Da Nang: 29-30 December 2009

3
Day 1 - Marble mountains

Man transporting a ladder


I planned to stay at the previous hotel but on my way back from Hoi An to Da Nang, I decided that it would be better to stay closer to the marble mountains because I had not visited them yet and to explore this side of Da Nang.

There's a hotel called Hong Kong hotel that's just across the road from Furama resort. I couldn't see any way to get to the beach except through Furama, and there was alot of construction activities in this area - new resorts and apartments being built. The future Raffles beach resort is directly opposite the marble mountains. There's a casino under construction further north along this stretch of road.

Before the bus departed from Hoi An, I had shown the bus driver a map and asked him to stop me at the Han market where my previous hotel was located. However, when the bus passed a decent-looking hotel on the way back, I changed my mind in that split second, grabbed my bags, went to the front of the bus and asked the bus driver to allow me to alight there. I found this spanking new hotel, Sunny Hotel (109 Ho Xuan Huong, Q. Ngu Hanh Son, TP. Da Nang. 0511 3847531 0986 070551) for VND220,000 per night. The plastic wrapper had just been torn off the seat of the chairs in the room. The fridge, TV, bathroom accessories were all brand new. No free Internet but can tap on the free wifi from the cafe next door.

Hotel corridor


Hotel room


Hotel bathroom


The marble mountains didn't seem too far away. I asked the receptionist where I could rent a bicycle. She said her sister needed the bicycle to go to school so she couldn't rent it to me. I asked whether there was a motorbike for rent instead. She said it would cost VND150,000 per day to rent it. I only needed it for half a day so I paid VND70,000. I thought the motorbike would be an automatic one but it wasn't. There was no clutch. It took me 10 minutes of riding to realise how to shift gears. The guy who rented me his bike (I think he's a family member of the hotel owner and it's actually his personal bike) couldn't speak English so going back to ask him wasn't an option. Sounds silly but at least I did figure it out! In case you do come across such a bike, here's how to shift gears.
Gear 1: Step down on the pedal.
Gear 2: Step down again (not kick up like you would do on a normal bike).
Gear 3: Step down.
Gear 4: Step down.
Neutral: Kick all the way up. For some reason I cannot get to neutral in stationary position with the engine turned on. I needed to switch off the engine, then I could switch to neutral.
The brakes and acceleration are on the right side of the bike as per normal.

I'm glad I rented a motorbike and not a bicycle. The marble mountains were further than I thought. It was a straight, dusty road from the hotel to the mountains. I knew where they were because I had passed them on my way to and from Hoi An.

There are 5 mountains of marble. When I reached the road outside the first mountain, I was about to turn in when a lady on a motorbike asked me whether I'm Vietnamese. When I said that I wasn't, she asked me to follow her to get to the marble mountain. I pointed to the mountain and said isn't it there. She said it was somewhere else. I refused to follow her and parked my bike by the road. She said I should not park there and can park at her house. I ignored her. I walked in to check whether I was at the right place. Indeed, I was already there. I did a u-turn, which was very difficult to do because the road was tiny and full of potholes, and parked the bike in a place that looks like a parking area. I left the helmet dangling on the bike. Nobody steals helmets there.

For each entrance of the mountain, visitors need to buy a ticket for VND15,000.

Entrance


Statues at entrance


It's very dark inside. The cave is dimly lit by tiny lights. You can climb very steep steps to reach the top.

Steep steps below


View from the top


Small clearing at the top


There are many shops selling marble sculptures and souvenirs.









I wasn't sure whether this was a real toilet


It's very peaceful and windy here


At the next entrance to the same mountain, there's a temple and pagoda. I had to climb up a long flight of stairs. On my way up, there was an overweight Caucasian lady with her husband and a guide. She had to take a break every 10 steps. By the time I got to the top, I was thirsty. I bought a can of red bull for USD1. Not cheap but there was no better option.

Stairs up the mountain


Temple


Dogs outside temple greeting their masters


Pagoda








I didn't visit all the 5 mountains. I only visited one. I'll save the rest for another time if I do return.

I rode the bike further up along the road. I reached My Khe Beach where the locals hang out. (What looks like) a huge goddess of mercy statue overlooks the beach from afar. The beach boys were playing volleyball and soccer. Nobody was swimming because the waves were too strong. All the boys here have visible abs because they were all very slim.

Beach boys were playing volleyball and soccer


The moon, on the top left, was out early. Red flag indicting that swimming wasn't advisable.


I got back on my bike and rode further up along the beach. The weather was nice and cool. Riding along the beach was just perfect. It would be romantic if I had a boyfriend riding with me.

I suddenly realised that the fuel gauge stated that I was low on fuel. I suspected that it was spoilt but to avoid any problems (I didn't see any petrol stations or anyone selling petrol along the road). I avoided going any further. If I return here again next time, I would try to ride up to the goddess of mercy statue that overlooks My Khe beach.

I stopped for dinner. There are many seafood restaurants around.

Seafood restaurants


I chose one that looked rather local. I parked my bike outside the restaurant.

Seafood restaurant I ate at


I wanted to order 5 pieces of prawns. They charge by the weight in KG. The waitress didn't understand me so I pointed to the item in the menu and held up 1 hand showing my 4 fingers and thumb. Actually I wanted 8 prawns but I was afraid she would think I wanted 0.8kg of prawns. While waiting for my food to be served, a kitten searched for food at the next table.

Hungry kitten


There were more than 5 pieces of prawns on my plate but nevermind. They were big and juice. When the bill came, was for 0.5kg of prawns. I was glad I did not show her 8 fingers because 0.8kg would be too much!

0.5kg of prawns for VND190,000


For washing hands


The waitress must have seen me struggling to park my bike. While I was washing my hands, she got the bike out from between the other bikes and turned it around in the right direction for me. Fortunately, there was enough petrol in the bike to make it back to the hotel. I think the gas gauge was broken that's why it registered zero all the time (I admit I forgot to check how much was in it when I rented it).


Day 2: My Khe Beach

My flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia departs at 4.40pm. I walked to the beach to enjoy the sea. The hotel is 10 minutes walk away from the beach. The sun was scorching hot. I had lunch at this restaurant facing the sea. (All the restaurants face the sea.) The prawns are twice as expensive here! The closer you are to the city, the more expensive the food. I couldn't afford much because it was my last day in Vietnam and I was running low on VND. I ordered a drink and fish porridge. They served me some crackers which had lots of seeds - this is their version of peanuts that are served in Chinese restaurants in Singapore to earn some extra money from customers.

Restaurant guarded by a cat


View of the sea from the restaurant


Menu


VND10,000 for the drink, VND10,000 for the crackers


VND10,000 for 2 crackers


Fish porridge VND20,000


While eating, I saw 2 guys arriving at beach for a mid-day dip.

Guys at beach for a mid-day dip


After lunch I walked along the beach as I made my way back to the hotel. That's when one of the guys talked to me. Read about it in #2 of my article, The lure of the foreign boyfriend or girlfriend.

I checked out of the hotel at 1pm, then had my last Vietnamese iced white coffee at the cafe next door since it was too early to go to the airport.

I requested for the receptionist at the hotel to call for a taxi (not extra charge) because I stood by the road for 5 minutes and there weren't any taxis. I was a little short of VND to pay the driver so I used USD to top up a dollar.

There was no need to pay any departure tax at the airport. The waiting area was old and noisy. I couldn't even hear the announcements clearly. My flight was to Siem Reap but the display stated flight to Singapore. It was a flight to Singapore with stopver at Siem Reap but they could have stated it clearer.

Cost (in USD / VND). Exchange rate 1 USD = 18434 VND
29 Dec
Hotel VND220,000
Motorbike rental (half day) VND70,000
Admission to Marble Mountain or Ngu Hanh Son VND15,000 x 2
Dinner 0.5kg steamed prawns VND190,000
Drink VND5,000

30 Dec
Lunch VND40,000
Coffee VND20,000
Taxi from hotel to airport USD1 + VND108,000

-----
Total USD38


Da Nang Map

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Yu Kym

Very interesting and personal travelogue. Rather lion heart of you to ride the motorbike in a foreign country. Kudos to you.

Hayek

Yu-Kym said...

I heard the accident rate there is very low despite having very few traffic lights.
I find the drivers here very considerate. They always slow down and give way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post Kim,

Glad that you wrote something introducing Da Nang to other people. Indeed, riding motorbike is not dangerous in Da Nang city. Today you can find a couple of places that do rent motorbikes to tourists. For example: http://www.motorbikerental.tk