Da Nang and Hoi An - historical pearls in Central Vietnam
Da Nang and Hoi An are coastal cities along South China Sea in Central Vietnam located about 30 km from each other. Since there are no trains operating to Hoi An city we decided to set up our travel base in Da Nang. We arrived there from Hue by train and paid only 50.000 VND/person (cca 2,2 USD) in the 3rd class on hard seats (wooden benches). The journey was short so it was not necessary to choose higher class and pay more. We accommodated close to the sea but far from the railway station. We were lazy to walk so we took a taxi. Cabs in Vietnam are cheap but where Uber is it gets even cheaper. If you need to take a cab we recommend you to compare prices they have written on the front door, they may differ a lot. Accommodation in Da Nang was one of the most expensive in Vietnam but even though it was low season we were not able to get under 200.000 VND/night (cca 8,8 USD). But we able to bargain the price for a motorbike and rented it for only 100.000 VND/day (cca 4,4 USD) so it paid off in the end.
What to see in Da Nang
Da Nang is mainly a holiday destination but also a modern city. We were there in so called rainy season but it did not rain at all except one evening so we were able to enjoy empty beaches. In the city we liked most of all the bridges. The best one was with dragon that is worth a visit both day and night time. Our first steps took us to Cham Museum where we discovered sculptures and remains of Champa culture. Da Nang offers the real gems in its surrounding areas.
The highest statue in Vietnam with city outlook
Chùa Linh Ứng Lady Buddha Temple is situated on the hill over Da Nang in the area called Sơn Trà. It is a large complex of beautiful Chinese temples with the view on the city and sea. The dominant feature of the entire complex is a statue known and called as Lady Buddha. It measures 70 meters and it makes it the largest statue in Vietnam. The statue depicts Guanyin (Quan Âm in Vietnamese). It is mostly Chinese woman image of originally Indian bodhisattva of compassion named Avalókitéšvara. Besides Lady Buddha there are many other portrayals of Buddha and other spectacular Chinese statues. We simply fell in love with this place in Da Nang.
It is an array of 5 mountains and limestone hills situated close to downtown Da Nang. The entrance fee costs only 15.000 VND/person (cca 0,66 USD) without using the elevator. Simply do not pay them for it because if you come here, it only takes you to the first temple and from there you have to walk a lot up on your own anyway. The mountains are named according to 5 elemts: metal (Kim), water (Thuy), wood (Moc), fire (Hoa) and earth (Tho). On one of the mountains there are many Buddhist shrines that are interesting. We again found one temple directly built in the cave and rock. On the tom of Marble Mountains there is beautifully decorated pagoda from where is also a very nice view on the sea, beaches and surroundings. There are many temples and all of them are nicely decorated with Chinese elements, statues and wooden furniture.
There are also marble factories close to the Marble Mountains. They manufacture huge statues from various types of marble there. Admission is free and we truly enjoyed the visit as we have never seen anything so great and spectacular as for the art before on our trip around the world.
My Son Temple complex
About one hour ride from Da Nang there are remains of Hindu temple complex My Son. This complex was very important center of Champa Empire. Unfortunately it was destroyed during war in Vietnam. The entrance fee is a bit pricey there. We paid 100.000 VND/person (cca 4,4 USD) and the lady at the cash desk informed us they were planning to make it even more expensive. We noticed there were constructions on several spots so let’s hope they use the money for them in the future as well. It eas our first temple complex of this type in Southeast Asia and we felt like Indiana Jones. It reminded us Angkor Wat a bit, of course at least for the area there was nothing to compare.
Hoi An ancient city
We could not miss Hoi An. On every picture the city center looks so picturesque and enchanting that we needed to know what the reality is like. Hoi An ancient city is really very beautiful. Small cozy lanes surrounded by houses. In the middle of the town there is a river with small romantic boats. We were also attracted by local food market where they cooked really delicious dishes and for amazing prices – something we simply did not expect in such a place. And as a caress for soul there were temples decorated with paintings and colorful dragons.
Entrance fee to Hoi An
The only beauty imperfection is a fact that Hoi An is now part of UNESCO and it is not always a win win lottery. At the entrance to the town they required us to pay entrance fee of 120.000 VND/person (cca 5,28 USD). It truly made us a bit angry. We only wanted to walk through the lanes where locals normally go without paying and they simply refused to let us in. Well we had a backup plan. We left a bit further to side lanes and suddenly were able to get in for free. On the way through town we found several tickets lying everywhere. These were the tickets from the entrance. So we took them and whenever someone wanted to see it we showed them. In Vietnam we never paid for visiting the temples, it was not a common thing to do so it seemed really unfair to pay for only entering the town. There are many historical houses where they require to pay a fee for visit but we understand this, it is normal. But they also wanted the tickets in the temples. Very strange strategy we did not like therefore we managed it our way. 🙂 If you are coming here for holiday and stay longer, it is now possible to purchase only one entrance fee, keep it and prove them in case of control.
It was time for us to say goodbye to Da Nang and Hoi An and move forward to our next destination Nha Trang.
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