Xin Chao Da Nang!
I’ve been ‘xin chaoed’ endlessly by the courteous and well trained staff at Angsana Lang Co. The resort was a sister company of the famous Banyan Tree resort chain, and we’ve been told that Angsana was not that different from Banyan Tree, except for the cheaper price and that Banyan tree Lang Co seems to have more privacy as each accommodation was its own villa, while we would have two other floors in the same building. But still, ours was very private already, there were no intersections between us and the tenants at the other floors.
Anyway, just like a lot of South East Asian countries, hotel staff members tend to be very friendly, courteous, and in a way subservient. We tested their politeness by working out this theory, and it worked! Whenever you make eye contact with a staff member, they must make eye contact with you and give you a smile, and then also say Xin Chao (which means hello in Vietnamese).
Da Nang is located in central Vietnam and meant to be the ‘resort/beach’ sot of location. Now it might be biased for me to say this, considering I went to Da Nang in December when the skies were grey and the weather a little chilly, and often rainy (except for the days I was there), but I’d much rather go to Phuket and definitely Bali if you’re looking more of a resort style vacation.
Angsana Lang Co (Website)
Situated a little more than an hour away from the city of Da Nang, both Angsana and Banyan Tree are perfect resorts for families and couples who are planning to laze around. They have daily activities where you can sign up for learning how to make Vietnamese hot chocolate, Vietnamese coffee (3 hours course!), basics of Vietnamese language, water sports, and more.
The accommodation however, is not ideal for those who want to keep going outside to the city of Da Nang. As mentioned at the beginning, it takes more than an hour to get there. We had to hire a whole day taxi, which costed about about 1.5M Vietnamese Dollars, to rent a driver for the whole day. This was booked in Angsana and probably quite expensive relative to prices in Vietnam in general.
We got the courtyard 1 bed king size, and the room was equipped with its own outdoor swimming pool, a spacious living room, a beautiful bathroom, and a comfortable bedroom. Variations of lights such as Vanity and Ambience allowed you to control the amount of lighting you want in your rooms.
There were various cuisines for you to choose from, such as Italian and of course Vietnamese. They also provided a morning breakfast buffet which included rice noodles, ham, eggs cooked to your style, yoghurt, Vietnamese coffee, orange juice, cucumber juice, orange juice and more. Prices in these restaurants were more expensive compared to the average meal in Vietnam.
If you want, you can always hop a boat to get to the other side, Banyan Tree. You can also laze by their beach or just chill at their own swimming pools. The biggest points that they got was that their staff was incredibly friendly and courteous. They arranged a takeaway breakfast for us since we had to catch a shuttle bus at 5am to get to the airport on the day of departure.
We took the 11am shuttle bus from the airport to get to Angsana Lang Co. Since we were early as check in was 3pm, we lounged around the hotel for a bit. Explored a bit, and also went to Banyan tree, and then had a quick lunch at one of their Italian restaurants.
We stayed and rested in the room for a bit before we headed out to Da Nang city with a private taxi. First stop was Han market.
Inside Han Market. They sold basic stuff like food, clothings, fabrics, raw vegetables, housewares, butchered meat etc. Honestly wasn’t interested in this stuff, so was out this place in about 5 minutes. Basically sort of like a wet market.
Our view from our private taxi. Felt like VIP service that night. Heard that Vietnamese taxi drivers can speak good English, but this one didn’t really understood most of our English and sometimes wasn’t sure of where we wanted to go even for the main tourist attractions.
The second market we went to, the Con Market. We were excited for this one, hoping it was a change from Han Market… but not. It turned out again to be selling produce, food, clothing, housewares, stuff we weren’t interested in.
Helmets cause the majority of drivers are riding motorbikes. Speaking of which, the cars and motorbikes do not stop for you! Sometimes it would be a green light pedestrian and yet there would still be motorbikes crossing, so be careful! I actually got hit on my leg by a motorbike once because of this and thankfully only got bruised a little bit.
A La Carte, a hotel with a beautiful sky bar. You will see later in the below pictures. Also sort of the beginning of the road of beautiful hotels… the further south you go, the better hotels you get like Pullman, Naman and Four Seasons, all nearby the My Khe Beach.
This is the My Khe beach at night, supposedly ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Didn’t get a chance to enjoy it since it was during the winter. You can see the waves keep pouring in from this image.
The bar of A La Carte. There were so many Koreans everywhere in Da Nang surprisingly! Everywhere you went in Da Nang, there were Koreans. Some places were overrun by Koreans as well, in coffee cafes, clubs, bars, etc.
Here is the famous Dragon Bridge. So Da Nang is famous for their bridges. The dragon bridge will spit out fire on Saturdays and Sundays from 9pm for about 10 to 15 minutes. As you can see from the picture, there were loads and loads of people. The bridge gets blocked off and cars cannot enter, but once the show ends, the people intelligently scatter out really quickly and the rapid cars continue to zoom past again.
It’s actually pretty cool. So they had 2 floors, one was indoors where there was no one, and there was an upper outdoors level, which is the photo you see here. Once again, almost 80% of the crowd were Koreans. You can order shisha and drinks here. The drinks are relatively expensive compared to rest of Da Nang. We had a really funny waiter serving us and kept telling me to suck up the shisha smoke. BY THE WAY, their shisha is REALLY strong. Few sucks of their smoke and you will feel lightheaded already.
This day was New Year’s eve. We lazed around our hotel for a bit, and even tried out our private pool, which the water was chilling. Soaked in it for no more than 3 minutes. For me, I had to step each stair every 30 seconds for my body to adjust and get used to the chilling water.
Anyway, there was a free bus that went to Hoi An ancient town from our hotel at 3pm, and if you wanted, it could also start taking you back at 9pm. Since it was NYE, of course we wanted to celebrate outside, so we only opted to go for the 3pm bus, and didn’t take the 9pm bus.
Anyway, the road to Hoi An is actually pretty far, even further south than Da Nang city, so from Angsana Lang Co, it took about 2 hours to get there.
Arriving at Hoi An Old Town. Used to not have to pay for a ticket, but now there’s a “security guard” who keeps telling people to go to this stall to buy tickets. But there is no traffic control or gates or anything so it’s hard for them to monitor who’s entering since it’s open space.
Japanese Cover Bridge – “This beautiful little bridge is emblematic of Hoi An. A bridge was first constructed here in the 1590s by the Japanese community to link them with the Chinese quarters. Over the centuries the ornamentation has remained relatively faithful to the original Japanese design. The French flattened out the roadway for cars, but the original arched shape was restored in 1986. The bridge is due for a complete removal for repair, so check it’s open before you travel, if making a special trip” (Lonely Planet)
Apparently 5 years ago, there were little or no boats on the river of Hoi An Old Town. Now, there are many locals trying to sell you services to ride the boat on the river, probably another way to make more money. Also, the place is more crowded now… but it also may be because it was NYE.
‘Roll It’ – Barbecued Pork with Rice Paper. Deliciously marinated barbecued pork with peanut sauce, fresh herbs, star fruit and green banana. This was my favorite dish. They even have this sweet vegetable that looks like ginger / avocado and when you bite on it, it makes your mouth really dry. Tastes really bad itself, but when mixed with the other meats and sauces and herbs, it complements excellently.
Cao Lau Noodles with Marinated Pork – Thick, homemade rice noodles called cao lau noodles, with tender marinated pork, fresh herbs and croutons in a light, delicious broth. Japanese, Chinese, and French influenced.
White Rose Dumplings – a Chinese family started in Hoi An that produce these famous soft steamed rice flour dumplings filled with ground shrimp and much lighter than the traditional Chinese one, same family still produces them. So famous this delicacy that there is now a restaurant also in Hoi An called White Rose due to this dish, and that restaurant also serves Vietnamese food.
This was supposed to be the really famous Vietnamese bread store, this type of Vietnamese bread called Banh Mi. This small shop is called Banh Mi Phuong, and once again there were Koreans and foreigners queuing for this place. You can dine inside, but most people just takeaway. They have different types of Banh Mi, and the most popular one is #3, mixed meats. In my opinion, it was overrated, the banh mi was just OK.
When we finished Hoi An, it was just around 9:30pm, so we took a taxi to go to Brilliance Hotel and went up the bar. Listened to live music and counted down there… ordered a bottle of white wine to go along with the celebrations. Once again, many Koreans in the Brilliance Hotel.
Day Three, the first day of 2018, was reserved for doing more cultural/sightseeing places and also to continue to try local Vietnamese food.
To be quite frank, the restaurant here was OK. Morning Glory was definitely better, but that’s not to say that this restaurant is bad, just nothing exceptional. But, we can’t complain. Three dishes all for HKD 40! That’s almost USD 5 for two persons. The restaurant does pride itself in being a very low cost and delicious meal.
Yum. Actually I had two of these coffees on the right as three gulps already finished a cup. I had 4 coffees a day. My body was twitching and I felt my eyes bulging the next 2-3 days. But being me, I still managed to fall asleep early.
We were supposed to visit Intercontinental, rated as one of the most prestigious resort in Southeast Asia. It’s nearby Lady Buddha, again also at Son Tra peninsula. We went there on our private taxi once again (same driver as the first day) and got to the entrance. Security guard asked if we had booking for the bars. We said we just wanted to have one drink. He said the bars and restaurants were fully booked and so we were turned away. So what’s this image above from? It’s a Christmas tree at…
This restaurant, Lam Vien, was located back nearby Da Nang city. Not your typical Vietnamese restaurant… in fact it was leaning towards being a Chinese/Asian restaurant. They didn’t had the usual Vietnamese delicacies and the cooking style was more Chinese.
By the way, the reason why Vietnam uses so much ‘rice paper’ for their food is that it’s because they aren’t able to sell their rice. Compared to rice from other countries, like Japan and Thailand, their rice is much finer and people prefer eating those rice instead. As such, the Vietnamese have to create different products using their rice. You can see previously in Morning Glory that one of the dishes is called broken rice, because the rice does taste quite… ‘weak and broken’.
I have to admit – Da Nang is a city that is worth going at least once, preferably not during the winter time when it’s just chilly enough to not swim, and probably not in the summer as I heard from friends that it gets pretty hot here. In fact, you can continue to feel the humidity in the city even during winter, so I cannot imagine how to survive during the summer months.
Besides going to Da Nang and Hoi An, you might also want to visit Hue as well, another small city good for a day trip.
What is Da Nang to me? It doesn’t scream impressive in every sense. The best things there were probably the hotels and resorts, and of course I love Vietnamese coffee, but both the foods and the sightseeing and cultural sights felt a bit undertuned.