The Da Nang Experience, Vietnam!

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And the happy wanderer that I am, that’s exactly where my sneaker-laced feet head to… and so after a comfortable four-and-a-half-hours journey (Mumbai to Ho Cho Minh) via VietJet, I reach Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City. My destination is the bustling city of Da Nang and so I take the connecting flight (via the domestic carrier of VietJet) to Da Nang Airport where I smoothly land exactly one hour later. Incidentally, there are direct flights from Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi to Da Nang now.
Smack in the center of Vietnam, Da Nang is the perfect gateway to UNESCO world heritages like Hoi An Ancient Town, My Son Sanctuary and so many other beautiful places. This scenically stunning place gives you easy access to photogenic riverside towns, national parks and long, sandy beaches. In the cities, you can spot ancient pagodas squatting just around the corner from sleek rooftop cafes; and in the countryside, life still follows the rhythms of the rivers and the rice harvest. This contrast between old and new Vietnam is a big part of its appeal.
My first pit stop is the Hoi An VinWonder Theme Park, one of the best amusement parks in South East Asia. The vast park has five divisions – Harbor Corner, the exquisite Island of Folk Culture which showcases the making of silk, lanterns, paintings, bamboo hats, and more, River Safari, Adventure Land and Water World. I try out the River Safari and as the motorboat takes off through a water body, I spot giraffes, zebras, antelopes, white tigers, lions, sloth bears and so much more. The bird section at the end of the safari houses exquisite birds including colourful parakeets that swoop high and feed on peanuts from your hands). All in all, the entire experience of this grand amusement park is magnificent.
My next destination is the Cua Dai River for a coconut basket boat ride and that will forever be etched in my memory. Each basket boat takes two passengers and is helmed by a boatman, who paddles to the middle of the river and then dizzily twirls the basket boats round and round. I gingerly step into one of them and from there, the gentle paddling of the basket boat to the middle of the river, gives me an almost  ‘clubbing feel’ – there’s super loud music and boatmen adroitly twirl to the tune as tourists clap and take pictures. The ambiance is absolutely beautiful as the evening skies turn to a stunning shade of peach and the serene azure waters placidly lap around the cute basket boats. But that’s when my boatman decides to turn renegade and before I know it, he dizzily twirls his boat round and round while I clutch onto the edge of the boat for dear life. Rocking sure gets a new meaning here!

A lot of insane twirling was done… it is time for a heritage walk. Hoi An, an ancient city, another World heritage site –is amazingly preserved and showcases the past legacy from 15th to 19th century.  The narrow lanes retain the charm of the past with pagoda temples filled with dragons and lanterns, wooden bridges and charming quaint cafes. This is followed by attending the spectacular Hoi An Memories Show, which showcases thousands of colourful lanterns as dancing troupes in traditional colourful costumes sing and dance. This is truly amazing.   
The next morning, I zip off to My Son Holyland, a UNESCO heritage site which feels like almost going back in time to the 7th century as I walk up the narrow steep valley surrounded by craggy mountains and verdant greenery to the temple ruins of a bygone era. There are numerous Shiv Lings and 70 other well-preserved monuments of the Champa Dynasty that have links to India. The heat and humidity make things a tad uncomfortable but the interesting legacies of the past linking India via the Champa dynasty have me enthralled.

After the heritage tour, I know I want my head to the silver beach of My Khe where the azure waters of the Pacific gently lap my feet. The sun sets late here and the sky is filled with exquisite vibgyor hues. There are cabanas and lounges set up at the edge of the beach by local café owners but you have to pay to recline and chill there.  Tired after a long day, I recline on the beach lounge and stare for hours at the beautiful ambiance before I retire to my hotel.
The next morning, I’m up at 5 a.m. but the sun is already up and it is bright and cheerful outside. After a quick breakfast, I am off to the amazing Ba Na Hills, which is an hour and a half away. The cable car station that looks like a huge pagoda is the hub where one can take a cable up to the Ba Na hills. … Perhaps because it is a Sunday, the place is crowded and I have to queue up in a serpentine line to get to the cable car. But the ride in the cable car is absolutely breathtaking as it rises high above the craggy mountains to land at the Golden Bridge engulfed by an open palm – another amazing addition to the UNESCO heritage sites. That bridge too is swamped with tourists. Another bridge leads me to the colorful French Village where I soak in the magical ambiance of medieval fantasy.
Lunch is at a bustling café plumb in the middle of the French Village. The cuisine is Vietnamese and serves a lot of seafood.  The French Village is an ‘Insta’ delight with every nook ‘n’ corner picture perfect. I take my share of selfies posing against the colourful vintage cars with the turrets as a backdrop and then rush back to the polished pink cable cars. My next destination is the Cham Museum which houses many relics of the past including Shiv lings and other statues, the APEC park next to the museum with its scenic panoramic view of the Hans river, beautiful trees and flowers, and its lovely architecture. From there, I can see the iconic Da Nang Dragon Bridge which breathes fire at 9 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. 
The night is still young and so I go down the street to explore the bustling street life. Da Nang is well-lit with neon billboards and the place is bustling with youngsters.  I head to the happening Iconsky Danang, Happy Yacht – Love Pier – Danang, which is a huge yacht that overlooks the Dragon bridge. It’s 9 p.m. and the dragon bridge breathes out a ball of fire and it is indeed a spectacular sight. The sun doesn’t set in Da Nang as the nightlife goes on till the wee hours of the morning.

 The next morning, after a teeny-weeny shopping break and lunch at a gorgeous restaurant, I head back home after a whirlwind fabulous experience.
Da Nang, Vietnam, is truly wonderful and should definitely be in every traveler’s radar. Travelling across this magnificent country is comfortably within the budget especially for Indians (1 Vietnamese Dong is equivalent to 290 Indian Rupee). The food is wonderful with enough choices for both veg and non veg… do try out the street food especially chicken Bun Bo Hu – it’s delightful. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, put Vietnam on your “must visit” destination to travel immediately.
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