Da Nang and Hoi An, Vietnam

Golden Hands Bridge

I took a short haul flight from Hanoi to Da Nang, arriving fairly late in the evening at my hostel (Christina’s Da Nang - Seahorse Hostel). At this point it was really starting to sink in that I had not given myself enough time for Vietnam - I only gave myself two days in the Da Nang / Hoi An region, which was definitely not sufficient. I’ll have to come back some day!

The next morning I decided to take a walking tour of Da Nang. In all honesty, it was the least interesting of the walking tours that I had done, and we spent a disproportionate amount of time sitting in a cafe drinking some local beverages instead of exploring the city. Anyway, upon the conclusion of the tour, instead of going back to the hostel I opted to walk along the river in the blazing heat to check out some of the famous Da Nang bridges!

Suspension bridge

A suspension bridge crossing the river that runs through the city

While there are several bridges that cross over the river, by far the most well-known is the Dragon Bridge, shaped like a very long dragon and with a stylistically crafted head and tail on the ends. I was told that the bridge lights up at night, and even breathes fire on weekends! Unfortunately I was there during the week, but I did get the chance to snag some pictures of the bridge at night (see further below).

Dragon Bridge during the day

The Dragon Bridge during the day, in all it’s majestic beauty

After my walk through the scorching heat, I decided to return to the hostel for a couple of hours to cool down. Yes, I know I wanted to be efficient with my time, but it was hot. In the meantime, I organized a trip to the famous Golden Hands Bridge, about 40 minutes out of town, with someone from the walking tour I took earlier that day. She had found several other people interested in checking it out, so we were able to get reduced taxi fare.

To get to the top of the mountain (and thus the bridge) from the ground, you have to take a 20 minute gondola ride. That was all well and good - except that a thunderstorm rolled in about two minutes into our ride up! With powerful bolts of lightning striking less than a kilometre away from us and high winds buffeting the gondola car, I was genuinely a bit fearful for my life. Who knows what kind of safety regulations they had (or didn’t have!) in place to protect the passengers of the cable car! The gondola also kept stopping and then moving very slowly, which definitely added onto the stress of the situation.

Gondola ride

View from the gondola just a minute or two before the thunderstorm hit

Thankfully, we made it up alive. And holy hell was it worth the trip up. The view was gorgeous, and the rain even subsided to reveal vibrant blue skies accented by the impending sunset and the forest below. Despite the storm raging about two or three kilometres away, the weather was good enough to walk out onto the bridge and get some of those precious photos.

Golden Hands Bridge

People began flooding back out onto the bridge en masse as the storm subsided

Weirdly enough, it turned out that there was a whole amusement park at the top! Unfortunately it was closed, as it was after 5pm, but it looked like it could have been very fun to ride the roller coasters and such. But the surrounding French-inspired village was still open! Our tickets to the top came with a free buffet dinner and a litre(!) of free beer at one of the restaurants, so we decided to check it out. They had live music and lots of food, but most of it was meat; I ended up having a fairly light dinner that night.

Litre of beer

Turns out a litre of free beer is quite a lot!

We finally returned to Da Nang, and opted to check out the Dragon Bridge again to see the lights. The whole city was lit up, but the Dragon Bridge was definitely the highlight! The colours shifted every thirty seconds, making for an engaging view.

Dragon Bridge at night

The Dragon Bridge at night, illuminating the water below it

The next day, I spent my morning investigating various ideas for my New Zealand portion of my trip (spoiler alert!), so I didn’t really get going until the afternoon. After switching hostels to Go Home Homestay (since Christina’s was full that night and I had thrown together this day trip at the last minute), I hopped in a taxi to Hoi An, which neighbours Da Nang at a proximity of 40 minutes by car. The historic fishing and crafting village is famous for its many lanterns that hang across the streets and illuminate at night.

Lanterns by the water

Lanterns hanging by the water in Hoi An

As I wandered through a market in the centre of the village, I happened upon a tailor shop. A fabric design caught my eye, so I popped inside to explore a little, and ended up ordering a shirt to be tailored for me by 7pm that night!

I had to fill my time, so I wandered into the local folklore and living museum, which provided some fascinating insight into how people have historically lived in Hoi An. I then grabbed some dinner while it poured rain outside, before wandering back into the streets to check out the illuminated lanterns.

Lanterns illuminated in the streets

Multicoloured lanterns illuminate the streets of Hoi An at night

After another wander through the market, I check in on my shirt’s progress at 7pm. It was fitted to sit far too loosely on me, so they promised to readjust within the hour. So I filled my time by listening to a podcast in the market, and finally picked up the well-fitted shirt around 8pm. Success!

The next morning, I woke up nice and early to catch a flight to my final destination in Vietnam: Saigon. Or, as it’s known these days, Ho Chi Minh City!

Want more? Check out an overview of my Vietnam trip here!

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