I was told to only spend a day in Da Nang and that I would cover everything.
As I rode a motorbike around the Son Tra peninsula I quickly realized that this place isn’t given the credit it deserves. Son Tra has stunning mountain roads that are near deserted except for the occasional monkey family crossing. I’d go back only to ride a motorbike through that peninsula again.
The city itself, compared to Saigon, is clean, spaced out, has many walkable areas including a board walk and beach front. Like Saigon, it has many restaurants and the usual vietnam cafes and amenities. I brought up a discussion of why more people don’t live there, and the main answer filtered to: not enough people and energy. Fair. It doesn’t have the blood pumping hustle of Ho Chi Minh.
In 5-10 years if it continues to develop new infrastructure at the current pace it has a chance to be a nomad hub. It was also listed on 52 places to visit by the NY times this year as evidence for its direction.
I didn’t get enough time to explore thoroughly. There is a ferris wheel and I didn’t get to ride it. And the dragon bridge blows fire on weekend nights, new as of this year. I have to thank my good friends Coran and Leanne for hooking me up with a motorbike connection, “momma’s motorbikes” and giving some nice tips for Hoi An (Try Anthony Bourdain’s favorite sandwich at Banh My Phuong – check out Bale Well for a set menu dinner)
It’s a 30km motorbike ride from Da Nang, and a straight shot. Driving through twilight, like I did, is not recommended. Vietnamese people like to pop out of no where coming at you from the wrong side of the road. There might also be a random chicken or a pot hole that you can’t see.
Arriving to Hoi An, one girl who had wiped out (on another route) was scabbed and looking like an alligator. Don’t be that girl.
About Hoi An. It’s overrated in my book. Beautiful, yes. BUT Completely invaded by tourists. To me it looks like a set up. I’m sure it was nice to start, but now it seems like a caricature of itself. The streets are lined with tailor shops and handmade goods. The one big plus was the food – I had this black sesame pudding desert that I’ve never tried before. There is plenty of info about Hoi Ann since it’s a tourist hot spot so decide for yourself what you’re into.
Hai Van Pass and Hue
I was told to go the Hai Van Pass by a friend, and then pointed to the top gear episode where they go over the mountain. Many locals were warning me about how dangerous the mountain pass is, but I think that’s outdated information. There is a tunnel built recently so most of the traffic is diverted there.
After about an hour ride from Da Nang you hit the pass, and it’s a breath taking climb to the top, with only a few other motorbikes and an occasional truck.
The ride down the otherside is even better.
Continuing on to Hue is a brutal 2 hour ride where you have to maze around trucks on a dusty highway.
Hue itself is a small town and has an older feel to it. It used to be the imperial headquarters and has an historical citadel that you can tour for $5 US. Second time around I’d just go down the pass, turn around and go straight back to that stunning peninsula in Da Nang and spend a few days exploring the city scene!