Like a kind of Indochinese Brisbane, Danang sits just out of the international limelight, behind Saigon’s frenetic Sydney and the cooler, more cultured Melbourne/Hanoi. Still, its a surprisingly pleasant city. Along with its laidback pace and manageable scale, the city boasts impressive recent development. It has quite a prosperous air. This, combined with its mild climate and beautiful location between the mountains and the sea, makes it popular with domestic Vietnamese tourists if not (yet) with Westerners.
The main attraction is the string of palm-lined, thundering surf beaches once known to the Americans as “China Beach”. Today, the broad sandbank on which they are located, separated from the city proper by the mouth of the Han River, is covered with hotels – blocks and blocks of them, gleaming new or under construction, interspersed with ramshackle seafood restaurants, Korean convenience stores and wide grassy blocks on which more hotels will surely sprout. Even with all the visitors from the rest of the country, China and Korea, there must be huge oversupply of hotel rooms. Indeed, the city sometimes felt like a sunny, not-at-all-unpleasant ghost town with wide empty streets, vast vacant lots and the sound of the waves in the distance.
Beyond this beach enclave though, the city packs in some hefty surprises. There is a series of flashing, neon bridges which link the beaches to the more vibrant downtown, the standout of which is the dramatic, dragon-shaped bridge, an instant city icon, which actually breathes fire every 9pm on weekends. Also: a towering Guan Yin statute known locally as the “Lady Buddha”, free citywide wifi and some remarkable daytrips to the nearby tourist hot spot of Hoi An (virtually a suburb), the Marble Mountains and the world’s longest cable car at the Bana Hills.