Here’s the thought process with which I decided on visiting Danang, one of the major central cities of Vietnam. I asked a handful of people if they had been to Danang and most of them said, “No”. That was it.
It’s a hotspot for me because it’s not another overrated beach destination (even though Danang’s beaches aren’t too shabby). More importantly, it’s the perfect springboard to Hoi An.
With a 120,000-strong population, Hoi An is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Ancient Town is a classic example of a South-East Asian trading port that was absolutely bustling between the 15th and 19th century. It is incredibly well-preserved till this day.
(Translation: Like Clarke Quay, but without the Disneyland influences.)
This is what happens on the way to your hotel. You get in a cab, and the driver trails a couple of motorcyclists who are just done with their fishing for the day. Check out the fish hanging off the pillion rider’s arm. If he lets it drag on the Tarmac it would be descaled by the time he gets home ?.
This is an old-world tailor. It’s a charming shop that’s got all the feels.
I’m pretty sure he is a master of his craft, but I’m not sure why he wants a weird lady mannequin fronting his business.
And by weird I mean, with a left arm that is much longer than the right.
Businesses have to be all-inclusive these days, yo.
I stood there for a full minute, wondering if she would eventually look up, notice me and say, “xin chao!” (hello!).
She didn’t. She was so engrossed I could have walked in, taken a nap and left with her lunch. I wonder what K-pop drama she was watching.
So Balenciaga’s designer Demna Gvasalia was said to have copied the design of those Thailand-made traditional shopping bags for one of his Fall/Winter 2016 pieces.
He should have come here for inspiration instead.
That’s right, ladies and germs. About S$1.20 for a pint.
Lantern Lady haggles with a tourist while deftly making more lanterns.
Grilled corn, served with a spicy sweet sauce so strong it will clear any sinus for the day.
They won’t allow photos in the shop. But once outside…
It’s got a very chill, laid-back vibe, Hoi An. There are no clocks, traffic police, or ERP gantries anywhere to be found.
This photo looks posed only because I waited for the doggie to get into position.
The gorgeous architecture tells only half the story. (Your guess is as good as mine for the other half, because I wasn’t allowed inside).
Lots of precious corners like this to discover in Hoi An. From homeware to vintage fashion to handicrafts, it’s a treasure trove to culture vultures.
I honestly have no idea what these are, but they made me laugh. So they deserve a photo at least.
More Hollywood-inspired posters and postcards, anyone?
At this point, I rescinded the original impression that Hoi An is “undiscovered”. There is every chance of you photo-bombing someone else.
A rustic street-stall serving drinks and desserts. Maybe I’m euphemising a few stools and buckets, but it’s charming nonetheless.
I was not responsible for that lady’s expression.
You are looking at Danang’s version of Uber. One phone call, and these guys are jumping onto the pedals and skidding off to pick up customers.
I’m kidding. That never happens. Because these guys have chill.
So this is the signature street dish of Danang. “Mi Quang”, also known as thin rice noodles served in a shallow bowl of pork, shrimp or chicken broth.
The dish is sometimes topped with chilled jellyfish or eel, but most commonly, raw peanut or fried garlic. In between slurps of the fine noodles and hearty soup, you should be munching along to flavours from rice crackers, green chilies and lime.
Where: Ba Vi, 166 Lê Đình Dương, Đà Nẵng, Thành Phố Đà Nẵng, Vietnam.
Another dessert or “Che” stall in Hoi An. Surprisingly refreshing offerings when the sun is scorching.
See? This is some nata de coco and grass jelly concoction served with cane syrup. Super bad for the body, but good for the soul.
Elsewhere, Happy Hour is about looking out from the inside.
Most cafes in Hoi An give the sense that you’re walking into someone’s AirBnB home. They’re intimate, small and blissfully uncrowded.
Just hanging by the river watching them align. Everyone waves to a tourist here.
This group of happy women wearing the traditional Vietnamese “Ao Dai” made our day as we strolled through Hoi An’s Ancient Town. The snug silk tunic worn over red pants is eye-catching no matter where you’re from. It looked like a fun, traditional hen’s party.
If you enjoy meat skewers, you’ll need to hit up Ba Duong in Hoàng Diệu.
Conceptually, it’s like satay, but served with a membrane-thin rice paper, and a rich pork liver/peanut sauce. You’re supposed to take the yellow rice pancake, place it in the rice paper, and fill it with the accompanying vegetables and pork. Then you roll it up and dip it into the pork liver sauce before biting into it.
It’s a mouthful of flavours – buoyed by sweet, spicy, herbal notes, with cilantro and crunchy bean sprouts – you’re not going to forget soon.
Where: Ba Duong, K280/23 Hoàng Diệu, Đà Nẵng, Thành Phố Đà Nẵng, Vietnam
Walks after dusk are highly-recommended if you want to explore the nooks and corners of this old town. Lots of ’80s and ’90s fashion to inspire your next office party.
Parting shot: Here’s a street hawker stuffing a Bánh mì, which we recognise as “Vietnamese sandwich”. It is served with a lighter, airier, single-serving baguette (inherited from the French during it’s colonial period) and packed with a variety of fillings, including pork belly, grilled pork, grilled chicken, chicken floss, cheeses, canned sardines, fresh vegetables and meatballs. It’s great for that snack between late lunch and dinner, if you’re into snacking between late lunches and dinner. But really, who isn’t?
All photos ©TommyWee