One of the beauties of embarking upon a cruise? You just never know what treasures may be hidden in your itinerary.
Take Da Nang, for instance. This major port is located between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and is now the third largest city in Vietnam. Chances are you’ve probably never heard of Da Nang, but it was included on the New York Times list of “52 Places to Go in 2015” and it also topped TripAdvisor’s “Destinations on the Rise” list that same year, which is exactly why Holland America Line loves taking guests here.
So why is this city suddenly drawing so much attention from your fellow travelers and the media? Perhaps, it’s Da Nang’s beautiful crescent-shaped beach, which has attracted more than 150 resorts.
And even if you’ve never heard of Da Nang, there’s a chance you might be familiar with this beach. During the Vietnam War, it was a popular R&R spot for American soldiers known as China Beach. There was even a television show that ran from 1988 to 1991 named after this beach.
Another reason travelers love Da Nang? Its food.
Culinary tours that will give you a “taste,” both literally and figuratively of Da Nang, are very popular in this city. During these tours, you’ll get to sample the local cuisine, such as banh mi sandwiches or various noodle dishes, while walking past some of the city’s best-known landmarks, including a whimsical bridge that was constructed to look like a dragon. At night, this bridge is illuminated with colorful lights, and on weekends and special occasions, the 2,100-foot dragon’s head even spits water or breathes fire from its mouth.
You’ll also find the following great attractions in and around Da Nang:
This museum, which was first opened to the public in 1939, contains approximately 300 sculptures created by the Champa, an ancient civilization that lived in central and southern Vietnam between 500 and 1500 AD. This is the largest collection of Cham sculptures in the world and a must-see if you want to learn more about the people who once inhabited this country.
The Marble Mountains is a group of five marble and limestone hills that is located on the outskirts of Da Nang. Each of the five peaks bears the name of a different element — water, metal, wood, fire and earth — hence its Vietnamese name Ngu Hanh Son (Five Elements Mountains). The area has many caves, tunnels, pagodas and Buddhist temples that you can explore.
One of the best known attractions in the Marble Mountains is a very large cave known as Huyen Khong. Inside of this cave, you’ll find an amazing array of shrines and sculptures. There are also several spots on the Marble Mountains where you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area.
For many years, travelers would barely pause in Da Nang before heading to Hoi An, an UNESCO World Heritage site that is located approximately 20 miles to its south. Today, Hoi An’s well-preserved Old Town is known for its colorful buildings and mix of architectural styles that were influenced by immigrants from countries such as Japan and China that had settled in this area.
For example, one of Hoi An’s most famous landmarks is a pretty Japanese covered bridge. Hoi An’s Old Town, which is situated on the Thu Bon River, is small and very walkable. And if your timing is right and you arrive on the 14th day of the lunar month, you’ll get to enjoy this town in a whole new “light.” On that night, the town switches its electricity off in favor of the glow from old-fashioned colored lanterns.
Located about two hours north of Da Nang on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was once the imperial capital of Vietnam and is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although many of Hue’s important ancient buildings were destroyed during the Vietnam War, there are a number of fascinating sites still remaining, including the Imperial City — or The Citadel — which is where the emperors once lived.
You’ll also find the royal tombs of several ancient emperors in Hue. Another can’t-miss attraction is the 69-foot-tall Thien Mu Pagoda. This iconic structure is considered the unofficial symbol of Hue.
In need of a souvenir or a bite to eat? Then make sure to stop at the bustling, 100-year-old Dong Ba Market, which is filled with every type of goods imaginable, from fresh fish to exotic fruits to clothing.