Da Nang, why don’t you…
The SE8 train from Nha Trang to Da Nang was not quite as lovely as the SNT1 from Ho Chi Minh had been, the soft sleeper we had booked was a little smaller and much grubbier, our first cabin mate, a twenty-something Vietnamese man who sat on the end of my bunk uninvited, a common practice we are still getting used to and asked me my age, well hello to you too, ha! We exchanged small talk, limited by his English and our pitiful Vietnamese, until he climbed onto his upper bunk and watched music videos on his phone, how do I know this? well of course he didn’t use ear phones. Noise and personal space awareness seem to be purely western pursuits and we are adapting, there is no right or wrong it’s just all different, very very different. He disembarked a few hours later and was soon replaced by a family with a baby and a toddler, who proceeded to walk repeatedly over me and my bunk despite my clearly being in it “come back video man” I called in my head, several hours of the light being turned off, then on, then off again, games played at full volume on parents phones, gurgling, whining and screaming later and we were very happy to arrive in Da Nang and leave them to it.
We’d somehow ended up with a suite at the Song Cong Hotel, not really a traditional suite but a huge white tiled room with an open plan bedroom, long desk and three seater wooden sofa and matching chairs, spotlessly clean and all within budget, nice.
Sadly the breakfast was wholly Vietnamese and neither of us is yet up to noodles and fried rice for breakfast but we’ll get there I’m sure, in the meantime we hit up the next door minimart for some fruit and were soon on our way to the Marble Mountains, one of the must see sights in the area. They’re a cluster of five marble and sandstone hills that jut up from the otherwise flat plain close to the sea about ten kilometres along the coast from Da Nang and are named after the five elements, Water, Fire, Air, Earth and Metal. There are numerous caves and walkways, statues and Buddhist temples on Water, the only easily accessible one with a lift going up to a midway point. Even with the lift I’d say we climbed about 6,843 (I’m not even exaggerating) uneven marble and stone steps wandering around the complex.
There was no map available despite reading in several places that you could buy one and we were not approached asking if we wanted a guide so several times we ended up retracing our steps following a photograph of the map sign we had taken at the entrance, so that we did not miss something. It was a bit like being in another world, you’re walking outside a rather pretty but otherwise unremarkable mountain and then having climbed a few (ok a lot of) steps we were in another world, in several of the caves we only realised a narrow crevasse was in fact a stairway leading to further caves when someone else climbed up it or down from it. Bearing that in mind I would wear sturdy shoes, which I of course did not so left the more adventurous mountaineering to J.
One of the caves leads past a large standing stone Buddha down maybe thirty or so steps into an enormous 200 foot cavern with a seated smiling Buddha statue and several temples within its soaring walls, it was truly breathtaking as the light streamed in from several breaks in the rock high above.
The highlight was climbing our way up the twisting steps to the highest Peak (easily 4,297 of the total steps) every corner we turned the steps stretched endlessly upwards getting narrower until at the top I was elegantly climbing with my hands on the steps in front, but oh what a view when we got there, ok fine, oh what a view when I’d finally stopped hyperventilating and could breathe normally again, what a view indeed! and a pile of trash and empty water bottles (What is wrong with people?!?! TAKE YOUR TRASH WITH YOU FFS!) climbing down was worse, because I have vertigo, yes I know I am an idiot. I shook and cried a bit before mentally shaking myself and VERY slowly climbing down, so bold I even stopped a few times and one hand clasped to the handrail took photos of the steps down, ha! We’d highly recommend the Marble Mountains as long as you have a good level of fitness and no mobility issues.
The other highlights of our brief stay in Da Nang were the Mi Quang tom thit (noodles with shrimp and Pork) at Ba Vi on Le Dinh Duong as recommended by TravelFish, along with crispy pork spring rolls it was one of our best meals in Vietnam so far and the Cham Musuem, a small museum featuring some lovely sculptures.
Whilst there isn’t a huge amount to do culturally in Da Nang, it has beautiful beaches and some great food and we thoroughly enjoyed the two days we spent there Xx