Da Nang, Vietnam: November 2016

After Tokyo, the following Thursday Ha Hyeon and I went to Da Nang, Vietnam!  It was Veteran’s Day holiday so it was the perfect excuse to spend a 3 day weekend out of town.

This particular adventure starts with boarding the plane – we went through but I guess we got upgraded so they switched out our tickets to business class.  Which was cool, I am in no way complaining but I don’t have an account with Asiana, instead I link to my United account to get the miles, but it doesn’t give me any status or anything with them.  Anyway, we got upgraded!

Testing out phone pairing with the GoPro

Full meal on a 5 hour flight

All in all their business class product is okay, it’s a lot better than sitting in economy but it’s not a true lie flat seat, which is probably my only complaint.  Otherwise, thanks for the upgrade Asiana!

Americans have to have visas to enter Vietnam, so while we were a few of the first people to deplane, we were the last to go through immigration because I had to get a visa on arrival.

Upon exiting the airport we went to get a taxi and they were definitely scamming foreigners.  They wanted to negotiate prices and I kept on saying I wanted to use a taxi meter, so I finally just ignored the taxi stand guy and got in a taxi, only to find out his meter was “broken” but he continued to drive so… Anyway we paid 300,000 dong when a metered trip is about 170,000 dong – upsetting but I mean, what can you do…  The rest of the trip’s taxi experiences were just fine though.

300,000 dong is about $13.75.

Da Nang is a beach town, so it has a string of resorts along the beach east of town.  We stayed at the Hyatt which was about 15 minutes away from downtown Da Nang but I think that was better because we were on the beach and taxis were cheap.  A trip into town was about ~$6.

Since we were unfamiliar with the area, we tried the breakfast buffet at the hotel which while wasn’t bad, in comparison to the other food we ate that weekend it didn’t compare to the food in Vietnam.

From there we went into town and checked out some markets and just walked around to experience the city “vibe” for lack of a better term – then went to find some real Vietnamese lunch.

We signed up for a food tour that evening, and the guy asked if we had any “must eats” and if we were adventurous eaters and I mentioned that I loved pho, but apparently that’s more of a northern dish so he said that if possible they preferred not to do it on the tour – so I set out to find my own.  So we found this dingy place and said, what’s the worst that can happen?  Ha Hyeon doesn’t really like pho, but all she’s ever had is the Korean version which sucks.  So I was excited for her to try “real” pho.  And I was excited for myself to try real pho because it’s my favorite food, or at least it used to be.

I knew we were in for a treat when I saw them cooking the broth.

We sat next to the barred window.  Hahaha

And the pho.  I really have nothing to say about it other than it was absolutely fantastic.  I haven’t had good pho in a loooong time, so it was a really special experience for me.  I think a lot of pho in the states has more body to the broth because they use more bone marrow and ox tail but what the broth lacked in body it made up for in flavor.

We walked around for a bit more then headed back to the hotel to check out the pool, even though it was overcast we wanted to at least experience the pool.  Actually we visited during the off-peak season so it rains off and on, but we got almost two full days of sunshine so no complaints from me!  And at least it wasn’t a billion degrees outside like it would be in the summer.

That evening we left to meet our group for the food tour!

First stop, Banh mi!

Banh mi technically means bread but it’s synonymous with vietnamese sandwich, so it’s bread with liver pate, greens such as cilantro, grilled sausages or pork patties or chicken, really you can put anything in it.  The simpler the better it tastes.

Since it was a walking tour we walked to all of our stops, so along the way we got to see a bunch of different shops.  This one sells bikes.

It was also during rush hour, which we got to experience.  Also crossing the street is a feat in itself, you just start walking at a steady, slower pace and bikes will go either in front of you or behind you.

Most street dining is on tiny stools.

Vietnamese style pizza, yes that’s raw egg.

Next stop was frog and eel.

You can’t go to a place and not experience the local beer.

Clam dish

Raw jellyfish

By far my favorite though?  Dessert, which was fried banana in yogurt in this dark, dingy alley.

And with that, the tour was done (albeit 4 hours later lol) so we headed to see what nightlife there was, and Ha Hyeon had read about a bar on the 33rd floor of the Novotel so we went to check it out.

Shortly after they came out with go-go dancers and it was super awkward so we left.

Being a foodie I was using my google-fu to find a place to eat and we stumbled on this random place that was actually difficult to get to because our taxi driver didn’t know where it was, but after some effort we got there and it was definitely worth it.

And of course, banh mi!!

The lady doesn’t speak english but just say Banh mi and you’re in business!

Since we were loving the food we wanted to have SECOND lunch, so we found a pho spot that I found on the same blog.  But, it was really difficult to find because google was wrong, so we asked around a little bit and eventually found it.

Ha Hyeon used the Korean equivalent of Google to find a coffee cafe, since Vietnam is known for their coffee.  Well apparently every other Korean person had the same exact idea, because the coffee shop was literally filled with Korean people on both floors.  As in, there was nobody else in there except Koreans.  I guess that’s what happens when you go to the first link when you type in “things to do in Da Nang” on Naver.  Coffee was good, but if you want to stay away from Korean crowds don’t go.  Lol.

The sky was blue, so we headed to the beach!

Since it was the off season, the water was too rough to go into… But it was still nice to look at.  Da Nang in the distance.

Main part of the hotel at night

Ha Hyeon found a fresh seafood restaurant, so we went there for dinner.  They have live fish until you want to eat it, then they kill it and cook it for you.  We had sauteed lobster, chili crab, and seafood fried rice.  It was more than enough for the two of us, and the best part was that it was cheap!

On our last day we had to check out of the hotel but we had literally all day to do stuff until our flight took off at midnight.  So we went to the town to the south, Hoi An, which is about 30-40 minutes by taxi.  Anthony Bourdain reviewed a Banh mi shop there, so of course we had to check it out – and boy was it busy!  But man, it was good!  This Banh mi wasn’t as simple, and even had fried egg in it, but the taste was just really, really phenomenal.

We also tried cha gio which is vietnamese spring rolls.

We explored the streets of Hoi An, which is an old French colonial town.  Now, it’s mostly tourist shops trying to sell stuff.

They were trying really hard to sell boat rides but we decided not to, as 1. how do you choose which boat? and 2. we didn’t really feel like it.  We also got some ice cream and coffee while walking around.

I found an interesting trinket in a bookstore.

As it gets dark they turn on lanterns, which they use instead of street lights.

Our food tour guide had told us about a restaurant in Hoi An we should go to, which we eventually found, but I think we ordered the wrong stuff because I mean it was good, but not great.  Hahaha even still it was yummy.  I could have done without the birds nest though.

And with that, we stopped back by the hotel to grab our luggage and then headed to the airport, where we boarded our plane via the apron which was bizarre, but whatevs…  Then a redeye on the way back to Korea!  We caught the 7AM bus and were back in Pyeongtaek around 9ish.

Last thoughts on Vietnam:

  1. it’s worth the visit, even if you have to pay for a visa
  2. next time I’ll try Hanoi, but if you like the beach Da Nang is your spot.  Plus, they have really good food.
  3. don’t be afraid to try street food.  It’s all safe.
  4. Be wary of airport taxis.
  5. I didn’t like Hoi An for the same reason why Ha Hyeon didn’t like Da Nang – I felt there were too many tourists in Hoi An where Ha Hyeon liked Hoi An because there weren’t any Koreans there.  Hoi An definitely has more tourists, such as Brits and Aussies, but is still worth a day trip.  I wouldn’t stay there though.
  6. I definitely fell in love with Vietnam.  It’s in my top 3 trips for sure.  I guess my favorite places so far have been third world countries… I get so much more out of the experience than when I go to more modern places.

Next week I’m in Europe, so stay tuned for the week after when I post the blog!

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