Not less than three different UNESCO World Heritage sites are packed into in a relatively compact area in Central Vietnam:
The Old City of Hoi An
Its new semi-pedestrian zone makes the perfect place for strolling and breathing in the unique colonial charm of this ancient town. The lovely one-story buildings (most painted in dark yellow) have quaint pillars, wooden balconies and roofs made of tiles.
Try to be in Hoi An for the full moon. On these particular evenings, Hoi An switches off its lights, only colorful Chinese lanterns light up the city. Together with the small lantern gliding down the Hoai River, they turn Hoi An into a flickering magical place. A very special atmosphere and a great photo op!
Hue’s Imperial Citadel and Imperial Tombs
Those are spectacular monuments laid out in a soothing and peaceful environment that will take you way back to Imperial Vietnam. Renting your own motorbike / scooter is a great way to see the Imperial Tombs and discover a more rural Vietnam via back roads.
My Son (pronounce “Me Son”)
This cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples was constructed between the 4th and the 14th century AD by the kings of Champa. It served them as a site of religious ceremony and as a burial place for Cham royalty. Sadly it was largely destroyed during the Vietnam War by American bombs.
Historical highlights like these come for a price: they are completely overrun by the ever-increasing number of tourists. The policy of Vietnam’s tourism industry – a strong focus on guided tours that are funneled through the country all based on similar itineraries – makes things even worse. As mentioned before, those sights are all in the same area, which creates an unhealthy and extremely disturbing concentration of tourists.
The real highlights were those moments when we were away from the masses. And that is mostly why we truly enjoyed Danang, which is luckily neglected by the majority of the tourists and travelers alike…
What is so special in Danang?
- Being away from the crowds for a while… You most likely won’t encounter a single tourist or fellow traveler, except at Tam’s Pub & Surf Shop, also remembered for one of the best burgers ever eaten.
- The Champa Sculpture Museum is simply stunning, audio guides (clearly and slowly spoken by an English native speaker) help to get a good insight in this not very well known culture. Just this museum is worth a trip to Danang.
- From the summit of Marble Mountains (actually five limb-stone hills) the view over Danang and the ocean is spectacular, a unique sight is the Huyen Khong Cave.
- China Beach – once popular with American GIs during the war – invites for long strolls along the ocean, and is said to be a surfer hotspot in the area. It is not suitable for swimming in the winter months though, as freak currents can be deadly here! Most likely it is Vietnamese families on vacation and local fishermen that you will meet.
- Monkey Mountain supposedly offers great views, which I never had a chance to enjoy. In winter, the weather being unpredictable, driving a motorbike on a windy mountain road, rained or fogged in, was not an appealing option.
- And last but not least, Danang is a very cheap place, where you mostly enjoy good quality for little money.