Da Nang: 25-26 December 2009

My friends advised me to use USD in Vietnam and one who just returned from Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi got me a little scared and worried when she told me that Vietnam is not a safe place to travel alone. I had already booked my tickets so there was no turning back. I figured it would be better to spend my time out of the house over Christmas and New Year so I booked tickets for a long holiday. I took a direct flight from Singapore to Da Nang by Silkair. I only had to pay SGD160 for my 3 flights - Singapore to Da Nang, Da Nang to Siem Reap, and Sien Reap to Singapore - because I redeemed the ticket with my KrisFlyer miles. Silkair allows one free stopover so that's why it costs next to nothing.

- Cham museum
- My Son holyland temples

What to wear:
Long pants and t-shirt/blouse with sleeves. No bermudas or shorts for men and women.
Sunglasses and sunscreen. Very glaring.

Da Nang Map

25 December - Da Nang city
I flew in on Christmas Day. The flight was full. Most of the passengers were on their way to Siem Reap through Da Nang. The flight landed as scheduled at Da Nang Airport. About 50 people got off the plane. We were transported to the terminal via a small bus.

Our temperatures were taken as we walked through the entrance of the terminal. It didn't take too long to clear immigration. There was a tourist information counter - can't miss it because the terminal is tiny.

The lady at the counter was helpful and spoke excellent English. She recommended a few hotels within my budget of USD20, provided their addresses and pointed out their location on the map she provided. Unlike some so-called tourist information counters, this one does not provide hotel booking services in return for commission from those hotels. I had to go to the hotels on my own and call them myself if I wanted to.

The taxi waiting area was visible from the counter. I walked over and tried to get a taxi. Someone directed me to a short queue. I queued there for 2 minutes and observed that other people who came later than me were directed to taxis but I was left waiting. I spoke with a man who seemed to be in charge of the queuing system and he soon got me into a taxi. The lady at the counter said that all the taxis have meters so I did not negotiate any price before getting in. True enough, the taxi had a meter but it was running in Vietnamese Dong (VND). I only had USD with me and cannot speak a word of Vietnamese. (I make it a habit to at least know how to ask where the toilet is in local language but this time round I don't know why I didn't bother to.) The driver brought me to my selected hotel (the lady gave me a hotel card that contained the hotel name and location). I asked the driver whether he can accept USD. He wasn't sure of the exchange rate and couldn't speak much English. I, too, had no idea what the exchange rate was. He asked for USD5. I thought it sounded a little expensive considering that the airport was only a 5 minute ride away but I paid it anyway. I later found out on the Internet that it was a reasonable price.

The recommended hotel, Thoi Dai Hotel (137 Tran Phu - Q, Hai Chau - TP, Da Nang. www.thoidaihotel.com.vn thoidaihotel@gmail.com 0511 3 868988), was rather new. The receptionist could speak English. The hotel rate was USD18 per night (after converting from VND). I requested to view the room. It looked new and nice so I took it immediately.

The first thing I do after checking into a hotel is to explore the surrounding area on foot. The hotel is along a road parallel to the waterfront. The Song Han Bridge is about 10 mins' walk away - nothing special about it. The temperature is around 27 degrees but when the wind comes it felt cooler than that.

A big market (Cho Han or Han Market) is just a street away.

Da Nang Cathedral is across the road. My first night here (25 Dec) there was some very loud celebration with very bad singers. Somehow the one who sings the worst always sings the loudest.
Da Nang Cathedral

There's a cinema called Le Do nearby.

Even Esprit is here.

Not everyone is poor.

Man transporting chickens in a cage

A school

A petrol station

The roads were noisy. Everyone used the horn liberally. I only spotted one junction with traffic lights. At all other junctions there were no traffic lights. Surprisingly traffic flowed through smoothly and I somehow managed to cross the road without getting hurt.

Before heading to the Cham Museum I had lunch at a nearby shop. There seems to be a different version of chicken rice in most Asian countries. The one here is delicious in a different way. The chicken is rather lean but still tender. Some oil is poored on the top of the rice, then chicken and vegetables are piled on top. There was no freshly brewed coffee here so I settle for bottled coffee with ice. I am normally wary of putting ice in my drinks when I travel but I couldn't bear the thought of drinking unrefrigerated bottled coffee. I was fine anyway.

My lunch being prepared

Chicken Rice

I tried their bottled coffee

While eating I noticed a group of teenagers at a drink shop (it looks like it's supposed to be a local pub) across the road having fun and after a while they left on motorbikes - 3 people per bike.

3 people per bike

Most people here own dogs and there are many strays.

Bowl got overturned. No food :(

Dog with a bone

The ticket to Cham museum (Da Nang museum of Cham Sculpture www.chammuseum.danang.vn) costs 30,000 VND but because I didn't have local currency I had to pay USD3 which was converted at a ridiculous exchange rate :(

Across the road from Cham museum

Outside Cham museum

My favourite exhibits are the ones with animals.

In the souvenir shop, there was old lighters and dog tags on sale. I wonder who wants to buy them. Creepy.


Exit of Cham museum. Can take a rest here.

Temple beside Cham museum

After visiting Cham museum, I explored the town further, walk further away from the hotel. I was rather tired from walking when I saw a massage shop. I went in to inquire about the rates. The staff couldn't speak English and I couldn't speak Vietnamese so we relied on pointing, writing and using the calculator. An hour of foot massage costs USD5 excluding USD2 tip while full body massage costs USD6 excluding USD3 tip. I opted for full body massage. A male masseuse was assigned. I had no issues with that. I sat in an arm chair, removed my shoes and socks and had to change into a pair of shorts. The masseuse brought a tub of warm brownish water. It looked rather yucky. Maybe there were some sort of herb in there. He washed my feet in the tub. The first half of the massage was just for the feet and legs. The second half of the massage was for the body. He gave me a diamond-shaped piece of cloth with strings attached. He was waiting outside while I changed into that. I was supposed to put that on and lie facing down. To start the massage, he had to undo the strings first. After massaging my back, he tied it back and asked me to turn over. Well, at least he did tie it back. The massage was good. I paid USD9 to the cashier and then passed USD3 to the masseuse (I couldn't remember the right price I thought it was USD12 in total) but the cashier ran to me and refunded USD3 to me. Very honest.

As soon as I walked out of the massage place, a guy on a motorbike stopped and asked me whether I needed a ride. I was some distance from the hotel so I hopped on. I paid him USD3 for the 10-minute ride. I thought it was expensive but I didn't have local currency.

After stopping for a rest, I went to look for an agency that organises tours to My Son (pronounced as mee sern), which is a world heritage site. I read online that it is 2 hours away from Da Nang city and it's not easy for tourists to find their way there on their own so following a tour would be best. I found a travel agency in a run-down shop, 2 streets away from my hotel, charging VND300,000 excluding VND60,000 for entrance fee to the site. If I wanted to pay in USD I could but the exchange rate would not be favourable of course. I figured out by then that it would be hard to survive without any local currency so I went to the bank to exchange some.

The owner had 3 pet cats.

It was time for dinner. I saw some locals sitting at this shop eating noodles. Whenever I see many locals eating at a street hawker I tend to want to try eating there too. I ordered a bowl of noodles in soup with beef. It cost only 20,000.
I was given a generous serving of vegetables and beef. The bean sprouts are thinner and nicer than the ones in Singapore.

Noodle shop

Noodles in soup with beef

26 December - My Son temples
(For tour to My Son, contact SonMySon Tour Co Ltd. sonmysontour@gmail.com. Tel: 0510 3861121. Click pictures below to see brochures)

I had to wake up very early to travel to My Son (pronounced as mee sern). The driver picked me up at 8am. I bought myself breakfast for VND10,000 from a lady sitting by the road beside the hotel.

Chicken rice for breakfast

It took about 45 mins to reach Hoi An by car. I had to wait at a tour agency for the tour bus that was supposed to arrive at 9am. While waiting, the people at the tour agency seemed really upset about something. A lady came in to the office and scolded a guy, then another guy came in and scolded that same guy too. I just sat there hoping that the fight had got nothing to do with me.

The bus finally arrived at 9.30am. It continued on to a few hotels to pick up more passengers. That's one thing I hate about tours. You have to wait and wait.

Toe of some asshole

Fields on the way to My Son

It was a 45min journey and I wanted to get some sleep. But just as I was dozing off, we had arrived. The tour guide collected VND60,000 from each of us to buy admission tickets.

We had to get off the bus at the entrance. The ladies and gents were at the entrance. The toilets were not very dirty but they were old. About 5 cubicles in the ladies.

After everyone was done, we walked through the entrance across a bridge, waited for the bus to get across then got on the bus again to get further into the area. The tour guide gave us a briefing. We could either walk around the area on our own or follow him. He said it was easy to get lost there and advised us to follow him. I followed him, not because I was afraid of getting lost, but I would like to hear some stories about the history of the place. The guide explained that people did not live here. They only came to this place for religious ceremonies.

Briefing by tour guide

Plan showing the groups of temples at My Son

Path towards temples

This is a photograph of a picture

3 levels to each temple: lowest level represents human beings, middle level represents purists, top level represents the gods

High ceiling inside a temple at group C

Inside temple at group C. Representation of female.

Representation of male at group B

Representation of male and female in temple at group B

Water in temple wall at group B

This is a photograph of a picture. Candles are put into the slots in the wall at group B

You may think this sign states the obvious but I saw tourists trying to climb.

Temple at group G.

Excavation still in progress

People from a cycling tour

Newly excavated group F

Bottom step up to the temple

Hole in the ground from bombing during the war

The tour of the temples took about 1.5 hours. The area wasn't too big and everyone returned to the waiting point ahead of schedule. Nobody got lost.

Souvenir on sale at waiting area. You must be a rockhead if you pay USD15 for this piece of rock

And a bigger rockhead if you pay USD50 for this bigger piece of rock

I was taken back to a travel agency at Hoi An. Most of the tourists dropped off somewhere else to continue on a boat ride for the next half of the day. The rest of us were dropped off at another tour agency, not the one that I had started off at. The tour guide gave me a ride back to the other travel agency. It was about 12.40pm. He said that they would put me on a bus back at 2pm. However, the people at the agency said that the bus was leaving at 1.30pm. I waited there and walked around town a little. At 1.30pm, a guy working in the agency gave me a ride to another place. He bought a bus ticket to Da Nang (but didn't give it to me) and told me to wait there, then scooted off. Indeed the bus was going to leave at 2pm just as the tour guide told me. I got on the bus and the conductor asked for my ticket. I said I don't have it and she knew the arrangement so she didn't make me buy a ticket.

On the way back to Da Nang

The bus departed at 2pm. It didn't stop when it passed my hotel. Shortly after, it stopped to take more passengers so decided to get off before it went any further. I walked along the street and some locals asked whether I needed a ride. They couldn't speak much English. I had a map and pointed to my destination. The driver charged VND20,000 for the ride.

I bought some food from a bakery near the Han market back to the hotel. I was having a headache from the heat/glare so I wanted to rest in the comfort of my room. The bun was tasty and filled with meat. The cake was surprisingly good too. It was so good that I bought myself another one in the evening!

My lunch

Local meat bun

I had dinner at a roadside shop across the road from the cathedral. The owner couldn't speak English but I still managed to order and pay using hand signals and by showing money.

Dip the you tiao into the soup

After dinner, I went to the Han market. Most shops on the bottom level sell foodstuff and were closed. On the 2nd level, there were many shops selling cloth, clothes, shoes and bags.

Han market

Shoes, shoes, shoes

Girl waiting for her mother

The only traffic light in Da Nang city is outside the Han market

There was a wedding ceremony at the house just beside the hotel in the morning when I checked out to head to Hoi Ann.

Local wedding

Go to next leg of my trip - Hoi An: 27-29 December 2009

Cost (in USD / VND). Exchange rate 1 USD = 18434 VND
Singapore-Da Nang-Siem Reap-Singapore airfare: SGD160 after redemption of Krisflyer miles

25 Dec
Taxi from airport to hotel $5
Lunch with drink $2
Cham Museum 30,000 or $3
Massage including tips $9
Bike to hotel $3
Dinner 20,000
Water 5,000
Bottled coffee 10,000
Hotel $18
Total $59

26 Dec
Tour to My Son 300,000
Entrance fee to My Son 60,000
Breakfast 10,000
Lunch 50,000
Dinner 20,000
Water 4,000
Cake 20,000
Bike 20,000
Hotel $18
Total $45


Anonymous said...

Hi, finally your pictures are being captioned with descriptions...nice improvements!

looking for more interesting blogs from u :)


Anonymous said...

this one got part 2 too? you havent even got the karaoke part 2 done yet!!

Yu-Kym said...

For travel posts, I just add on by editing the post. Why so excited about the karaoke? LOL

Anonymous said...

something wrong with ur exchange rate for us currency...

Yu-Kym said...

Right, thanks! I corrected it.