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Da Nang (Photo:TBone Lee/Shutterstock)
3.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Ron & Mary James
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Da Nang

Central Vietnam, with its cities of Da Nang (sometimes spelled Danang) and Hue, offers visitors history, culture and food that are quite distinct from North or South Vietnam. Much of this area was hard hit by the Vietnam War, and rebuilding continues, with the government adding infrastructure to shorten travel times to and from major attractions. Its natural beauty, broad beaches, upscale resorts and friendly residents are making this a major destination for travelers from around the world.

Located midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the port city of Da Nang is Vietnam's third largest city and the largest city of Central Vietnam. Established in the second century, it was once the center of the India-influenced Champa Kingdom and is home to the world's largest collection of Cham art and artifacts. The city is best known for its role in the Vietnam War when it was the site of a major U.S. air base, and it is featured prominently in both the TV show "China Beach" and movie "Good Morning Vietnam." Since the end of the "American War," as residents call it, in 1975, Da Nang has prospered as a commercial center, its downtown bustling with markets and motorbike traffic.

About 65 miles north of Da Nang is Hue. This UNESCO World Heritage Site bisected by the Perfume River was the capital of Vietnam from the 17th century until 1945. Much of its ancient Forbidden Purple City was heavily damaged during the Vietnam War's bitter Tet Offensive in 1968. Restoration is ongoing to enhance the city's growing appeal as a resort and tourist destination.

One popular stop between the two cities is China Beach where American troupes enjoyed sand, surf and recreation during the war. Helicopter hangers and bunkers can still be seen nearby. South of Da Nang is the charming historic town of Hoi An. Some call this UNESCO World Heritage Site touristy, but that's because visitors love its mix of galleries, upscale shops and cafes.

About Da Nang


Pro

Heritage-listed Hoi An, with its cobblestone lanes and traditional Chinese architecture, is a short trip away

Con

There's little to do in this former industrial port and the beaches are average

Bottom Line

A redevelopment brings five-star resorts, manicured shorelines and an emerging cafe culture


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Good to Know

Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An are comparatively safe, but like almost every crowded tourist area, there are pickpockets and scammers. There have been some incidents of men on motorbikes snatching purses from tourists in the crowded Central Market (a public market with lots of tables) in Hoi An. There also have been reports of pickpocketing by groups of young boys begging for money the markets in Hue. Remember to keep handbags, shopping bags and backpacks close at hand at all times. Keep currency and other valuable in cross-body bags that are difficult to grab or cut.

While this isn't exclusive to Vietnam, ask first before you take a photo of a colorful local. The person might expect a small fee. It's best to set the price in advance than argue about its cost after the fact.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The main unit of currency is the dong (VND), which comes in notes ranging from 200 to 5,000. For current currency-conversion figures, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com. U.S. dollars also are widely accepted. Carry plenty of ones and fives to buy bargain for souvenirs (if you use larger bills, your change may be in dongs). There are ATMs at branches of Vietcombank in Da Nang, Hue, and Hoi An.

Language

The official language is Vietnamese, but English and French are widely spoken.

Shopping

Silk (and faux silk) styled into clothing and accessories is often wearable art. Men will love shirts in dramatic black and red with decorative embroidery front and back, while grandparents will grab mandarin-collared tops for little ones back home. Negotiate hard for the best price. After this port, don't be surprised to see passengers at dinner on the ship sporting souvenirs bought for themselves. /

Packaged beans and ground Vietnamese coffee with its velvety chocolate flavors is a welcome treat, served hot or cold and sweetened with condensed milk. Trung Nguyen is the country's most popular brand.