Update: In the days following this post, a fatal typhoon has hit areas of Vietnam. Trident Media has opted to keep this article available, however urges you to donate to Unicef, who are assisting those affected by the typhoon.
By Mia Batrisyia
Earlier this year, I travelled to Da Nang, Vietnam with three of my girlfriends to experience the backpacking culture. Basically, we wanted to look and live like a backpacker, and analyse why backpacking is such a popular culture; especially among young adults.
This meant that we had to pack and spend in moderation, although we did the exact opposite: we were flashpackers. We were only going away for five days, but our medium-sized check-in luggage was full of enough clothes to supply a whole year, a complete makeup set and emergency snacks.
The flight took approximately two hours from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Da Nang International Airport. As soon as we landed, we were already looking for Wi-Fi connectivity; reason being, aside from worrying we went astray from one another in the airport, we wanted to snap our arrival and check in our location on Facebook. We soon got out the airport in a flash and got a cab to our booked hostel.
The hostel was nice and cute. We immediately settled in, took a quick shower and took a nap. We woke up that night to have some dinner at the nearest mall and went for some quick snack-shopping at Lotte Mart. The Land of the Blue Dragons was well lit that night when we stopped by the Dragon Bridge, and managed to get a wide angle view of the city.
With the initiative to live like backpackers, we decided to walk back, which wasn’t a good idea since we were not used to travelling on foot. Exhausted from the travelling and the hot weather, we slept like babies that night.
The next morning, we were awoken by the unfamiliar sound of cars and motorcycles blaring their horns on our street. Back in Malaysia, we would have guessed it was a rude driver with road rage problems, but that was until we explored the town for the day and realised it was the way they drove around here. Cabs, buses, private car drivers and motorcyclists alike honked to demand other vehicles to give way, and pedestrians do not have priority while they shared the same road.
We first headed towards Han Market, where they were selling a wide spectrum of almost everything from food and spices to shoes and apparel. The Vietnamese are known to accept haggling and, in fact, it is encouraged: the price will always go up 70% more than it should have been, especially for foreigners. Thanks to our cheapskate roots, we managed to comfortably haggle our way and walked out with bags of clothing, shoes and Vietnamese coffee and treats.
By then it was getting dark, so we decided to pay a visit to the tourist attraction Da Nang is known for: its sandy beaches and fresh seafood. Some rain was forecast, so we only had time to take a few photos before we ran for shelter. Dinner was some delicious seafood as I sat with beautiful beach-side scenery and wonderful company.
After an early night, we headed off to Hoi An at 8:00 am. It was almost a four-hour drive, but we had multiple stops such as the Linh Ung Pagoda, and the Marble Mountains. Known for its Buddhist influence, the Ling Ung Pagoda towers and majestically oversees the town and its people. The Marble Mountains had a variety of precious stones and marble décor to offer, but we weren’t interested in the jewellery and furniture: we were more interested in filling our bellies with Vietnamese seafood noodle soup — the food there did not disappoint.
The highlight of the day was Hoi An, an ancient town. It was evening by the time we arrived, so we didn’t waste any time. We rented a bicycle and off we went on our tiny adventure, and what we saw was something out of a fairy-tale.
Beautiful infrastructure, colourful smiles and a little tinge of greenery. We stopped for some fresh coconut to quench our thirst and didn’t forget to get some little souvenirs for our families. It wasn’t a huge town, but it was almost sunset by the time we were done exploring every part of it.
While waiting for the picture-perfect moment, we sat down and had a few drinks and shared some laughs. That’s when mother nature began to flaunt her beauty: the sky turned amber, and gradually became a sapphire colour.
The whole town soon began to light up, and we saw both the water lanterns and hanging lanterns in action. You can imagine a number of photos we didn’t want to miss, so we set to explore the town again with our bikes. We didn’t even think of having dinner until late at night when we were all in bed and our tummies started grumbling.
It is truly a place I will not forget.
We woke up slightly later than usual the next day. The first thing we had was brunch at 10 am: Vietnamese pho again. It didn’t taste as good, but we were starving so we indulged it anyway. We went to several famous monuments: Hai Van Pass, Lang Co Beach, Khai Dinh Tomb, The Citadel, Hué and Thien Mu Pagoda.
It was a long drive to those destinations, the heat was burning our skin and we were still exhausted from the trip to Hoi An, so we headed back before evening came. We stopped by Han Market for some last minute souvenir shopping and then had seafood for dinner. You just have to eat seafood in this town. Although it’s slightly more expensive, it’s delicious and fresh, and I would say it’s definitely worth it.
On our last day, we spent the morning lazing around and packing our bags, and we had some Thai food for brunch before heading to the airport at 10:00 am. Our flight back was smooth; I slept the whole the way. We landed home in Malaysia at 7:00 pm with a bag full of souvenirs, and a mind full of amazing experiences. While our plan to participate in the backpacking lifestyle failed, it was truly a memorable vacation that I would do all over again anytime.
Cảm ơn bạn (‘thank you’, in Vietnamese)!