The fireworks may draw the crowds, but it’s the simple beauty in the hills that takes the breath away
JUSTIN CHEONG, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOMETIMES, appreciating the beauty of a place is in the details. So it is with Danang.
Blink and you’ll miss its fleeting treasures: A cow grazing on the beach, a goat resting in a cemetery, six people balanced precariously on a moped.
These tableaux might give the impression that Danang — Vietnam’s fourth-largest city — is a sleepy seaside town. It is anything but.
Everywhere, signs of urbanisation are rampant. Large expanses of beach are being developed into massive luxury resorts, the city is packed densely with buildings, while its outskirts are dotted with signs of new commercial and residential structures.
Traffic, as with many cities, is a nightmare; motorists are horn-happy; and there are no traffic lights. Crossing a street can, therefore, be something of an adventure. So, walk, don’t run. Or follow a local.
But if you like living dangerously, opt for a tour of the city on a cyclo – which is similar to a trishaw, just that your seat is in front of the bicycle. And because this is not a common activity among tourists — most rent a motorcycle, take a cab or simply walk — expect the locals to stare at you as though you’re some VIP.
The crowds reach a fever pitch during major events such as the Danang International Fireworks Competition. This year, the second of its kind was held on March 27 and 28.
On such occasions, hordes of curious locals and tourists gather to watch the shimmering spectacle on the banks of the Han River, along which the town is situated. So, unless you’re willing to get caught up in the sweaty multitudes, it’s best to enjoy the fireworks from afar.
Of course, there are attractions where you can seek respite from the maddening throngs. One peaceful location is the Marble Mountains — a conglomeration of five hills.
Peace at the peak of the Ba Na Hills.
If you’re able-bodied and have healthy gams, climb 156 steep steps to the top of the highest hill — the only one which the public is allowed to mount — and you’ll find a temple, pagodas and serene grottoes in which you’ll find ancient sandstone carvings and statues of Buddhist deities.
One more spot of calm awaits at the peak of the Ba Na Hills, about 40km west of Danang city. A newly-opened 5km cable car ride — which holds the record for being the longest and highest non-stop cable car ride — gets you 1,300m up in roughly 15 minutes, which is a boon, considering it used to take close to an hour by car to reach the peak via a narrow, winding road.
As you reach the summit, a massive marble statue of Buddha comes into view, but it’s the landscape that you look down upon when you reach the top that is truly breathtaking. One sweep of the verdant hills that blend into the mists and sky in soothing shades of green and blue, and the trauma of being in Vietnamese traffic all but fades away.
Seek respite on the beach, before it’s too late.
Finally, spend an afternoon heading up to Son Tra Peninsula — 10km north-east of the city — especially if you’ve rented a moped. That’s probably the only vehicle that can get you up the mountain where you can get amazing views of Monkey Bay. At the foot of the mountain, you’ll find a relatively untouched beach where you can chill out, go snorkelling, swim or fish.
Danang has all the charms and problems of a rapidly developing city. Beautiful scenery is offset by unsightly construction, while fascinating culture is hampered by a language barrier.
So, before it becomes ravaged by tourism and marred by the evils of commercialisation, now is the best time to visit Danang.
And remember, don’t blink.
From TODAY, Traveller – Thursday, 07-May-2009
The lighter, the cheaper
As airlines battle to undersell each other in the fare stakes, Jetstar Asia has zoomed in on baggage weight to give travellers a better deal. Customers going for short breaks who do not have check-in luggage can save $15 one way on their tickets. They can, however, stuff another 3kg into their carry-on bag, the weight limit of which has been increased from 7kg to 10kg. The deal is called JetSaver Light, available as a fare option when travellers book their flights on www.jetstar.com.