The stars of the holidays were aligned in Vietnam : last Friday April 30th was a commemoration day, along with Monday May 3rd, offering a four-day weekend.
Arrived two months ago, it was finally (the golden) time to travel, domestically only, but it has to start at some point!
Destination : the coastal city of Da Nang, in the middle of the country, about 600 kilometers away from Ho Chi Minh City — an hour and a half away flight time.
This very first trip was solely dedicated for discovery and I did not have the opportunity to make cultural visits. That would be for next time!
I was very lucky during this four-day weekend, there was very few people in all the places I have been to.
While waiting for the upcoming video, which will be about this trip, here is a selection of photos taken during this adventure!
Da Nang City and its beaches
The city of Da Nang was known as Tourane during the French colonial period (Indochina). One of the primary port of Vietnam, the coastal city offers an incredible mix of this colonial past and modernity, reflecting the rapid growth of the country.
Famous tourist destination, the city enjoys beautiful white sand beaches… And also a bridge named Dragon Bridge, designed and shaped like a dragon.
This dragon was supposed to breathe fire every Saturday and Sunday at 9PM. Bad luck (or not), but during both nights of the weekend, the dragon went on strike.
Another point of interest, the cathedral of Da Nang, built by a French priest, Father Louis Vallet, in 1923, is easily recognizable by its color… pink.
Unfortunately, for a few months now, it is no longer possible to visit it because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, it is possible to attend the services, which I was able to do by attending a mass, presided by the bishop of Da Nang for the feast of Saint Joseph and the beginning of the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Son Tra Peninsula
The Son Tra peninsula is basically a mountain of the same name. Unfortunately, my bad two wheels driving skills did not allow me to reach the top. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the ascent, there is the Linh Ung pagoda, with a huge Buddha statue overlooking the city — offering a breathtaking view of the coast at the same time.
The Marble Mountains
The Marble Mountains is located to the south of the city, still along the coast. It is the sanctuary of many Buddhist temples. Although it is not very high, it is full of caves with many altars.
Hai Van Pass
Also known as the Ocean Cloud Pass, it overlooks the city to the north. It is usually part of a road trip route along the Vietnamese coast. Taking this mountainous road allows for an instant escape!
Ancient Town of Hoi An
Hoi An is of course a developed city, but it is world famous for its old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. It is located about 20 kilometers south of Da Nang, about 45 minutes drive (all trips are extremely long by road in the country).
This city has remained frozen in time, spared by the bombings during the war. There is a mixture of styles dating from the 15th to the 19th century. The streets are lined with old houses mixing Chinese, Japanese and European architecture styles.
In the heart of this ancient port city, there is a Japanese-style bridge, symbol of the city, which is also on the back of the current 20,000 dong bill (the equivalent of about 0.75 euro).
The ancient town is not very big and its does not take long to visit. I went there in the middle of the day, nevertheless I will have to go back a another time, during the Full Moon Lantern Festival… An opportunity to dream and to have stars in the eyes!
My Son Sanctuary
The ruins lies nearly 50 kilometers southwest of Da Nang city, requiring nearly an hour and a half by motorcycle to reach them. This sanctuary is a group of temples of the Cham dynasty, in which we find mainly Hindu temples.
The buildings (at least the remaining) of this site were built progressively by the Cham people who occupied the land from the 4th to the 13th century.
Ba Na Hills
What a surprise when I discovered that the mountain west of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills, is actually a theme park! This resort, originally founded in the early 20th century by French settlers, has kept its French spirit.
In fact, the theme park is full of all the possible and imaginable French stereotypes, both architecturally (looks pretty much like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast than to Paris…), florally (the inspiration of the Versailles gardens), but also musically through the ambience music (all the French greatest romantic hits in loop).
I did not call it an amusement park, but a theme park, there is only one big attraction (no thrill), as it is more of an Instagramable spot.
Obviously, I did not face so much of a drive to come and see some kind of France, but rather what makes this place authentic: the cable car and the golden bridge (without the “Gate” from San Francisco).
First of all, the cable car, a 20-minute journey from the entrance to the station at nearly 1,500 meters above sea level, with breathtaking nature! Opened in 2013, it is the longest continuous cable car in the world. It makes the Disneyland entrance kind of pale…
The other highlight is the Golden Bridge, suspended over the mountain, offering a breathtaking view. This bridge formed by a loop, is supported by two gigantic hands made out of concrete, making it truly original!
A little downside during this escapade, a theme park empty of visitors, is lifeless and almost creepy. I am sure that there were more employees than visitors on that day…