Danang – The Gateway to Central Vietnam
Danang is the third largest city
in Vietnam set in the heart of what was once the ancient Kingdom of
Champa (home of the Cham civilization). This busy seaport of nearly
one million people is an important trading and transport link between
the capitol of Hanoi in the north and the thriving commercial center
of Ho Chi Minh City in the south.
Danang's colourful history
is reflected in its colonial architecture, remnants from the days when
the French and the Spanish occupied this area during the 17th and 18th
centuries. Today a cyclo tour of the city along tree lined avenues will
cost you just US$1.
I stayed at the delightful Furama
Resort Danang and had a suite facing out onto China beach that had once
been a popular R & R spot for American G.I's during the Vietnam
(or American if you are Vietnamese) war. I woke early around 5.30am
and thought I would go for a walk on what I thought would be a deserted
beach. But much to my surprise it was packed with many locals jogging
orplaying either badminton or volley ball in the cool morning. The air
got warm very quickly and by 6.45am it was starting to feel hot. It
was nice to be able to walk on the beach without being pestered by postcard
or chewing gum sellers. The people are very friendly and just want to
say hello. I had a written exchange with a deaf man on a bicycle who
was curious about my visit to Danang. There is something refreshing
in being able to be a tourist without being hasseled.
Having walked around for an hour
I decided to try a local coffee made using an aliminium drip. It did
seem to take for ever for the black liquid to make it's was into
the glass but the rest was good and just 5,000 Dong.
Five miles south of Danang is a
cluster of five scenic hills known as Marble Mountain or "Mountain
of the Five Elements". Mysteroius caves within the mountains conceal
elaborate altars dedicated to Buddha, Bodhisattvas and the different
genies of local folklore. Dating back centuries, they serve as religious
sanctuaries. The mountains also yield a valuable source of red, white
and blue-green marble.
My Son Valley was the spiritual
center of the ancient Cham civilization and is similar to other important
spiritual centers such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur in Indonesia
and Pegan in Myanmar. It was chosen as a religious sanctuary in the
4th century and its varied history is reflected in the temples and ruins
that reamain. It is also home of the Museum of Cham Sculpture, which
record the development of the culture and history of the Cham people
through their elaborate sculptures and carvings. My Son Valley is forty
five miles south west of Danang.