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Da Nang Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vietnam Travel Report

Wolfgang Holzem

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Da Nang (Đà Nẵng) is Vietnam’s fifth largest city. It’s located in Central Vietnam and on the South China Sea coast, midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The city itself has neither the ambiance of Hanoi nor the hustle-bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, but has its share of sights and is close to the charms of Hoi An and the imperial capital of Hue, making it a popular vacation spot for those looking to explore the attractions of central Vietnam or soak up some sun while hanging out on the city’s beaches.

| Covid-19 Travel Restrictions | Lockdown | Coronavirus Outbreak for Vietnam
2,824
Confirmed
8
Confirmed (24h)
35
Deaths
0
Deaths (24h)
1.2%
Deaths (%)
2,490
Recovered
0
Recovered (24h)
88.2%
Recovered (%)
299
Active
10.6%
Active (%)

Introduction to Da Nang

The regions surrounding Da Nang (My Son, Quang Nam) were founded by the Cham Hindus perhaps 3,000 years ago, serving as the national capital and centre of the Hindu Champa Dynasty. Vietnamese invasions into the region in the 17th century significantly halted Cham development.

Given that Da Nang was the first point of colonial invasion, many vestiges of French architecture are present in the historic buildings.

Until relatively recently, Da Nang was somewhat hostile to foreigners, a consequence of the attitudes of those who controlled the provincial government. In the early 1990s, however, this changed, and since then the provincial (actually autonomous city) government has been enthusiastically pursuing foreign investment and infrastructure development. Da Nang has some of the best roads in the country. The coast road is at least four lanes from northern provincial boundary to southern provincial boundary. Compared to either Hanoi or HCMC, traffic in Da Nang is always relatively light, although huge trucks blast through every now and again and there are brief rush hours.

The city is often overlooked by tourists but it is one of the friendliest to backpackers in all of Vietnam. My Khe Beach, known to American GIs as China Beach, is now home to a small community of guesthouse owners, marble statue shops, and other various trades. Some of the most beautiful and isolated beaches in Vietnam are found here, among some of the friendliest people. This is a must-stop for the budget traveller.

There are many remnants of the “American War” left over in Da Nang. During the war, many monuments and buildings were destroyed. On the way to My Khe Beach, the ruins of a military base remain in the form of helicopter hangars; however, these are now more easily spotted at the airport, which serves both civil and military flights.

The city has grown rapidly, and had a population of 1,046,876 in 2015. This growth had been outward and infill, but now there are high-rises going up. Development is visible and rapid; the city has expanded tremendously, and several multi-storey buildings and more beach resorts are under construction. This involves redevelopment of areas near the city beaches across the river, with whole blocks of old housing being razed, new roads paved, and luxurious villas constructed.

The downside to the very laid back, less serious and frenetic aspect of Da Nang is that even locals frequently complain that there is nothing to do except drink, which they do a lot. This is not really true: there is a zoo, a soccer stadium, many tennis courts, pool halls, several large modern discos/night clubs, the beaches, and Son Tra Peninsula. However, it is also true that coffee and beer drinking are the most common leisure activities of most local residents.

Climate

The hottest months of the year are Jun-Aug, when the temperature can go as high as 40°C, and it is very humid. There are usually tropical storms from Oct-Nov.

Get in

By plane

  • Da Nang International Airport (located within the city, just 3 km southwest of the centre of Da Nang, a 10-minute trip at most). Is the smallest of Vietnam’s three international airports. There are frequent flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Jetstar Pacific, SilkAir and domestic service between Buon Ma Thuot, Dalat, Haiphong, Nha Trang and Pleiku and internationally Guangzhou, Seoul-Incheon, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai-Pudong, Siem Reap, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo-Narita. Aside from a money changer, airport amenities are rather minimal, although the airport is one of the country’s most modern. Compared to larger Vietnamese airports, Da Nang is a little bit laid back. Locals often arrive less than 30 minutes before their flights. There are also a couple of restaurants/coffee shops opposite the terminal, which offer more choice, if not lower prices, than inside the departure area.

Many visitors now choose to stay in Da Nang as it is considered as a gateway to Central Vietnam World Heritage Sites: Hoi An (25–30 min, USD15) or Hue (2 hr, USD40–45 depending on car size), My Son (1-1½ hr). The hotels and resorts in Da Nang have their own travel desks which offer some half day or a day trips to those destinations. The fixed-price taxi coupon system has regrettably disappeared and now you have to haggle with the drivers outside, who ask silly prices but can be negotiated down to the amounts above. Perhaps find a few others to share the cost. If going to a destination within or close to the city, ignore offers to set a price in advance and insist on use of the meter (drivers may only be willing to accept pre-set fares during holiday times, such as Tet). If you arrive on a late night flight, you may encounter an unscrupulous taxi driver who has a fast meter, but usually there are lots of taxis and companies such as Mai Linh, Taxi Xanh and Song Han that are reliable. Avoid Airport Taxi, especially at night. Average metered fares to the city centre should be around 70,000 dong. A safer but more expensive option, especially for late flight arrivals (some lowsomet airlines such as VietJet can delay a morning or evening flight to a midnight arriving flight), would be to hire a driver. Several travel agencies can be used for this. To Hoi An, a typical price is around 350,000 dong.

Travel by train to Da Nang

The Reunification Express makes a stop in Da Nang and takes around two to two and a half hours to Hue. Many taxis are available outside of the station. Scheduled arrival and departure times are loosely followed. If you just want to get to Hue, you can also take the local train which is slow (about four to four and a half hours from Da Nang to Hue, with several stops along the way; a car or taxi does it in two), but cheap (25,000 dong including a meal) and passes through some spectacular coastal scenery. Best to avoid the motorbike taxis outside the station as many times they are the same price or more than regular taxi.

Da Nang to Hanoi

  • Train SE2: Depart 12:06, Arrive 04:02 next day
  • Train SE4: Depart 14:42, Arrive 05:00 next day
  • Train SE6: Depart 10:34, Arrive 04:45 next day
  • Train SE8: Depart 23:27, Arrive 15:28 next day

Da Nang to Hue

  • Train SE2: Depart 12:06, Arrive 14:43
  • Train SE4: Depart 14:42, Arrive 17:06
  • Train SE6: Depart 10:34, Arrive 13:21
  • Train SE8: Depart 23:27, Arrive 15:28

Da Nang to Nha Trang

  • Train SE1: Depart 10:46, Arrive 22:28
  • Train SE3: Depart 10:24, Arrive 22:03
  • Train SE5: Depart 09:11, Arrive 19:40
  • Train SE7: Depart 21:56, Arrive 07:37 next day

Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City

  • Train SE1: Depart 10:46, Arrive 04:10 next day
  • Train SE3: Depart 13:24, Arrive 05:00 next day
  • Train SE5: Depart 09:11, Arrive 04:40 next day
  • Train SE7: Depart 21:56, Arrive 15:05 next day

By car

Da Nang is in the middle of the country, roughly speaking equidistant from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. It’s possible to hire a car and drive yourself, but as Vietnamese traffic in general is chaotic and dangerous, foreign visitors and locals usually hire a car with a driver.

By bus

Several bus-pass services (incl. “Sinh Cafe” and “Cuc Tung”) make stops in Da Nang, and can be taken from either Hue or Hoi An or further in either direction. From Hue the trip takes about three hours with one refreshment stop on the way (50,000 dong). The bus uses the tunnel so does not go over the spectacular pass between Da Nang and Hue.

From Hoi An, you can take the local bus to Da Nang, it is a yellow bus route number 01 that has “Hoi An – Da Nang” sign along the front window. Fare is 16,000 VND, see information in Hoi An#By bus for stop locations and to avoid getting scammed on the fare. Buses run roughly every 20 min during the day and take about 45-55 min to get from Hoi An to Da Nang.

Sleeper buses depart from Da Nang to:

  • The North of Vietnam (at 08:30 and 14:30): Hue, Quang Tri, Quang Binh, Phong Nha, Ninh Binh , Ha Long Bay, Hanoi (buses leave Hanoi’s Giap Bat station in the afternoon, charge 380,000 dong (2012) and take around 14 to 16 hours.).
  • The South of Vietnam (at 16:30 and 19:00): Quy Nhon (200,000 dong), Da Lat (300,000 dong), Nha Trang (250,000 dong), Phan Thiet, Vung Tau, Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh City (around 400,000 dong, depending on the bus company).
  • Laos (daily at 6:00): Pakse, Vientiane, Champasak, Savannakhet (around 800,000 dong) (2015).
  • There are several buses to Pleiku, from where you can go on to Laos and Cambodia. Sleeper buses leave Da Nang around 20 to 20:45 and charge 220,000 dong to 230,000 dong (2012).

You may book tickets at the Da Nang Intercity Bus Station, travel agencies and at some hotels. It is wise to reserve your seat at least one day in advance for travel on weekends and during festivals.

  • Da Nang bus stationIt’s a few kilometres out of the city but is serviced by local buses such as #2 which goes to the town centre and #1 to Hoi An.

By boat

  • Da Nang portThe third-largest port in Vietnam, primarily used for cargo ships – but also serves human transport in a lesser degree.
  • Karma Waters47 Cua Dai St, Hoi An, . Sustainable tour operator and vegetarian restaurant operates Da Nang-Hoi boat tours and shuttle service.

Get around

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By taxi

Taxi rates are very reasonable in Da Nang, and scams are less common than in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, but you’re better off going with a reputable company to avoid any hassle. Mai Linh (mostly green with white lettering, though sometimes green or silver) ☎ +84 511 356 5656 (or 0511 356 5656 if dialling from a local telephone) and Vinasun (white with green and red lettering) ☎ +84 511 368 6868 have large fleets in the city and are generally honest and reliable, with meters that start automatically after the taxis have moved about 5m. At the airport, Mai Linh taxi wardens wear green shirts with green ties, and Vinasun wardens dark green shirts with maroon ties. These wardens can radio taxis for you. Some travellers have reported that Song Han’s yellow taxis are also fairly reliable. The ride sharing app “Grab” is common and can be used to arrange for a taxi or other ride.

According to reports, USD10 is the standard rate for going to Hoi An. You can try to negotiate with a taxi driver at the train station, and agree on a fare of USD10 (220,000 dong).

By bus

Local and regional bus service is under authority of DanangBus. Their website has a route map and ticket price info in English.

Taxi drivers may park in front of the bus stop and tell you that the bus is not running. This is not true; they’re just trying to get your business.

By motorbike

Epitomized in an episode of “Top Gear” riding a motorbike in Vietnam has become a goal for many people visiting the country. While riding in Vietnam is dangerous it can also be a life changing experience. You see things from the seat of a motorbike that you don’t see while travelling in different type of vehicle. Some choose to traverse the entire country this way while most are satisfied with a few local day trips. If you are not an experienced motorcycle rider you should reconsider starting to ride here. While many visitors operate a motorbike without a proper licence this is not recommended.

Rent or purchase

If you need a motorbike while in Danang for a few months or less consider renting. If you are riding the entire length of the country renting or buying have both advantages and disadvantages. Renting a motorbike is fairly straightforward process. Ask the front desk staff and other travelers at your hotel or hostel where to rent a motorbike. Some of the recommendations given will be quality rental shops and others might be recommended because the local person making the recommendation is receiving a commision. The rental price will depend demand, age of the motorbike, engine size and transmission type. Semi-automatic motorbikes cost less to rent than fully automatic bikes. Electric bikes can cost half as much as gasoline powered bikes. Most places will want a deposit, which can be $100 to $500 depending on the value of the motorbike, or in lieu of a cash deposit they will hold your passport. Some travelers have found it helpful to carry two passports for situations like this allowing them to retain identification and a current visa stamp.

If you choose to ride the entirety of the country consider traveling from Ha Noi to Sai Gon instead of the other way around. Since most people travel south to north there is usually a surplus of low cost bikes in Ha Noi. This means many times a bike purchased in Ha Noi can be sold for the same price Sai Gon while buying in Sai Gon and selling in Ha Noi will almost always lead to a loss.

Insurance

If you have traveler’s insurance check with your insurance company to see if you are covered to ride. While most insurance policies will cover you if you have a valid motorcycle drivers licence from your home country and an International Driving permit, most will not cover you without them.

Safety gear

Consider bringing some motorcycle gear with you like a low cost, full-face helmet, riding gloves, jacket and trousers if you plan on spending a lot of time riding. While helmets are easy to find in Vietnam and make a great souvenir their quality can be questionable whereas an inexpensive helmet from the West that carries a safety certification should be better. Unlike low cost or generic helmets new, expensive helmets are more likely to be stolen. Also bring a cable lock with you to secure your helmet as opposed to securing with the strap which can be easily cut and replaced. When you’re finished with your ride you can sell your gear.

Riding to Monkey Mountain

Besides riding through the Hai Van Pass the iconic motorcycle ride in Danang is to Monkey Mountain. Many will ride up the road by the beach following it to the Intercontinental Resort, then ride along the north side heading west and finally down the mountain to be let out near the Port of Danang. It’s a ride similar to the 11 mile “Tail of the Dragon” in Tennessee and North Carolina except with a steeper grade, more and sharper turns, amazing views of East [Vietnamese] Sea, wild monkeys and no one is checking to see if you’re going over the speed limit. Other than the weekends it’s common not to see another person for the entire ride leaving the mountain to yourself. If you go just before sunrise, head to the north side and are quiet you might see a red-shanked or gray-shanked douc. There are a few well posted areas that are military facilities and the signs, which are in Vietnamese and English, warning you not to enter or take pictures need to be respected. The road is well maintained but it’s not uncommon to encounter a large boulder mostly blocking one’s passage. There are a number of possible construction projects slated to begin in 2019 which will forever replace some of the views of nature for ones of hotels, condominiums and tour buses. It’s recommended not to ride at night.

Riding to Hoi An

Renting a motorbike to travel to Hoi An from Da Nang costs about 80,000-150,000 dong per day from most hotel and rental companies in Da Nang. Locals pay about 50,000-100,000 dong. With a little bargaining and renting for a week or month at a time, you could possibly bring down the price. Haggle and ask if they include roadside service. The distance to Hoi An is approximately 28 km and takes about 45–60 min. The route is fairly simple and straightforward, and takes you along the coastline of Da Nang, allowing you an extraordinary experience and views along the beaches to Hoi An. The traffic is light. once you get outside the city. Make sure you bring along a windbreaker or sweater, during autumn and spring, as the temperature along the coastline can be a little cold. Be cautious riding in winter or rainy season from late September to January, as the wind is strong and rain is frequent. Avoid major roadways at night.

Motorbike taxis and “easy riders”

Considering the low cost of standard taxis in the city of Danang and throughout Vietnam one would be cautioned to avoid motorcycle taxis. While not as common in Danang as Sai Gon or Ha Noi they are completely unregulated and are most commonly found outside the train station hustling tourists. If confronted simply say “ya không cảm ơn” or no thank you and keep walking.

‘Easy riders” offer an alternative for someone wishing to travel by motorcycle but lacks the prerequisite skills to operate one. They can take you on a day trip from Danang to Hoi An or a week-long excursion throughout Central Vietnam. Most ‘easy riders” take a lot of pride in motorcycle and try to offer a pleasant trip. Ask at your hotel or hostel and other travelers who they recommend.

Electric bikes

Electric bikes are now common in Danang and offer an excellent alternative to gasoline powered motorbikes. They have more than enough power to drive most of the day throughout the city, can be driven without a driver’s license and are easier to drive than their gas-powered cousins. While they won’t make it back and forth to Hoi An or around Monkey Mountain they’re well suited for city travel. Check with the company that issued you your traveler’s insurance to see if you’re still covered while driving an e-bike.

If you are pulled over or have an accident

Most local “Công An” (pine green uniform) and traffic “CSGT” (tan uniform) police in Danang will recognize an IDP which most likely means a quick traffic stop and being sent on your way after a simple paperwork check. This is less certain out in the country. To reduce your chances of being detained try not to stand out which means dressing like the locals including wearing a dust mask. Only tourists ride a Honda Win with a gold or yellow star on the tank. Drive with the crowd and obey the driving laws even when others around you are not. If signaled to pull over, some people recommend smiling and nodding but not stopping as it’s unlikely the police will chase you.

If you are pulled over be calm, smile, be respectful and apologetic. Take your motorbike’s keys and put them in your pocket and don’t hand the police anything of value to you such as your passport. Some people recommend to talk to them in any non-English non-Vietnamese language, while continuing to smile and be respectful so they’ll tire from you and ask for bribes from someone else. The police in Vietnam are not confrontational like many police can be in the West and most likely they will not speak English well. Present IDP or local driver’s licence and the motorbike registration card a.k.a “blue card.” If you rented your motorbike it’s quite likely the rental shop will have the registration card and they will need to be called. Most rentals have the shop’s phone number on the key chain. When the officer is ready to make a decision on what to do with you it could be anything from letting you go or asking for a bribe a.k.a. “coffee money” and less likely seizing your bike or arresting you. Some have found it helpful to ride with no more 200,000₫ visible in their wallet as to limit the size of the bribe. Don’t offer a bribe but be responsive to the request of one. If you do not have an IDP and/or driver’s licence with a motorcycle endorsement from your home country you might be asked for a bribe which should be no more than 200,000₫. Some clueless foreigners pay bribes up to a few millions which happens only due to unsubstantiated fear.

If you get into an accident you’re most likely to be blamed for it, even if you were not at fault. If the other person is not trying to rip you off asking for too much money, it might be best to settle the amount on the spot and not involve the police. If the police gets involved, they should try to help all sides settle the issue. Be prepared means having access to the funds to resolve a problem like this. Having representation from a well connected attorney that speaks English is almost a requirement and good advice.

See

For years, tourists have bypassed Da Nang on their travel itineraries, preferring to spend their time viewing the ancient imperial court at Hue or walking the streets of the old town in Hoi An. And yet, as those who call it home are aware, Da Nang has plenty of interesting and beautiful sights of its own. Nestled between the Annamite Range and the South China Sea on the banks of the Han River, Da Nang’s natural beauty is hard to miss; a trip up into the mountains and down to the beach should be on your to-do list. Culturally, Da Nang once lay at the northernmost reaches of the Kingdom of Champa; the Museum of Cham Sculpture, located in the city centre, should be mandatory if you’re planning on visiting the ruins at nearby My Son.

Learn

It is difficult to learn Vietnamese in Da Nang as the expat community is small and the demand for language learning is not great. You will be able to find many people who are willing to do language exchange with you and there are a number of qualified Vietnamese teachers. The rate is about USD5/hour.

The Da Nang dialect of Vietnamese is distinct from both Hanoi and HCMC versions, although closer to HCMC than to Hanoi. If you learned your Vietnamese in Hanoi, many ordinary people in Da Nang will have some difficulty understanding you until they realize you are trying to talk like the presenters they see on TV. Even trained teachers will tend to teach you to speak like a Da Nang person unless you emphasize that you want to learn Hanoi dialect, which is understood {eventually} throughout the country as it is the official version and that used on TV. If you spend a fair amount of time in Da Nang, either employed or as a volunteer, it is fairly easy to find recent English graduates, or students studying English at the College of Foreign Languages of the University of Da Nang who will happily work through a Vietnamese textbook with you for a lot less than USD5/hour, and this is probably as good a way as any to acquire some Vietnamese. There are Vietnamese course books for foreigners: Teach Yourself Vietnamese (Huong Dan Tu Hoc Tieng Viet, a Complete Course for Beginners) by Dana Healy is one of the best; Jake Catlett and Huong Nguyen’s Vietnamese for Beginners is easier and less comprehensive; Nguyen Anh Que’s Vietnamese for Foreigners is good and has a lot of material and vocabulary.

Work

There are a number of schools (ILA, Apollo, Academy English Center, and the University of Da Nang) where qualified teachers can teach English. The salaries are many times above the average national wage.

Buy

Shops often operate from the ground floor of their homes, selling any number of things: coffee, bánh mì sandwiches, dry goods, clothing, SIM cards and more. Walk a little farther and you’ll eventually come across a neighbourhood market where people sell fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, eggs, meat, and fish. You can do a lot of shopping but be aware that, as a foreigner, you’re likely to be overcharged unless you haggle. There are an increasing number of supermarkets appearing where prices are fixed.

Markets

  • Big C supermarket255 Hùng Vương (Corner of Hung Vuong and Ong Ich Khiem). Large supermarket complex with a mall beneath it and food court above. There is also a CGV cinema on the top level. The Western-style supermarket is on the third floor. The parking entrance is on Ông Ích Khiêm.
  • Han Market119 Tran Phu St (Corner of Tran Phu & Hung Vuong). 06:00-21:00A typical Vietnamese market, with vendors selling everything from shoes to silk and souvenirs, candles to coffee, and candied plums. The upper part of the building is mainly dedicated to clothing, accessories and silk, while the lower part is mainly dedicated to foodstuffs. There’s an extensive fruit and vegetable market on the side that’s closest to the river, from which you can access the Han River promenade. Be prepared to haggle for prices, like at any neighbourhood market.
  • Lotte Mart shopping centreLarge shopping complex with cinema on top level.
  • Metro Cash & CarryCach Mang Thang Tam St (Near Hoa Xuan bridge), . 06:00-21:00An international chain of cash & carry supermarkets, Metro carries most of the things you’d expect to find in Western supermarkets: a variety of groceries (including fresh, fully refrigerated meat, if you’re squeamish about buying meat at the open market), clothes, home and office supplies, electronics, and more. It’s a little far from the city centre, but it’s easily accessible by taxi, so you can stock up and carry all your bags home easily. You can also arrange for delivery at a nominal cost. Metro requires a membership similar to other membership-only retail warehouse clubs. Also similar is that many times they will extend a one day membership upon request.
  • Oceans Western Goods (Blue Ocean [Market]), 30/7 Trần Phú, Hải Châu (Between Lê Duẩn and Quang Trung), . A small shop that specializes in Western goods, featuring things that are hard to find elsewhere, whether at Big C or Metro: spices, oatmeal, Nutella and baking supplies. If they don’t have it, there’s a good chance they can order it. Fixed (though expensive) prices for everything. Indispensable if you’re spending any length of time in Da Nang.

Other

  • Danang Souvenirs & Cafe34 Bach Dang St (Next to Novotel), . 07:00 – 20:30Specialises in tourism souvenirs and gifts about Vietnam and Da Nang. They design their own products, and there is a wide range to choose from, including such typical souvenir products such as t-shirts, teddy bears, key rings and magnets.

Eat

Although not a culinary capital like the ancient imperial capital Hue, Da Nang still has more than enough variety to keep you well fed throughout your stay. Seafood (hải sản) is popular, so you shouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of fish (), shrimp (tôm), squid (mực), clams (nghêu), snails (ốc), the list goes on. There are many vegetarian restaurants which are listed as “Quán chay” (“vegetarian”) or less frequently “Quán ăn chay” (“vegetarian restaurant”), and most are vegan. The vegetarian restaurants have a wide selection of dishes and are generally cleaner than places that are not vegetarian.

Then there are regional specialities like mì Quảng, or Quang Nam-style noodles, featuring chicken, shrimp, quail eggs, peanuts and rice crackers in a turmeric-spiced broth; bún chả cá, or rice vermicelli with fish sausage; and bún mắm, or rice vermicelli served with a strong fish sauce that’s not for the weak of palate. Central Vietnamese love their food to be spicy, so be warned that the chili peppers (ớt) can be strong even if small.

Budget

  • Bánh Mì̀ Bà Lan62 Trưng Nữ Vương, Bình Hiên, Hải Châu, . 16:00-19:00One of the most famous sandwich carts in the city. Try their bánh mì que which is a string baguette filled with a pork pâté. $1.
  • Quán Thảo135, Dương Trí Trạch, An Hải Bắc, Sơn Trà (Take Phạm Văn Đồng (heading towards the beach), left on Lê Minh Trung, right on Morrison and a quick left on to Trí Trạch. Quán Thảo is on the right.). 06:00-10:00Traditional street food establishment frequented mostly by locals for breakfast, on a quiet side road. While Ms Thảo serves Mì Quảng or [Province of] Quảng style noodles, she’s known for her bún bò or beef noodle soup. Some like to add a baguette for an additional 5,000đ. 20.000d.
  • Quán Dung Mỳ Quảng99 Nguyễn Thị Định, An Hải Bắc, Q. Sơn, . 06:00-21:00Well known for their mì quảng cá lóc, the best known noodle dish of Đà Nẵng, served with broad rice noodles, fresh greens, a broth seasoned with turmeric, shallots and garlic topped and with peanuts. It is served in a shallow and pungent pool of broth unlike its better known cousin phở, which is milder and fills the bowl. Cá lóc is snakehead fish; when prepared correctly, which this place is known for, has a mild flavour and very light texture. Take some of the fresh greens and stir them into the broth to give them a bit of warmth and flavour making this dish half salad and half soup. Menu with prices are on the wall. As the restaurant faces west, if you go around sunset, you’ll have a pleasant view. Plenty of parking. The cleanliness of Quán Dung Mỳ Quảng is to Western restaurant standards. 20.000d.
  • Bún Mắm Vân23/14 Trần Kế Xương, Hải Châu 2, Hải Châu, . 13:00-20:00Bún mắm is an extremely pungent noodle dish made with a fermented fish sauce called mắm nêm. Mắm nêm can best be described as “smells like hell, tastes like heaven.” Bún Mắm Vân is located in what is called “Bún Mắm Alley” where a few bún mắm shops have congregated. You can smell this alley from a block away. Try the bún mắm thịt quay or bún mắm with roasted pork. If you are put off by the smell of strong fish sauce this is not the place for you. If you like bún mắm this place is heaven. $1.
  • Mi Quang 1A1 Hải Phòng, Hải Châu 1, Q. Hải Châu (Take Lê Duẩn heading east, turn left onto Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, first right onto Hải Phòng. On the right.), . 06:30-21:00Mi Quang 1A is one of the best known mì quảng restaurants in the area. While still good it has lost a bit of its luster over the years. Prices are higher than most places at 30,000đ to 45,000đ. Make sure you are in Mi Quang 1A as there is a “copycat” place next door. Before going in grab a fresh sugarcane juice from the cart in the front.
  • Kem Ý Sasa Gelano (Coffee SaSa Gelato), Lô 9 A2 Khu Biệt Thự Đảo Xanh, Quận Hải Châu (Head east on Cầu Trần Thị Lý towards the “sail bridge”, take the first right after the roundabout nearest the bridge and then an immediate left. Follow the road for about 350 m turning right at the fork.), . 0800-2200A good place to satisfy your sweet tooth. Each scoop of gelato is about 15,000 dong; choose from many local fruit flavours and the regulars, like chocolate. Sa Sa also serves sundaes and other treats to enjoy. Good for families. Take away available. The staff speak basic English. Very close to the Grand Mercure Hotel.

Mid-range

  • Bao Nam Tran27 Nguyen Chi Thanh St (Between Nguyen Du and Ly Thuong Kiet). Private, popular place for coffee, business dealings, meals and light Vietnamese pastries, drinks and desserts. The restaurant/coffee house’s ancient Vietnamese architecture incorporates heavy, dark, ornate wooden panels and furniture mixed with modern amenities (escalator) and is a must-see. Wireless Internet connection and a selection of reading material is available. The restaurant has a lovely ambience at night.
  • Com Nieu Nha Do176 Nguyễn Tri Phương (Across from March 29 (29/3) Park), . 10:00-22:00Cơm niêu is a type of rice that’s baked in a clay pot and served with any number of sides — beef, chicken, fish, hot pot — but it’s the way it’s served that catches your attention. Waiters come out of the kitchen bearing hot clay pots straight out of the oven, pull out hammers, smash them at your table, and fling the crusty, baked rice inside back and forth across the room. Otherwise, the food is what you’d get at a normal restaurant, but it’s fun to see the show. Located near the airport, just across from March 29 Park. There are many of these restaurants on Nguyen Tri Phuong St, but this one is a favorite. USD5-12.
  • Karma Waters113/10 Nguyen Chi Thanh (Find the intersection of Le Duan St and Nguyen Chi Thanh St. Take a right onto Nguyen Chi Thanh (it’s one-way). Stay on right hand side of the street and you will come to an alley with a hat shop on the corner (#113), turn right into the ally and the restaurant will be on your right), . 10:00-21:00This is the only vegan Western friendly restaurant in Da Nang. It’s owned by a Viet/Kiwi couple, and is a family place. If you are looking for a restaurant that avoids white sugar, MSG and gluten this is your best option. The cafe is clean and in the city centre. Menus are in English, and the staff are very friendly and good with English. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to have a good meal here. Has a sister restaurant in Hoi An. USD5-10.
  • Koi Sushi, Bento and Sake Bar53 An Thuong 2, ,  Daily 11:00-14:00 & 17:00-0:00Japanese sushi bar with big bento boxes and the largest Sake list in town. It’s one of the few places in town that serves late, 7 days a week. Clean bathrooms and air-con. from US$1-15.
  • Red Sky Bar and Restaurant248 Tran Phu St, . An expat-run Western restaurant. The food is excellent, always delicious with generous portions. The staff are good and know how to look after customers and make them feel at home. Prices are above average by Vietnamese standards, but not too expensive for the quality of food and service received.
  • Bread of Life Western Bakery and Eatery4 Dong Da (located upstairs one level), . M-Sa 10:00-22:00Take out delivery for orders over 100,000 dong. Bread of Life is run by an American couple who use the business as means of providing training for young Vietnamese deaf. All baking, cooking and serving is done by the deaf and profits go into school for teaching deaf Vietnamese the Vietnamese sign language and English. They serve breakfasts, lunch, and dinner from a menu that includes pizza, pasta, hamburgers and other Western dishes. Good coffee and fresh baked pastries and cakes every day. The quality is high and you will enjoy interacting with the staff. Orders are accepted in person or by phone for a variety of breads. Order a day ahead, then pick them up in the restaurant.
  • Merkat79 Lê Lợi, Thạch Thang, Q. Hải Châu, . 11:30-22:00Merkat serves the food of Northern Spain run by a husband and wife from Spain. The paella is outstanding. A great place to go when looking for a Western-style meal. Top notch food, an outstanding chef, good wait staff and very clean. Very easy to find. Dishes start from 100.000đ. Afterwards travel down the street about 200m to the iconic Long Coffee. 100.000đ.

Splurge

  • Apsara222 Tran Phu St, . A reasonably good, somewhat expensive place with a huge, mostly seafood menu and performances of traditional music on some evenings. Food style is Vietnamese with some Chinese influences, and some Western dishes thrown in. Caters to overseas tour groups; tour buses are often seen parked outside. One of their specialties is mantis shrimp, a delicious creature halfway between a shrimp and lobster.
  • Bambino122 Quang TrungQuiet location, good food wine selection. Australian steak grilled to order. International, French and local foods, run by a French couple. A good place for a quiet meal with friends.
  • Blue WhaleHoang Sa Road. (Just N of Vo Van Kiet roundabout; next to “4U”), . One of a number of seafood restaurants looking out onto My Khe Beach, the Blue Whale is a great place to get acquainted with what the beach really has to offer. Their menu features a wide variety of seafood cooked in many different ways — steamed, grilled or baked or in hot pot or sashimi — along with a number of local specialities. The prices are a little high, but the food and the ambience should more than make up. USD10-25.
  • Limoncello187 Tran Phu St12:00-23:00Great Italian food with homemade limoncello.
  • Memory Lounge7 Bach Dang St (On the riverfront, just north of Han River Bridge), . 7:00-23:30Quite possibly the most expensive place to go for coffee in Da Nang. Just north of the Han River Bridge, the high-end Memory Lounge overlooks the river — in fact, it was built directly on top, jutting out onto the river and accessible from the promenade. Built by the wife of a former president of South Vietnam, it’s quite a fancy affair — with foreign chefs blending Asian and European cuisines and using organic and sustainable ingredients to create an impressive menu. USD8-20 for main dishes.
  • Waterfront150 Bach DangOpen every dayOpen to the street and with a view of the Han River, this restaurant has modern international décor. Its layout consists of the bar on the ground floor; the full restaurant, for lunch and dinner, on 2nd level; and balcony seating. This is a gathering place with comfortable seating, a selection of local and imported beer, and a large selection of wines by the glass or bottle. Owned by expatriates.

Former founder of Asiarooms.com and now reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as Thailand, Germany & Switzerland. Born near Cologne but lived in Berlin during my early teenage years. A longterm resident of Bangkok, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon and Phuket. A great fan of Bali, Rhodes & Corfu. Now based on Mallorca, Spain.

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Vietnam

Travel by Train in Vietnam

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Although more expensive than buses, trains are undoubtedly the most comfortable way to travel overland in Vietnam. There is one major train line in Vietnam, the 1,723 km (1,071 mi) trunk between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, on which the Reunification Express runs. Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is more than 30 hours, and overnight hops between major tourism destinations are usually possible, if not entirely convenient. It’s a good way to see the countryside and meet upper-middle class locals, but unless you are travelling in a sleeper car it is no more comfortable than buses.

Air conditioned soft or hard sleeper is recommended, and purchasing as early as possible is a good idea as popular berths and routes are often bought out by tour companies and travel agents well before the departure time (hence being told the train is sold out at a station ticket window or popular tour company office does not mean there are no tickets available–they’ve simply been bought by another reseller). Booking at the train station itself is generally the safest way, just prepare on a piece of paper the destination, date, time, no. of passengers and class. However, unsold tickets can often be bought last minute from people hanging around at the station–a train is rarely sold out for real, as the railway company will add cars when demand is high. Commissions on these tickets will drop away as the departure time draws nearer. Tickets can be returned before departure for a 10% fee. There is also an official Vietnamese Railways website, which has an English version and accepts payments by international bank cards.

Be cautious when using a travel agent to purchase your train tickets, since there is nothing printed on the ticket saying the class you are booked in. As of July 2019 tickets (now termed ‘boarding passes’) do indicate the class of ticket.

This results in a common scam with private travel agents where you will pay them to book a soft-sleeper ticket, they then book you a cheaper hard-sleeper ticket, and you don’t know you’ve been scammed until you board the train and your berths are in the lower class.

By then with the train on the verge of departing it is too late to go back to the scamming agent to demand compensation. With the new boarding passes this scam is less of an issue although buying your ticket directly from the train station remains the best option.

In addition, there are shorter routes from Hanoi leading northwest and northeast, with international crossings into China. One of the most popular of the shorter routes is the overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai (with a bus service from Lao Cai to the tourism destination of Sa Pa).

Always try to buy your tickets at least 3 days in advance, to avoid disappointment, especially during peak holiday season, during which you should try to book at least 2 weeks in advance.

If you are sensitive to cigarette smoke try to book a seat in the middle of the carriage as people smoke in the areas at the end of each carriage and the doors are often left open.

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Historical Facts about Vietnam

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Vietnam’s history is one of war, colonization and rebellion. Occupied by China no fewer than four times, the Vietnamese managed to fight off the invaders just as often. Even during the periods in history when Vietnam was independent, it was mostly a tributary state to China until the French colonization. Vietnam’s last emperors were the Nguyễn Dynasty, who ruled from their capital at Hue from 1802 to 1945, although France exploited the succession crisis after the fall of Tự Đức to de facto colonise Vietnam after 1884.

Both the Chinese occupation and French colonization have left a lasting impact on Vietnamese culture, with Confucianism forming the basis of Vietnamese social etiquette, and the French influencing Vietnamese cuisine.

After a brief Japanese occupation in World War II, the Communist Viet Minh under the leadership of Hồ Chí Minh continued the war of independence against the French. The last Emperor Bao Dai abdicated in 1945 with a proclamation of independence following soon after. The majority of French had left by 1945, but in 1946 they returned to continue the fight until their decisive defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

The Geneva Conference partitioned the country into two at the 17th parallel, with a communist-led North supported by the Soviet Union, and Ngô Đình Diệm establishing a capitalist regime and declaring himself President of the Republic of Vietnam in the South supported by the United States.

South Vietnam would be plagued by numerous domestic problems, including corruption, nepotism and electoral fraud. Diệm, who was a Roman Catholic, enacted laws that discriminated against the Buddhist majority in favor of the Catholic minority, which led to the Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức self-immolating in protest at a busy intersection in Saigon in 1963.

US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew during the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the South Vietnamese government.

This escalated into the dispatch of 500,000 American troops in 1966 and what became known as the Vietnam War in the West (the Vietnamese refer to it as the American War). What was supposed to be a quick and decisive action soon degenerated into a quagmire, and U.S. armed forces withdrew following a cease-fire agreement in 1973.

Two years later, on April 30, 1975, a North Vietnamese tank drove into the South’s Presidential Palace in Saigon and the war ended. An estimated 3 million Vietnamese and over 55,000 Americans were killed. Vietnam’s war against the United States was one of many that they have fought, but it was the most brutal in its history.

Most of the nation’s population was born after 1975. American tourists will receive a particularly friendly welcome in Vietnam, as many young Vietnamese are admirers of American culture.

After unifying the country, the communist government proceeded to root out the remaining capitalist elements in the south. Many business owners were killed while others, known as the boat people, became refugees and attempted to escape to Western countries, resulting in the establishment of Vietnamese communities in the United States of America, Australia and Canada.

The ethnic Chinese, long resented by the ethnic Vietnamese for their perceived economic clout, were particularly hard-hit by the purges.

Following the collapse of the state-run economy, the government implemented market-oriented reforms and introduced capitalist elements in 1986 with a policy known as đổi mới. This policy has proved highly successful, as it spurred impressive economic growth and infrastructure development.

Discriminatory laws against the remaining ethnic Chinese were repealed, and many have used their business acumen to contribute greatly to the revitalization of the Vietnamese economy, also regaining some of their previous economic dominance in the process.

In recent times, some former refugees or their descendants, most of whom were raised and educated in the West, have also returned to Vietnam in order to take advantage of new economic opportunities.

Today, Vietnam is widely considered to be one of the rising stars of ASEAN with a young population and vibrant economy.

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Stay safe and avoid Scams in Saigon

Wolfgang Holzem

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In general, Saigon is a safe city, with violent crimes such as armed robbery being relatively rare. The most common crimes faced by tourists are pickpocketing and snatch theft from motorbikes.

Scam artists operate on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. A person will strike up a friendly conversation claiming they’ve either seen you at the airport or some other tourist place where they work.

Usually they’ll be with other family members who will join the conversation very naturally and once they find out where you’re from they’ll mention that another family member is moving to a city in your country.

You will be invited over for food at their house to help console a worried grandmother or to give advise to their family member. Once you arrive at the house however the family member is not there, or the grandmother has suddenly fallen ill and had to go to the hospital. You’ll be presented with various business opportunities, legal or not, or asked for financial support for the suddenly sick grandmother.

Hotel scams are very common, even in the mid-range price level ~USD20-70. The hotel will remind you that you should place your valuables in the room safe or the hotel safe. Lock up everything that is more or less valuable.

Don’t hold up expensive things near the street or leave them out on the table while you’re having a meal, especially in District 1, especially around the backpacker area. Petty theft is a big problem, and a lot of times it’s done by people on motorbikes. It’s easy to prevent by not giving thieves the opportunity.

Don’t buy sim card before the immigration at the airport, they will charge you $10 for a sim card. After immigration and baggage area, you can find sim card booth. They sell sim card for $6 only.

Don’t buy coconut more than ~USD2, real-price is ~USD0.5. If you are forced, call police: +84 8 3829 7643, +84 8 38299835.

A favourite trick is for the vendors to strike up a conversation with you, let you hold the carrying-stick, take a picture, and while you’re distracted open a coconut for you that you really didn’t ask for.

Also, the prostitutes on Bui Vien and Ton That Tung will try to rob you. Usually, they’ll approach men acting like they’re up to normal prostitute business, but they are to pickpocket.

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