June 12, 2016
This morning we packed up, ate a small breakfast, and took a taxi to the airport. We won’t be back in Saigon again until mid-July to catch our flight back home. We got the same Vinasun taxi driver we had last time (I guess he’s stationed near our hotel area). The taxi ride to the airport only was 110,000 VND = $6.30 CAD.
We checked in at Vietnam Airlines and headed towards the gates. The flight was fairly empty so we got seats pretty far forward on the plane. We had about an hour and half to kill before we boarded. The domestic terminal at Tan Son Nhat International Airport had a few souvenir shops and two areas with Asian and Western food options. We shared a meal at Popeye’s. Their chicken tenders are pretty awesome.
The flight to Da Nang was only an hour. The plane was comfortable and they gave us a bottle of water and a wet wipe (just like the buses). There was no in flight service since it was such a short flight. When we landed in Da Nang, it was sunny and 39°C! So hot. Da Nang’s airport is Vietnam’s third international airport, built in 2007, so it’s more modern compared to Saigon and Hanoi. Before exiting the airport, we had to show our baggage receipt and the Vietnam Airline rep had to compare it to our bags before we were able to leave. We’ve never had to do this in any airport, but it is a good system to have to make sure people don’t just steal your luggage.
We hailed a Vinasun cab and headed to our hotel for the next two days, Hadana Boutique Hotel. The hotel was pretty highly rated on Trip Advisor and is fairly new. We’re paying $55 CAD/night, which is a bit pricier for Vietnam. They welcomed us with cold towels and a drink as we checked in. They showed us to our room, which had two twin beds (was probably the cheapest option)(Tim: It was), and was very nice and modern. The room was also the biggest room we’ve had in Vietnam so far, so it felt like a definite treat! For an extra $25/night, you can get some pretty “luxurious” rooms in Vietnam. The hotel is situated on the other side of the Han River (not in the downtown core) but in between the Han River and the beach.
When we arrived, we noticed there were hardly any people out and about. Probably due to the extreme heat. The way we came from the airport, there were not nearly as many scooters as there were in Saigon. We rested up in the hotel room for a bit and then decided to head out much later in the afternoon.
We decided to walk towards the “downtown” area, across the Han River for coffee and dinner. Before crossing the bridge, there was a huge Vincom mall, which has an array of stores, a movie theatre, and restaurants from all parts of Asia (Jollibees from the Philippines and Crystal Jade from HK), and an indoor ice rink. It’s a pretty fancy mall for Vietnam. We went inside to check it out and we figured out that’s where everyone in Da Nang was.
A friend of ours who had recently been to Vietnam told us about this coconut smoothie coffee from “Cong Caphe“, which was “life changing” (his words). When someone says a drink or dish is life changing to them, we have to try it. Cong Caphe is located right on the Han River and is a trendy cafe with a communism look to it. We grabbed a seat on the second floor looking out the window, it was nice and relaxing. We ordered one of the coconut coffees and a frozen lemonade (both were 45,000 VND each = $2.60 CAD). The drinks were indeed really good. The coconut coffee was my favourite. I think I’ll attempt to make something similar when we get back in the summer. The frozen lemonade was really refreshing and had a lot of lemon zest (the lemons here are more like limes). The cafe had wifi so it was a good place for us to take some time to wait to go out again when the sun was setting. The cafe was full of a mixture of locals and a lot of Korean tourists.
After spending a good amount of time at Cong Caphe, the sun was starting to set so we left and walked along the Han River. The streets around the Han River were all lit up with neon store signs and lanterns hung from the surrounding trees. All the bridges were also very colourful and lit up the city. At 9pm on Saturday and Sundays, the Dragon Bridge, has a “show” and spouts fire and water out of its mouth, so we were going to try to catch that.
I did a bit of research online and found a place to try for dinner. It specialized in “banh xeo” (Vietnamese savoury pancake) and satay skewers. It took about 30 minutes to walk there from where we were on the river and it was actually quite hidden away. We saw a bunch of people getting dropped off by taxis at the alley so we knew we were in the right place (that and Google maps helped a lot). The restaurant was at the end of a narrow alley and was quite a large and very chaotic place. We walked in trying to find a seat and were given a seat in a make shift table area. They have 3 different items on their menu and they just give you everything without you ordering. This seemed like common practice and if you wanted more of something you had to tell them. Although, for foreigners, it was difficult to communicate, so we just went with the flow.
We were given a dish of lettuce and herbs, cucumbers, 3 bowls of satay sauce, pickled green papaya, and rice paper. They put down a plate of 10 pork skewers, 3 large cut up banh xeos, and a plate of marinated pork (Tim: or beef?) slices. We observed locals around us eating and saw they would just make wraps using the rice paper (add all the sides) and dip it into the peanuty satay sauce. The flavours were really awesome. The only downside to eating here was that it was a super chaotic environment (although the staff has their process down pat) and it was super super hot inside (we were at the back of the restaurant). They had fans on the ceilings but it didn’t really help us that much. Both of us were sweating really badly and the waitresses didn’t understand my request for drinks. We weren’t able to finish all the food served to us, mainly the banh xeos. Tim wasn’t a big fan of them, but I liked them just didn’t have enough stomach to finish it. All the food came out to 185,000 VND = $10.60 CAD, which was pretty good value. The boss lady (the one at the restaurant who usually walks around with the wad of cash) wrote us up a detailed bill.
We headed back towards the Han River and planned to walk back to our side of the river and walk over the Dragon Bridge so we could watch the show at 9pm. As we walked over the bridge a lot of people were already camping out for their spots for the show. We walked over the bridge and further down the River to get a more panoramic view. It was pretty crowded with families and other tourists enjoying the night. The show was fairly anti-climatic, basically the dragon blows out fire a few times and then shoots out water (pretty far range) after. After about 10 minutes, we got the gist of the show and walked back to the hotel.
The path along the Han River is quite nice. There are tons of sugar cane vendors set up and have tables and chairs all over for people to just sit and relax. There was also a lot of activities for children at night – rides, painting stations, and other games. We finally got back to the hotel and looked pretty warn (super sweaty and tired). We couldn’t wait to take showers and go to sleep.
Tomorrow we’re going to take it easy and check out My Khe Beach and hang out by the pool downstairs.
Steps today: 18,000