Travel Report: Cool Spots Around Danang.
Cool Spots Around Danang, Vietnam.
Well folks, you surely know the drill by now. Following my individual articles on Dragon Bridge, The Marble Mountains, The Danang Coastline and Monkey Mountain, here’s my roundup of the best of the rest. Yup, it’s another Vietnamese city wrapped up with my Cool Spots Around Danang.
Having taken in a sizeable chunk of Danang’s temples, pagodas and Buddhist shrines, it was an interesting change of tone when I came across Danang Cathedral. You literally can’t miss this pretty pink edifice, the only church constructed during the city’s French colonial rule.
A French priest by the name of Louis Vallet built the place in 1923. Locals call it Con Ga in reference to the rooster perched on its bell tower. As the only show in town, the church remains very busy, serving over 4000 Catholic parishioners. Services take place in French, Vietnamese and English, depending on the day.
Unfortunately, Danang Cathedral was closed that afternoon. Moreover, I was unable to get inside on three further attempts. From what I’ve read the interior is somewhat stark, but does feature a few rhombic arches and some fine medieval style stained-glass windows.
So I made do with a walk around the cathedral garden, which has some well-kept plants and flowers in addition to statues depicting various scenes from The Bible.
Cool Spots Around Danang.
The highlight is certainly this fascinating grotto dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to several online sources, Vallet and his church associates created it drawing inspiration from the Lourdes Grotto in France. You can find the cathedral on Tran Phu Street. Assuming they bother to open, their hours are typically 05:00-17:30.
For an insight into local youth culture, there’s nearly always something going on at the promenade square near the tail end of Dragon Bridge. Sometimes it’s busking, other times short theatrical sketches or arts and crafts. One morning I came across a breakdancing crew smashing out some impressive moves to bristling Vietnamese rap.
On the other side of The Han River, just a few minutes walk from the dragon’s head, stands a large covered market that hosts an array of events throughout the year. Back in April 2018 it was home to the giant Coca Cola Street Food Festival. This was one of the busiest places I saw in the whole of Vietnam, with hundreds of people snacking on traditional Vietnamese dishes.
In truth the market itself didn’t interest me much. I’d seen similar spots across the country, had already eaten that day and was keen to get away from the masses. Thus I found myself drawn to the kitschy fun of Coca Cola Street, just outside the main hall.
Coca Cola Street Food Festival.
Here, locals posed with friends and family for photos against a number of Coca-Cola themed murals and art installations. At first glance it was an admittedly depressing exhibition of corporate advertising. But the more I observed, I couldn’t help but smile at how much people were enjoying it.
In fact, there was so much smiling and laughing, I joined in and took some photos of my own. What’s more, I am very partial to a can of Coke. Hence I picked up a cold one on my way out. “Damn you, Coca-Cola and your wily charms”.
Just five minutes on foot from the market sits one of Danang’s iconic sights. Indeed wherever you may be in the river neighbourhoods, one cannot miss the gigantic Happy Yacht.
A permanent fixture in DHC Marina on The Han’s western banks, this luxury 5-floor super yacht offers fine dining with restaurants serving Vietnamese, Thai and Korean cuisine, among others. It’s all quite fancy and expensive, by Danang standards at least.
When I came to take a look one late midweek afternoon, the yacht was quiet. Nevertheless, I found a helpful hostess stationed outside who asked me what I was looking for. “Hm, a drink perhaps?” I asked. And so she directed me to the top deck, a so-called Sky Bar with tables and chairs overlooking the river.
Cool Spots Around Danang.
Ok, so this was hardly up in the clouds. But boy these had to be some of the best river views in town. Furthermore, I was the only person on the entire deck! “Is it going to get busy?” I asked the smartly dressed waiter. “Yes sir” he smiled, performing a half bow. “We have a set dinner menu from seven… and a DJ”.
Wanting absolutely nothing to do with the set dinner, the DJ, nor indeed the crowds they would bring, I counted my lucky stars. After all, for now I had this fine Danang vista all to myself. Scanning their disappointing drinks menu, I took a Heineken ($3), kicked back and savoured the moment. “Cheers, Dragon Bridge!”
It was a wonderful spot from which to enjoy a Danang sunset and the bleeding colours of the skyline as night descended. A short while later DJ Dax arrived and began setting up his equipment. After a few short blasts of his (way too loud) beats, I bid The Happy Yacht adieu.
Another string to Danang’s considerable bow is its excellent coffee scene. One of my favourites was Cozy Coffee, a place that lives up to its name with comfy chairs, gentle music and a polite, softly-spoken barista/waitress. They do wonderfully creamy flat whites and… hallelujah! … the wifi isn’t shit.
If you like your cafes very busy (some might say happening), you couldn’t find a trendier spot than The Coffee House on Nguyen Chi Thanh. This place is a bit on the pricy side, but they offer a huge variety of flavoured coffees and excellent desserts. Be warned though, it has just a single toilet cubicle for all customers. Man, I wish I hadn’t gone in there.
Danang is also a great food city! Oh how I should’ve taken more photos of its culinary delights. My favourite breakfast spot was the fantastic Happy Heart Cafe, whose staff are exclusively deaf, hearing impaired and ethnic minority.
Online, the cafe was so ridiculously recommended I had to come and see it for myself. I hadn’t had anything resembling a cooked western breakfast during my entire Vietnam trip. So imagine my excitement when I saw that Happy Heart does their own twist on a Full English.
I dove happy-heartedly (sorry) into that excellent breakfast. Aside from the grilled tomato (a pet hate of mine), it was a resounding win. I’m talking yolky eggs, baked beans, fried mushrooms, crispy bacon, a juicy beef burger, roast potatoes and fluffy toast with butter. Oh, and a token slice of watermelon to make you think it’s healthy. Yum.
Cool Spots Around Danang.
The team at Happy Heart also knocks out a mean chilli con carne and some outstanding nachos, salads, steaks and pastas. After my breakfast, I got chatting to the owner, a warm local lady dependent on crutches to walk.
She told me how she’d started the cafe for her friends, many of whom had trouble finding employment because of their lack of hearing. When she heard that I was going to write about her cafe, my host insisted on gathering the team together for a group shot. A genuinely lovely moment.
When it comes to Vietnamese food, I simply have to put in a word for Mrs Mua Restaurant, a scandalously under-the-radar eatery on Nguyen Tri Phuong. Online, you’ll find only passing references, and very little in the way of images. And yet this was one of my most memorable local dishes.
I went for the Special Mix Noodles, pictured below. It’s a concoction of wispy rice noodles and mixed herbs served with grilled beef, spring onions and a single, soft-boiled egg. Not pictured is the little tub of creamy yellow curry broth that you pour over everything.
Adventures in Vietnam.
Sealing Danang’s reputation as a culinary titan, in my book at least, is the presence of a solid Indian restaurant. Happily, Namaste Omar didn’t let me down with its delicious Chicken Korma, Basmati Rice and Cheese Nan. So good.
Finally, I’d like to conclude my Danang chronicles with a word on my humble lodgings, Tomodachi Guesthouse. This Japanese style home from home has to be one of the quietest hostels I’ve ever stayed at.
Inspired perhaps by the zen vibe that prevails throughout, my fellow dorm guests kept themselves to themselves. Indeed all I remember hearing is the occasional rustling from behind the curtains of various bunk beds. A rare experience in my 20+ years of world travel.
Staff are courteous, shoes go off at the front door and you’ve got everything you need throughout, including strong WIFI, plug sockets aplenty and a basic but free breakfast. They do private rooms too, which at the time of my visit represented some of the best-priced doubles in the city.
Cool Spots Around Danang.
One evening, tired but perfectly content from a day’s exploring, I settled in for the evening in Tomodachi’s chilled common room. It was just me, my MacBook, some M&M’s and a range of drinks I’d picked up from a local store.
Back then my blog was still called Leighton Literature and man it’s fun to see that old homepage again. I can’t remember which article I worked on that night. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still on the long list of pieces I’m scheduled to re-do. Slowly, slowly….
For more on this amazing Vietnamese city, take a look at my other articles on Danang.
Or maybe look further afield with my many more pieces from across Vietnam.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.