Vietnam: Exploring Da Nang

In Hue we hopped on a train to head to Da Nang – the next stop in our Vietnamese adventure. This journey takes 2.5 hours, with a soft seat costing 117,000 dong (£4). If you take the same journey by road, this is the famous Hải Vân Pass – probably Vietnam's most famous road and view. As our train trundled us towards Da Nang all we could see, however, was the inky black sky.

After our taste of backpacking, if you can count not showering and sleeping properly for one day that(!), checking into Mandila Beach Hotel felt like luxury. We stayed for five nights in an ocean front deluxe king room with breakfast (excellent, by the way) for £58 per night. Ridiculous when you think about it, but also what made it possible for us to splurge in Hong Kong as our accommodation for two weeks in Vietnam cost, on average, £35 per night.

During our stay we took advantage of the spa and booked a Vietnamese massage (450,000 dong; £15), which was quite the experience. I've had Thai massages before, so figured I knew what I was getting myself in for... I was wrong. The Vietnamese view massages as being for health purposes, so I was thoroughly pummelled and twisted into positions I didn't know my body was capable of. It wasn't the relaxing massage I'd expected, but I'm sure it did me some good!

The only downside to hotels in Da Nang is that they tend to have small rooftop pools. Space is limited if you want to sunbathe and relax up there – but a lot of Da Nang's hotels are located by My Khe's beach (none are *technically* beach-front as a road separates the hotels from the beach). If you do head over to there to soak up the sun, all prices are thankfully set – which takes the stress out of haggling for a sunlounger.

Our hotel's location also meant we had a gorgeous view from our room of the South China Sea and Lady Buddha (Chùa linh ứng). There's not much to see in Da Nang itself – the Dragon Bridge pictured at the top of this post, for example, is down as a must-visit attraction – but Lady Buddha is one sight you can't help but see in Da Nang. At 72 metres tall, she's visible from 35km away.

It's super simple to visit Lady Buddha, and it's worth visiting just before sunset so you can see the city embraced in a warm orange glow. Throughout our trip we used the Grab app – basically Uber – which means there's no confusion with cost as you know it up front, you know exactly who your taxi driver is and what your journey will be, plus you can add your debit or credit card to the app to pay for your ride.

The brave can take a GrabBike instead of a car (they provide a helmet), but we stuck to four wheels. To give you an idea of prices, our taxi from the train station to the hotel cost 58,000 dong (£1.91), and it cost 44,000 dong (£1.45) from the hotel to Lady Buddha. We found Grab the most convenient way to get around in Vietnam for short, local journeys.

Another place to visit if you're staying in Da Nang is the Marble Mountains, located halfway between Hoi An and Da Nang. (In separate posts I'll tell you about visiting Hoi An and also Ba Na Hills, both around a thirty minute drive from Da Nang – albeit in different directions – but they are two places you should definitely visit.)

Entry to the Marble Mountains, known locally as Ngũ Hành Sơn, costs 40,000 dong (£1.37) if you're happy to climb stairs. There is an elevator, but it's pretty pointless taking it, in all honesty, as you'll still have to climb lots more stairs to see everything after you reach the point where the elevator drops you off. Take water with you, though you can buy food and drinks up in the mountains – despite what the locals sellers might tell you at the entrance.

The Marble Mountains are five marble and limestone mountains, each one named after the five elements of earth, fire, wood, water and metal. With views over Da Nang, plus caves and grottoes to explore aplenty, the carvings and statues are simply stunning. Some of the tunnels in the caves are quite steep and narrow so you'll want to wear trainers – a few are downright terrifying to navigate!

Even with the terrifying tunnels and the sweltering heat, we loved exploring the Marble Mountains. This, along with the more laid-back vibe of Da Nang and some awesome food (notable restaurants coming in a separate post), made Da Nang our favourite place to visit in Vietnam. It's a city that can be overlooked with people sticking to visiting Hoi An if they are in this area, but Da Nang is definitely worth a visit, if you ask me.

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