My day in Danang was not one of my best on this trip, but this wasn’t Danang’s fault. The odds were kind of stacked against it from the start.
For one thing, I knew I would only stay one night. I try to stay in every town at least two, but now and then time constraints come into play. Even on a trip of this magnitude, it’s hard to linger in places like Takua Pa, Kratie, Pakse, Ayutthaya, or Angeles for more than a night since there were brighter lights down the road. On the other hand, the places I liked best were the places I stayed at least four nights, such as Cameron Highlands, Ko Tao, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Dumaguete, Luang Prabang, and Phnom Penh. Did I stay because I liked them, or did I like them because I stayed? A town is always more enjoyable when I get a little more settled in and when I have time to sit around and do nothing. Then again, I was in Tioman for five nights but never really warmed up to it, and I was in Vang Vieng for four and never particularly liked it at all.
A second factor stacked against Danang – after my rollicking night out in Hoi An, I was pretty damn hungover most of the day.
Strike three was the evening weather. It was this annoying rain, the kind that just keeps coming. It wasn’t pouring, so it wasn’t rain that would coax me inside immediately or cause me to use rain gear, but it also wasn’t sprinkling. I was out walking in the rain, and it just wouldn’t stop, and I eventually got soaked, but I was too far from my hotel to turn back and thus had to press on to the train station where I knew I could get a taxi.
Finally, I had a bitter taste in my mouth after the bus ride. Danang is only 45 minutes from Hoi An, so I took a local bus. The lady on the bus charged me 50,000 dong, which seemed like a really high price for a non-aircon bus going 30 kilometers. By comparison, the 15 km city bus I took in Saigon cost 4,000 dong. I paid it without really thinking on account of the hangover, but then looked at my Lonely Planet. It said that this particular bus route was notorious for overcharging foreigners, and it should run 10,000 dong. Sure, prices may have raised since the book was printed, but not by a factor of five in 18 months. I tried to watch what other people paid, but the bus lady shuffled every new passenger into the back, out of my line of sight. Suddenly, I realized why she insisted that I sit in the very front seat when I got on the bus – so I couldn’t see the other passengers pay. I called the lady over and asked her for my change, but she insisted everyone was paying 50,000, and she had other passengers confirm this (although she was obviously telling them to agree with her in Vietnamese). The two guys across from me backed her story. Later, I asked the two girls behind me, and they sheepishly admitted that they had paid 15,000 dong, but they seemed scared of the bus lady. I wonder if she split her profits with the random dudes that she convinced to lie on her behalf.
Once I made it into town and had a hotel, I took a motorbike taxi off to China Beach. It was an interesting ride, since the guy was one of Vietnam’s many “Easy Riders,” so I was riding on the back of a chopper rather than a moped. Like all Easy Riders, he wanted to turn a five minute trip across the bridge into a 4 hour mountain tour, but I just wanted to be hungover and sit by the ocean.
I wondered why Danang isn’t a bigger attraction than it is, since China Beach was fantastic. Much better sand and scenery than others that I’d been to in Vietnam, plus it was possible to get a beach chair and a drink for cheap, unlike in Nha Trang.
After sitting on the beach for a while, I walked into the beach part of town to get something to eat. It was unquestionably the best meal I’ve had in Vietnam. I feasted on barbecued pork and greens that came with rice paper to fashion them into spring rolls. It was amazing, and it was at a plastic table on the street. Coupled with my enjoyment of local Hoi An specialties, particularly white rose, and I was officially in on Vietnamese food. I hereby retract my earlier statement.
I planned to go out to the casino at night, but after my miserable walk to the train station I just wasn’t feeling it. A buddy of mine works there, so I was hoping to run into him, but by 10 p.m. bed and cable TV were just too inviting.
So that’s my Danang day. The next day, I got breakfast and caught the train out of town. However, unlike the other places that I just barnstormed for a night, I’m convinced that Danang is a nice place to spend a couple more days. Perhaps one day I will. Anyway, on to the the pics!
China Beach. Lonely Planet states that it will always be associated with the TV show, in which army nurses fretted about love to the tune of The Rolling Stones “Paint it Black.” C’mon, LP, get your facts straight. “Paint it Black” was the theme song to “Tour of Duty,” a different Vietnam War centered 80s TV show. “China Beach” used “Reflections” by The Supremes as its theme. You know what’s sad? I never saw a single episode of either show, but I still remember their opening credits. I did not google this, but I am 100% sure that I’m factually correct on this point. The next couple pics are also of China Beach.
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A lot of the space behind the beach is a weird mix o development and vacant lots. Danang had a real city-in-waiting kind of feel, like it’s going to be the next big thing but isn’t there yet, especially at the beach. The roads were the best that I’ve seen in Vietnam, wide and new, but thus far there’s really no traffic. Of course, I doubt my observations on Danang were too prescient, I was just some hungover idiot who had been in town for fifteen minutes.