Friday 17 April 2015
First point of call was to drop my ruck sack off in the room and head up to the 16th floor to the pool and bar to watch the sun set over Da Nang. Couple of cans of Tiger finished, I had a quick dip in the pool which certainly cooled me down. By the time I left the 16th floor, it was dark outside, so I ventured out to a couple of bars including a beach side “bar/club”.
The first pub/bar felt like a real local place. Short stools, Donny Yen was starring in a martial arts movie projected onto a big wall. Half the patrons were certainly enjoying the screening whilst the other half of the crowd’s faces were brightly lit as they had their eyes firmly placed on their mobile phones.
The second bar was interesting. Firstly, it was entertaining to watch a couple of DJ’s “pretend to spin the decks. One even left after her set without unplugging or should I say plugging in her equipment, before leaving on the back of a moped empty handed. I was convinced it was just for effect. Secondly, the waitress was convinced I was Vietnamese. This was amusing to me as wherever I go in the world, I seem to confuse people as to where I am originally from. The service was, however, very attentive and the Tiger beer was refreshing.
Saturday 18 April 2015
I had a couple of things I wanted to tick off during my visit here in Da Nang, which was to ride the cable cars at Ba Na Hills and travel on the Hai Van Pass to the top for the views. After breakfast, I inquired with the hotel about hiring a private driver to take me to Ba Na Hills, wait for me whilst I mucked about and then drive me on the Hai Van Pass. Quoted 1,200,000 VND for 2 people (£43.20), I decided to go for it.
Having received four Guinness World Records which included longest single cable car in the world, I was like a school kid getting all excited. It was around 40km from my hotel. I wasn’t in any kind of rush today considering the temperature outside of the air conditioned Toyota was reaching 36C again with a “feel like” temperature of 46C. I finally got to Ba Na Hills at 11am when my driver Tan said he would wait and meet me in the car park in 3 or 4 hours. I thought to myself at that point that he was being far to generous, allowing way too long for me to simply ride the cable car all the way to the top and then back down again. As I hopped out of his car, I was greeted with what I can only describe as the worlds smallest version of the Bellagio Fountains found in Las Vegas. I say this because of the synchronised water display accompanied by random pop and rock music blaring from the loud speaker.
Entrance fee to the resort was 550,000 VND (£19.80) and enabled me to ride 3 separate cable car lines. I hesitated for a little while at the ticket booth as I was convinced that the girl behind the counter didn’t understand that I only wanted to ride the cable car and not stop off at any of the resort rides or sites. In our attempt to converse, this was the only ticket price option which I thought was a little on the expensive side. Anyway, I’d come this far so I though what the heck! The first stop took me to mid-point where I could then pay a further 70,000 VND (£2.52) to ride the funicular up a relatively small slope and enter the gardens. I opted out of paying the extra 70,000 VND and walked up the hill to see the Pagoda and Buddha instead. It did get a bit hot and sweaty when I reached the summit by foot but it was worth it.
After patiently waiting to take my pictures with no-one else in them, I made my descent back down to get the cable car to the top of the resort. As I rode to the top, it was getting evermore intensely hotter in the plastic cabin of the cable car. I did manage to stick it out as I reached the top of the resort.
The first I did was buy an ice cream using the 70,000 VND I saved on the funicular ride. This was a much preferred option to spending my money. As I made light work of my ice cream, I had a quick wander around what felt like a cheaper alternative to Disney Land. Deciding not to go on the children rides, I went to the view spot from another Pagoda and the highest point. After a brief stop, as I made my way back to the cable car station to ride back down to the bottom, I had to have a quick go on the self controlled toboggan ride which lasted about 5 minutes. I said I avoided the kiddie rides but this one was “compulsory” to ride on in my eyes. Toboggan done, I queued for the cable car back down. This took a whole 20 minutes to make the trip from the top all the way to the bottom.
Nearly 4 hours had passed since Tan dropped me off in the car park, so I guess he was right that I would need all that time. We met up again and set off to Hai Van Pass. The views were amazing as we kept continuing to climb the hill with views of the beach and blue water to my right.
As we reached the top, Tan parked up and I got out and had a wander around. A couple of old ruined buildings with plenty of bullets holes and two US bunkers remained after the war. Obviously, I had to climb on top of the bunker.
It was beginning to feel like I’d been out all day, so Tan took me back to the hotel as agreed. Admiring the view from my hotel room, the colours and how the buildings were compacted together, it reminded me of a similar vista in Reykjavik in Iceland.
As the sun went down, I was getting a little peckish, so I paid a visit to a fresh seafood restaurant that was 5 minutes walk down the road. As I walked up, the usual mistaken identity for a Vietnamese was given. Ordering here was alien as there were no menus. Instead, I had to choose my dinner from the tanks and buckets at the front of the restaurant. I selected some prawns to be BBQ’d and a Grouper fish to be steamed with chilli, ginger and soya sauce. As one of the staff netted my Grouper to weigh it, both he and I were soaked as it thrashed around on the scales. Apologising, I conveyed that it was fine. All part of the experience I say!
Sunday 19 April 2015
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so people say! Tell that to the Finger Hotel. Woke up and got the lift down to the 3rd floor dining room before the 9:30am cut off point for when they stopped serving breakfast (actually, I was in at 8am), and already there was only half the spread available and not refilled. The only saving grace was the fresh eggs that were cooked to order. I thought I would get there early, as the day before when I turned up at 9am, there was a limited supply of food. Some what dissatisfied and realising that you get what you pay for, this 3 star hotel was fine. Although I wouldn’t choose to stay here again for the location and service, for the equivalent of £25 per night, you can’t really complain. What was more amusing was the logo and colour scheme used through the hotel mirrored the accountancy practice I helped build up along with a few colleagues.
After breakfast I decided to take a dip in the rooftop pool again before I had to pack my ruck sack. It was already getting quite warm so I donned my board shorts and took the lift up to the 16th floor. As I stepped out of the elevator, I was greeted by a green looking pond like pool. Did I really swim in that a couple of nights ago? It turned my stomach just thinking about it. Not wanting to look like a confused idiot or someone who was afraid of getting wet, I sat by the pool and played Candy Crush for half an hour before heading back down to my room to pack.
Checking out of the hotel at noon, I caught a taxi right outside. It took all of 5 minutes for the driver to ship me to Da Nang International airport at a cost of 70,000 VND (£2.52). Once at the airport, it was the usual smooth check in, passport and security process. As I boarded the plane at 1:30pm, I realised that I had previously pre-booked a beef noodle lunch for my 1 hour 15 minute flight when I was in Saigon. I’m not sure why I did that but I can only think it was down to the Saigon Green beer! No sooner had the seat belt sign switched off, my lunch arrived. Equally, no sooner had I finished it, within 10 minutes, the seat belt sign illuminated as the “Vietjet Air” plane was making it’s decent to my next destination…