Surf Town or Natural Wonderland? Tour Da Nang, Vietnam.

Teach in Da Nang, a city in the middle of Vietnam. It offers some of  the best beaches, but also has beautiful scenery and mountains. ESL life in Da Nang is a city to live and work in. Interested, read more here…

What’s your favorite thing about ESL life in Da Nang?

Naturally, most people would rave that their favorite thing about Đà Nẵng is its access to the beach and its inherent relaxed feel. We live on a street that rents surf boards and hosts some quirky rasta-esque cafes. Visitors frequently jog up and down the street wearing wet suits, carrying boards on their head. The younger local population can be seen sporting baggy cargo shorts, flannel shirts and bucket hats. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to living in a beach/surf town, and it’s definitely a unique part of Vietnam.

Photograph on left via FayFay. Photograph on right via CNN.

However, the city also boasts a pretty impressive riverfront night time view. There are four main bridges that connect the ‘city side’ with the ‘beach side.’ It easily could have followed the Vietnamese utilitarian model of get me from point A to point B. Instead, Đà Nẵng opted to combine function and fashion. The Trần Thị Lý – a massive sail shaped bridge. Cầu Rồng – a literal Dragon Bridge that breathes real fire on the weekend (he’s busy during the week). The Hàn Bridge – aka Rainbow Road, aka Angel Bridge, that does a late night 90 degree rotation to let bigger ships through. The mammoth Thuận Phước Bridge  – Vietnam’s longest suspension bridge. And the real kicker, they all light up at night with amazing LED displays. Đà Nẵng has consequently set itself on a course to be the glittery, sparkly disco city of the future. With all its new high rises and hotels following the LED revolution.

How busy is the city and how is the quality of life?

Đà Nẵng is definitely the new young kid on the block of Vietnamese cities or ‘Trẻ Trâu’ if you like. It’s modern yet laid-back and desirable to live for locals and expats alike. After living in Hanoi myself for a year, Đà Nẵng’s population of 1.3 million seems more like a town than a city. The roads suddenly feel like airport runways, and I can actually see people’s faces without the pollution masks. You still get your ‘going against traffic’, ‘cut you off taking a left turn’. However, as Vietnam actually had the chance to plan Đà Nẵng, that little foresight goes a looooong way. Sidewalks aren’t just the name of a bar, they’re actually a place for pedestrians to walk. People generally stop at red lights, helmets are actually a thing, and the combination of well laid traffic circles and one-way streets keep people moving. Rarely have I ever found myself at a standstill.

Photograph on left via Sice. Photograph on right via DaNangCuisine.

Where is good to eat and drink?

Đà Nẵng is nestled between the Imperial Capital of Hue and the  ancient port town of Hoi An. Both are famous nationwide for their  cuisine, all of which can pretty easily be found in Đà Nẵng. On top of that, Đà Nẵng is also well know for several dishes. A pretty good  Central Vietnam specialty restaurant is located near Đà Nẵng 1 Center on Nguyễn Văn Linh Street, called Bà Thọ (Grandma Tho).

They serve up:

  • Bánh nậm (gelatinous rice cake with pork, shrimp and scallions)
  • Nem lụi (good ol’ meat on a stick)
  • Bánh bèo (steamed rice cake with savory ingredients)
  • Bánh xèo (essentially a flat Vietnamese taco)

Typically we like to go to our local market (Chợ Bắc Mỹ An) to buy  produce so we can cook at home, but you can also find a range of food stalls to satisfy a quick bite while you’re there. We usually hit up some bún thịt nướng (BBQ pork over noodles, vegetables and thick peanut sauce) and finish it off with kem bơ (ice cream, avocado and dried coconut chips).

Of course the pièce de résistance of Đà Nẵng has got to be mì quảng. It’s a quick and dirty bowl of thick noodles in a lukewarm sour broth, topped with a combo of pork or chicken, shrimp, quail eggs, peanuts and vegetables. It can be found almost anywhere. The cheapest I’ve managed with my foreign complexion is 15k, but legend has it a 12k bowl exists out there somewhere. The dish made such an impact on a group of Tâys, they even made a song about it, which gained some YouTube fame. 

Any nice cafes around? What’s the nightlife like?

Due to Đà Nẵng’s proximity to the Central Highlands (the coffee producing breadbasket of Vietnam), coffee is just as accessible if not  more so than Hanoi or Saigon, and cheaper. Standard shops will run you 15k for an ice coffee, nicer ones about 25k. I’ve managed to find as low as 12k and heard rumors of 8k. Throw a rock, and you’re sure to hit a coffee shop.

Regarding nightlife. Since there is no real ‘central’ location of expats or tourists, nightlife is also not localized to one specific area. It’s probably the driving factor for why most tourist fly in and out of Đà Nẵng but rarely stay for longer. But as someone living here, this makes it an admirable quality. There are plenty of western style and local bars spread around the beach and city side. A few places host special events, but as of yet, Đà Nẵng hasn’t developed a Tây Hồ style reputation of free beer or nightly events. Unfortunately, bia hơi isn’t really a thing either.

Photograph on left via Asian Way Travel. Photograph on right via VMCar.

What do you like to do, and where do you go in your free time?

What it lacks in a broad and tight knit expat community, it makes up for in access to adventure and natural beauty. Sơn Trà Peninsula or ‘Monkey Mountain’ is a nature reserve that is one of the few homes of the Red Shanked Douc Langur, an endangered species that you can see in its natural habitat. Both times I’ve been up there, I’ve been privy to these awesome monkeys who look as if they’re sporting colored leg warmers and arm bands. You can spend the entire day driving or hiking around the peninsula, catching views of distant islands, mountains, jungle and secluded beaches. It’s really easy to forget that you’re right on the edge of a city when you’re up there. 

Other great attractions include the temple laden Marble Mountain, the Hi Van Pass, and Mỹ Sơn Temple Ruins built by the Cham people between the 4th and 14th century. These ruins are located about two hours west of the city, but Đà Nẵng itself also has a whole Cham Museum dedicated to recovered artifacts from several Cham sites in this area.

Where is the center located in the city?

Đà Nẵng currently has two centers that are steadily growing. In total  there are seven APAX teachers, and both centers are located on the city side. We live on the beach side, and the commute is only 15 minutes each way. That’s pretty much driving from one end of the city to the other. The staff, like the people of Đà Nẵng, are very friendly and open. Locals are also known for being much more laid back compared to those of other more hectic Vietnamese cities, I guess partly because of Đà Nẵng’s proximity to the beach.


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