When it comes to planning a vacation to Vietnam, many would think of heading south to Ho Chi Minh or north to Hanoi. Apart from these two cities at the opposite ends, there are many beautiful cities to explore in central Vietnam, and Da Nang is one of them. We were looking for a relaxing vacation with white sandy beaches and Da Nang fit in perfectly for us.
Where to stay in Da Nang
Truth be told, we did not have a comprehensive travel plan this trip and went with the mindset of go with the flow. We plan to do nothing much. Just explore a few places of interests and parking ourselves on the daybed most of the time, reading and zoning out. For a chillax trip like this, the accommodation plays a big part. We totally enjoyed our stay at Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa. A resort I would come back to if I were to visit the city again.
taken from my ocean view room
beautiful endless beach right in front of the resort
we love this chicken and beer combo from the poolside bar
Banh mi breakfast by the balcony
What to eat in Da Nang
Mi Quang or Quang-style noodles is a specialty of Da Nang, the locals usually eat it for breakfast and/or lunch. I would call it a semi-dry noodle salad as there’s a bit of concentrated chicken broth in it, some chicken meat, serve with lots of Vietnamese herbs and crispy rice crackers. This is one dish that everyone seems to make it differently. You’ve got to taste it when visiting Da Nang.
This is by far my favourite. Silky rice noodles in a bit of flavourful broth, tender pieces of chicken, crunchy peanuts and peanut oil, line wedge served with a mountain pile of chopped Vietnamese herbs and sesame rice crackers.
Another version from Hyatt Regency, generous serving of turmeric chicken with a side of sweet and salty chilli.
Bánh xèo aka the Vietnamese sizzling crepe, is a crispy golden rice pancake often filled with bean sprouts, prawns and sometimes pork, serve alongside a stack of paper thin rice wrapper, bed of lettuces, herbs and nuoc cham, a spicy dipping sauce.
Thia Go is a popular place for Banh Xeo. The serving is huge and good for sharing.
The crepes are cut into small pieces, you wrap it in a thin rice wrapper along with lettuces and herbs and dip it in nuoc cham.
If you are eating at Thia Go, be sure to try other dishes on the menu. The friendly staff recommended this hearty duck stew and it was very enjoyable.
Our local guide recommended this place for Banh Xeo, popular among the locals. The crepes here are smaller and they serve with a small bowl of their signature peanut liver sauce that we can’t get enough of.
The small crepes were filled with shrimps and bean sprouts
Another popular dish served at Bánh Xèo Bà Dưỡng is this meat skewers. In fact I like this better than their Banh Xeo from this local eatery.
Eat it like how you would for Banh Xeo, wrap the meat in a rice paper filled with herbs and vegetables, dip in the addictive peanut liver sauce.
Order iced coconut coffee
Forget your lattes and order cold coconut coffee instead. Coconut coffee is a popular choice of drink in Danang and you will see this drink on the menu in most cafes.
Trinh Caphe is a vintage cafe well-known for their avocado coffee. Pictured here (left) coconut coffee and (right) durian shake.
Boulevard Gelato & Coffee is a nice place to chill after a manicure around the corner. I was not impressed with the coconut coffee but enjoyed the gelato.
Chanced upon Reply 1988 Cafe on our last day at Danang. This place was packed with young girls dressed up and eager to take pictures of themselves in this instagramable cafe. Clockwise from left: baked cheesecake, popcorn coffee, coconut coffee. If you only have time for one coconut coffee in your entire trip, make it this one.
Where to go for sightseeing in Da Nang
When in Da Nang, one of the popular attraction is Ba Na Hills. The most iconic architecture here is the 150m long Golden Bridge, supported by 2 gigantic palms at the top of the hill. The place can be very busy in the morning with heavy tourists crowd so I would suggest to visit around lunch time or before closing time if you want to take photos with lesser or no people on the bridge.
The only way up to Ba Na Hill is by cable car, a rather long ride with impressive views. You can get the tickets direct from their website or via Klook like we did. We also booked a private car from Klook that took us from Hyatt to the ticketing area of Ba Na Hills. You can also book a grab or call a taxi if that’s easier for you.
Apart from the Golden Bridge, there are a few destinations on the hill to explore. Consider taking a walk in the French Village and French Garden. There’s also an amusement park with fascinating indoor gaming zone to spend your day on the hill.
Da Nang is connected to 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- Hoi An Ancient Town
- Imperial City of Hue
- My Son Sanctuary
Explore Hoi An Ancient Town on foot
Located down the Thu Bon River on the coastal plains of Quang Nam Province, this old town is an extremely well-preserved Southeast Asian trading port active during 15th to 19th century. The traditional architecture distributed along the narrow streets is characterised by a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese influences.
We took a stroll on a quiet sunny afternoon admiring and snapping photos of the sophisticated multi-cultural architecture.
Hoi An Central Market
Traditional Vietnamese cafes with tiny low stools
Evening in Hoi An Ancient Town
While afternoons in the old town was fairly quiet and a little too warm, the area turned lively with hundreds of colourful silk lanterns illuminate the old town once the sun sets. The waterfront area is known for its bars and restaurants, where you can enjoy local and international cuisines as well as coffee, beers and wine. You can also hire a local boat at the dock and cruise along the river watching the sunset. Whether you prefer a quiet afternoon stroll or a relaxing evening, Hoi An has plenty to offer.
Silk lanterns on local boats illuminate the Thu Bon river
What to eat in Hoi An Ancient Town
We were only in Hoi An for half a day, the only restaurant that we’ve tried and worth mentioning is Miss Ly Cafe, situated in Hoi An Ancient Town. The place is small, menu isn’t extensive but everything we tried were delicious.
A very refreshing papaya salad with perfectly shredded green papaya, carrots and Vietnamese micro herbs.
White Rose Dumplings is a specialty of Hoi An and you won’t be able to find them anywhere else. Apart from looking gorgeous like white roses, the dumplings were every bit delicious! Apparently, we found out that Miss Ly Cafe made one of the best.
We don’t usually order heavy carbs but we were super hungry at the time of ordering so we went for this seafood fried rice. It was a decent plate of fried rice with plenty of prawns and shallots.
Book a cycling tour
I learned from experience that the best way to experience authentic culture of a city is to explore the untouched, do what the local do, eat what the locals eat. We booked a cycling tour with a local guide, biker Nguyen. He led us to explore the countryside on mountain bike, and experience the entire farm-to-table process to a comforting bowl of Mi Quang noodles, a countryside delicacy from the Quang Nam province.
This village stick to traditional farming methods
Spring onions, used in a lot of Vietnamese dishes
Mint appears in almost every basket of fresh herbs served in Vietnam as a side to a bowl of noodles
Coriander is prevalent in Vietnamese cuisine, particularly in Bahn Mi
Rice is a staple in Vietnam, some farms produce rice specifically to ground and into rice noodles
Smoked thick noodles for making Hoi An’s legendary noodle dish call Cao lầu
Home-based rice noodle maker from the village. These noodles were conveniently cut with the hand-crank machine.
Hand-cut rice noodles, skilfully done
Sesame rice cracker is usually serve alongside Mi Quang noodles
Banh Dap, or “smashed rice cracker” in English, is a popular street snack made with a sheet of soft steamed rice sheet on top of a sheet of crispy sesame rice cracker, fold into half and smashed into pieces and eat with anchovy sauce. We were treated to this addictive snack at the rice noodle maker’s home.
The cycling part ended before lunch and bike Nguyen brought us to his favourite Mi Quang place for lunch and I’m glad he did. Everything that we seen through the cycling tour from the herb garden, rice paddy fields to the noodle maker’s home were all part of a bowl of delicious Mi Quang noodles.
I can eat this everyday
Explore My Son Sanctuary
After lunch, we were headed to My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO world Heritage site located at the mountainous border of Quang Nam Province. We explored the ancient Kingdom of Champa with biker Nguyen filling us the history of the ruins, and watched a live dance performance within the compound.
Have any recommendations to add Da Nang? Drop your tips and favorite spots in the comments.