We arrived in Da Nang and were greeted by a melody of words so sweet, welcoming us to this beautiful part of Vietnam. Xin Chao (pronounced Chin chao), which means hello.
We drove to the Intercontinental Hotel resort which was breathtaking, one of the most beautiful beach resorts I have ever been to. The pictures below speak for themselves. Although we had a few windy and slightly wet days the scenery was breathtaking. This resort was faultless. The service was impeccable, the staff very friendly and it was nothing short of being luxurious. I would highly recommend the Intercontinental Da nang for anyone wanting a breath of fresh air and respite from life in the city.
We met Huan at the resort and he accompanied us to the SOS village, an orphanage, after tirelessly taking us to shops to buy some gifts for the children. This took a while, as for such a large number, the stationery shop did not have enough of what we needed. After a few hours of mixing and matching and counting, with the help of Huan and our guide we loaded boxes full of pencil boxes, notebooks, folders, balls, biscuits, chocolates and crackers into the van.
The SOS village visit was a humbling experience. Each house for the children housed ten children with one mother (a single woman with no children of her own), who took care of them. The children there live a normal life and go to school, which is nearby. The houses were very well maintained, with bunk beds in the rooms, a kitchen, common area and bathroom. Each was set in greenery and some even had pets like dogs and chickens around them. We were very impressed by the set up and despite the fact that the children had no parents we felt the orphanage had done a wonderful job in giving them such an ideal environment to live in. The children were shy at first but soon opened up and started chatting. We saw the most adorable two year old boy in the house we visited.
Our tour guide told us a little about the area. This is what we learned. Da nang means ‘long river’, and has the Han river flowing through it. It is a major port city in Vietnam, with the population of around 1 million. The French invasion in 1847 under Napoleon III, led to the city being taken over by the French and made into a sea port. Before this, it was a fishing village. The US then took over from the French and then finally in 1975 the Vietnamese gained independence.
We drove down the Son Tra (monkey mountain), and took in the stunning views. We saw the beautiful marble statue of the Goddess of Mercy. It is said that a Feng Shui master came to tell the people exactly where to erect the statue. The Goddess faces the sea and protects the city and since she has been there there have been no storms or typhoons in the area. We visited many workshops that make beautiful marble statues. The marble comes from marble mountain and there is a worry that the resources may soon be depleted if it is continued to be used at this rate.
We visited some caves where we were told that the sister of the king insisted on going to live. He could not stand her living in those conditions so he built her a residence at the same spot. Later these very caves were used in the Vietnam war.
Residence built for the king’s sister
We then visited the silk factory which was fascinating as we got to see how the silk worms developed and how different forms of silk were produced.
We were told that a percentage of worms in the cocoons were saved to reproduce to make more worms and the rest were used to make silk. The dead pupa in the cocoons are not wasted and are quite a delicacy in Vietnam. The silk is unwound from the cocoons and woven into silk.
Wherever we went, we saw beautiful colourful lanterns and we had the pleasure of seeing how they were made.
Our next stop was Hoi An. No words can describe this characteristic town. It has a blend of Chinese, Japanese and French culture all in one place, depicting the cultural surge in Vietnam when they were invaded for periods of time by these countries. Around 7 million tourists visit Hoi An per year. This place is a ‘must visit’, and it is best to go in the afternoon and stay until the evening when all the little lanterns on the street are lit. It is like being in a magical fairy tale town.
I have been to many Asian countries now, having lived in Hong Kong for several years, but Vietnam is one where I have felt the genuine warmth from the people, whether it is the staff at the hotel, the shopkeepers and vendors, the restaurant owners or even the people you meet on the streets. They greet you with a smile, showing that they are truly happy to have you in their country. Despite what their history has been they welcome you with open arms.
I would highly recommend Da nang as a holiday destination. And try out the Intercontinental. You will feel like you are in heaven for a few days!