Elevated view of The Marble Mountains. Da Nang, Vietnam.
Leonid Serebrennikov/age fotostock
The country’s third-largest city, and the largest in central Vietnam, Da Nang has become one of the country’s key ports thanks to its location on both the coast and the Han River estuary. The city itself is a typical bustling Vietnamese metropolis with relentless scooter traffic, but a number of attractions make visiting worthwhile. The town’s Dragon Bridge opened in 2013, but what makes it special is that every weekend evening the steel-arch dragon that forms a part of the structure spits out real fire from its head (the bridge is closed to traffic at the time, allowing crowds to see the spectacle up close). The Marble Mountains—five hills that seem to have just sprouted up in the south of the city—are an arresting sight. The Son Tra peninsula, with a marquee attraction known as Monkey Mountain, offers some good hiking and excellent sea and city views; you’ll also find the 220-feet-tall, gleaming-white Goddess of Mercy statue here. The sandy stretch east of the city center (given the nickname China Beach by American soldiers during the war) is crowded with restaurants, bars, and some seaside hotels.
Da Nang to HCMC: Twenty Hour Train Ride
What is it about train rides? No matter how many reasons there may be to dislike them, they always end up being one of my favorite travel experiences. On this particular ride, my friend and I got into our cabin to find we had the third bunks. When we climbed up our ladders, we found that our sheets and pillow cases had been used by previous passengers (they were balled up at the head of the bed, rather than folded at the foot, like so many other bunks we had passed) and that the remaining four bunks were occupied by a family of 9. We quickly made friends with the young ones in our car, and were thrilled and grateful when the family offered us some of their delicious home-cooked food. Chicken, rice, tea, and new friends. What else could you possibly need?