes in the trees, then follow it and steadily lock on your target. If you stay long enough – and most likely, you will have to – on the way back you’ll be rewarded with beautiful sunset views of the wild beaches and coastal cliffs. This trip will require either a motorbike or a taxi to get to the starting point - not much sense in wasting time and energy walking the 10 or so km from the city before the actual hike even begins. 

Nam O village and beach

© Mark Levitin

Nam O area north of Danang has two attractions at once: the village specializes in traditional shrimp sauce manufacture, while the beach is peppered with boulders of various sizes that get covered with bright green sea moss in season. The season starts roughly in late February and lasts through March, and the tidal zone looks quite otherworldly during that time – like though every rock has turned into a green furry animal, something out of Pokémon cartoons.

 Swimming is good too, but for this purpose it’s better to come in winter, when the waves are calmer. On the way to the beach, you will notice every second house in the village surrounded by traditional clay jars and less photogenic plastic buckets. The vessels contain fermenting shrimp paste – a mass of rotting pulverized marine invertebrates. In daytime, it’s easy to observe and photograph the proceedings – villagers stirring the noxious brews, adding ingredients, moving the buckets – but make sure you can cope with the smell before wandering in.

On the way to the beach, you will notice every second house in the village surrounded by traditional clay jars and less photogenic plastic buckets. The vessels contain fermenting shrimp paste – a mass of rotting pulverized marine invertebrates. In daytime, it’s easy to observe and photograph the proceedings – villagers stirring the noxious brews, adding ingredients, moving the buckets – but make sure you can cope with the smell before wandering in.

Further north

© Mark Levitin

The northern side of Danang vicinity remains largely unknown to travelers – quite the opposite story from the southern direction, leading to the famous Marble Mountains and the pretty, but overcrowded tourist trap of Hoi An. But the small mountain shoulder and the lagoons located between Danang and Hue are full of natural sights. Immediately after Nam O, a long bridge crosses Cu De River that forms a wide shallow lake here. 

Tens of traditional lever nets stand over the water on both sides of the bridge. This method of fishing is unique for Central Vietnam (although different modifications of it can be found in other Asian countries), and at sunset the wet nets, shining with the rays of low sun, make for great photographs. Beyond that, the hills begin, full of natural streams and little waterfalls, some equipped with recreational facilities, others completely wild; Suoi Cay is probably the best of the lot. 

On the peninsula, Bai Sung beach has good views, and should also get a share of sea moss in season. You can get within walking distance of these sights by taking bus No 16 from Danang center. An even nicer alternative is to stay closer to them – the government-own Hotel 683 is somewhat institutional, but comfortable, quiet and dirt-cheap.

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