For the final leg of our two week trip in Vietnam, we decided to spend a few days relaxing in Da Nang. We spent four nights in Da Nang, staying at Funtastic Beach Hostel on the East side of the town. The reason we chose it was because it was a two minute walk to the beach. In all honesty, we were shattered and wanted a few days of down time with a little culture.
Where to stay?
The hostel was OK. It was probably the worst of our entire trip, but that isn’t to say it’s bad. There were a few issues though. Most annoyingly, no working WIFI on the fourth floor. That is of course the floor we were staying on. We had to go down to the communal areas to be able to use the internet or FaceTime which was irritating. The staff weren’t particularly engaged in helping either. I really do think that the nicer the staff at a hostel are, the happier the guests are. The one good thing about the hostel was that it put on a free daily bus to Hoi An and Marble Mountain, but it wont run if there is only one of you. So if you are travelling alone I would recommend making friends! The hostel was dead when we stayed, we didn’t see another soul until our last day! But anyway…
As soon as we had checked in, we grabbed our kindles and headed down to Pham Van Dong Beach to sit and enjoy the last of the sun and relax. The beach is huge, a long stretch of bright yellow sand and blue sea, row upon row of sun loungers and large seafront restaurants dotted along the path.
We had a huge pile of calamari (£10 for both of us) in one of the restaurants (I can’t recall the name!) before settling down on the sand for an hour of peace and quiet. When we next looked up from our books, the sea had filled with children and parents, fresh from school and work, and were enjoying splashing about in the sea and cooling down.
Street food tour
For our first evening we had booked a Da Nang street food tour with a local, a lovely girl called Mai. She was learning English and was using the food tour to enhance her already very good language skills. The food tour took us to three local restaurants so we could try a variety of dishes. Pork paper rolls, traditional Vietnamese Pho and Banh Xeo were the order of the day.
The paper rolls were fiddly to build to begin with, however we managed to make a couple of passable ones! We used rice paper as the base and then filled them with thick slices of pork and green veggies, bean sprouts, coriander and mint. They were delicious.
The Pho was a watery stock topped with noodles, veggies and pork. To be honest, we ate this a lot in Vietnam and I have to say, I don’t understand why people get so excited about it. It is a cheap filling meal, but there are so many tastier dishes in Vietnam. So if and when you go, please don’t just stick to Pho!
The pancakes were shrimp, pork and beef with a raw egg on top. I ate around the egg but the remainder was so good! The pancake, made from rice flour and flavoured with tumeric was my favourite dish of the tour. However we both got ill! The vegetables were washed in tap water rather than bottled water (I did ask Mai, and she confirmed that this was the case, but we felt rude not eating it) and we are always advised not to eat salad and vegetables on holiday as our stomachs are not used to the bacteria in the water that it is washed in. So just beware that this may happen. It was certainly an experience though and one I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat!
The next day we took the free shuttle bus to Marble Mountain, around a 10 minute drive away. Marble Mountain is a cluster of 5 mountains each named after the elements; water, fire, earth, wood and metal. The area is known for stone sculpture making and stone-cutting crafts and until recently stone was still being extracted from the 5 mountains. This has now been banned and marble is now bought in from other areas of Vietnam. There are many shops around that you can purchase marble sculptures and trinkets from and I bought a pestle and mortar to bring home with me. This place is stunning and should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Vietnam. The view points are incredible too.
The Marble Mountains are home to several Buddhist and Hindu caves. 156 steps leads to the summit of Thuy Son, the only Marble Mountain accessible to visitors. It allows stunning panoramic view of the surrounding area and the other marble mountains.
Scattered around the grounds of Marble Mountains are many Buddhist statues and symbols.
There are monks wandering around the grounds, and this is only the second time I have ever seen a monk.
Hoi An day trip
From Marble Mountain we then caught a taxi back to Da Nang (£5) to get the shuttle bus to Hoi An for the afternoon. The bus runs every hour from Da Nang Tourist Information centre and costs £7 for a return trip. This is much less than the 30 minute taxi ride would cost. Hoi An is incredibly busy and although stunning, one afternoon was enough. It was incredibly stressful to navigate the small roads with thousands of people trying to do the same and Da Nang is much quieter. Hoi an has been so well preserved though. Heritage buildings include Chinese temples, a Japanese-designed bridge, pagodas and an old canal make up the bulk of what there is to see here. Quite a few of the streets are pedestrian only meaning that it is a little better to walk around than some of the towns in Vietnam. There are lots of shops in Hoi An, mainly lantern shops and art galleries. Eleanor bought me a stunning painting for my birthday from one of the galleries, a depiction of a Hoi An street. I can’t wait to own a house so that I can put it up!
Whilst in Hoi An, we ate dinner at Nu Eatery. I had read about this place on Trip Advisor so definitely wanted to check it out. I am so glad that we did. We sampled steamed buns, banh mi and noodles. Although the food doesn’t look great in the photos it was bloody gorgeous. The restaurant caters to westerners rather than locals which was a shame but the food was amazing. Dinner cost me £6 and was one of the most expensive dinners we had.
We then caught the bus back to Da Nang to escape the hustle and bustle of Hoi An and to spend the last couple of days of our holiday soaking up some sun!
Pham Van Dong Beach
The beach is Da Nang is lovely and clean, with staff on hand all throughout the day. They bring food and drink menus to your lounger and you can relax on the sand while they tend to your needs. There is also a toilet a minutes walk away meaning that you really can relax. For £1.20 each we hired a sun lounger for the entire day with a parasol in case the sun got too much for us (it didn’t!). Cans of beer were 50p each and water was the same. We had a lunch of deep fried hot dogs (my favourite snack ever!) and watched the lifeguards bobbing in their boats on the sea. The core strength they must have to be able to stand and control that boat is amazing.
My Casa Restaurant
On the last evening we headed to My Casa, a 10 minute walk from our hostel. They specialise in Italian pasta, Malaysian cuisine & Spanish Tapas and is run by a couple from Italy and Spain. It is set back from the road, on a quiet street, and I felt as though I was walking into someones garden. Luscious green plants were dotted around with hammocks hanging from trees. A few tables are scattered around, and it is a place of tranquility in a very busy country.
For starters Eleanor ordered Patatas a la Malay, fried potatoes with a peanut sauce. Neither of us particularly liked this to be honest, we just didn’t think that it went together. I had the ‘heart attack’ tosta, slow cooked pork in a soy sauce with tomatoes and onion on toasted bread. This was delicious; fatty chunks of pork, seasoned beautifully, it was sweet and salty and so very moreish.
For mains, you can choose from either bavette, tagliatelle, farfalloni, fusille, rigatoni or linguine pasta with a variety of sauces. I chose a deliciously spicy arrabbiata sauce with linguine and Eleanor chose a creamy carbonara sauce with tagliatelle. Both dishes got moans of appreciation! You can also have meatballs, burgers and pizzas if pasta isn’t your thing. The meal was lovely and a pleasant end to our time in Vietnam. Bellies full, we then headed to the hostel for a last night of sleep before starting our long journey back to the UK… Via Ho Chi Minh City.
From Da Nang, we flew back to Ho Chi Minh City for the final 12 hours of our trip. To read all about the final leg of our holiday, click HERE