If you ever visit Vietnam you can’t miss Hoi An. It’s pure, unadulterated magic and you’ll get there via Da Nang which has an airport. This is what most people do. They use dear old Da Nang as a portal to somewhere else. It’s not really a ‘destination’ city. Except it became one for me after I terrorised my musculoskeletal system with a series of unfortunate beds and really had to see a chiropractor. As it turns out, the closest one was in Da Nang. So ja. Off I went.
Getting there was easy enough. I just took a Grab taxi (Asian Uber) that got me there in just under an hour for about R170 and checked into a super cute hotel called Little Pig Home in the centre of town. I really enjoyed my stay there and liked that my room was huuuge (it was the big one you see advertised as the ‘hero’ on Booking.com), had a bath, is in the dead centre of town and cost R300 per night.
It was also within walking distance of a few nice places to eat which was pretty much the only thing I could do in Da Nang. The malls there were incredibly sucky and as it’s more of a local city it doesn’t really deliver in the tourist attraction department although the dragon bridge is something to see (you’ll have to google it, I kept whizzing by in taxis so didn’t get a photo-op) and they’ve recently built this incredible new hand sculpture bridge that I learned about too late. Fuck!
Still, bridges aren’t my thing. I like to eat and, while it’s not exactly a culinary capital like Hoi An, there’s definitely good food to found in Da Nang. Of all the places I popped into these were my favourite spots in no particular order.
I couldn’t walk past Merkat and not go in. This Spanish restaurant (owned by a super nice Spanish chef) really stands out from the spots around it thanks to vibey decor and a menu full of Spanish tapas which is a bit of a rarity in South East Asia. While it’s pretty expensive for Vietnam the prices are on par with Cape Town and, after tasting the melt-in-your-mouth croquetas (R70 for four), I lost all control and splurged.
Happily, every dish I tried was heavenly but special props must go to the Escalivada, a roasted red pepper, eggplant cream and anchovy dish (R70) that was wondrous.
I also loved the crispy fish (I’ve forgotten the price) that turned out to be a lot like super tender KFC-crumbed fish nuggets. Probably not the description the chef would appreciate but it was really good.
Happy Heart Cafe
This cheap and cheerful little gem of cafe was a short walk away from my hotel. I was lured in by the well-deserved killer good reviews online and the fact that they make a point of hiring disabled staff. Everyone working there was very friendly (as is pretty much everyone in Da Nang) and the service I received from my lovely hearing impaired waiter was top-notch. As far as the food goes, I can highly recommend the super tasty spag bol which is served with garlic bread. (I did take a pic but, alas, I consider it too blurry for the blog and my OCD won’t allow me to post it.)
AVA Chocolate Patisserie & Tearoom
Last but not least, I spotted a sign a few steps away from my hotel pointing to ‘AVA Chocolate’, a little tea room hidden away in an alley. I followed it out of curiosity and was thrilled to discover this secret-feeling little patisserie run by an Austrian pastry chef and his Vietnamese wife.
They serve the most gorgeous selection of beautifully crafted lekkerness, things like tarts, chocolate and macaroons as well as a huuuuge selection of teas. They even had rooibos! And a super cute kitty!
Another back alley ‘secret spot’ I adored was Taco Ngon near My Khe Beach. A teensy li’l hole in the wall, it whips out super addictive tacos that are so incredibly affordable that I was initially suspicious as to how good they’d be.
Turns out the only thing I had to worry about, however, was my ability to never fit into yoga pants again ‘cos they were so freaking good I’d eat up to four a day.
Dining aside, Da Nang is on the coast so once my neck was sorted I headed straight to a new hotel a few minutes away from My Khe Beach. It reminded me quite a lot of Durban’s Umhlanga Rocks or Port Elizabeth’s Kings Beach in that it’s a long strip, super busy and extremely family focused.
If you go expecting Clifton 4th vibes you’ll be disappointed and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pine a little for An Bang in Hoi An but hey, I had my audio book, towel and sunscreen and that’s all I needed to be a happy bunny.
Certain parts of the beach have loungers and umbrellas that you can pay to use and I happily shelled out as the price was so nominal I’ve forgotten it. This is one of the joys of a local beach as opposed to a touristy one. I also enjoyed not being harassed by hawkers although you could order food to your lounger. Nothing on the menu caught my eye but boy did I eat a shit load of ice cream. On the street. On the beach. In my bed. In the bath. It was ice cream all day, err day! (My neck was giving me the worst headaches everrr so it felt totally justified, okay?)
Anyway, like I said, Da Nang isn’t exactly the most ‘happening’ city but, what does happen there is pretty darn delish.