I was pretty happy to be leaving Hoi An.  As much as I loved it there, I wasn’t loving staying in one place for so long.  The wanderer in me needed to get out desperately.  I had begun to get lazy and stopped doing much besides my work for the homestay.   I wasn’t being very active, so I started to gain weight.  The homestay was feeding me the same meals twice daily and after the first few weeks I was really over that.  So I started eating out more often and wasn’t making healthy choices.  I blame it on the Dingo Deli.  It was right down the street from the homestay and was a western cafe with all kinds of yummy cheeses and fresh baked goods.   I ate my weight in cheese and made myself sick on the daily.  It was as if I would never have cheese again.  My face and skin suffered severely from these choices.

I was asked to leave the homestay a day early, which actually excited me.  They needed my room for a large party of people, who had been staying there long term while shooting a movie.  The movie crew was a group of about 25 people and when they arrived I had been moved out of my original room. The new room I was put in was literally in the middle of the court yard and had two large windows for two of the walls.  I felt like an animal on display in a cage at the zoo.   When I had my curtains open everyone could see me and they had no problem staring.  At night they would hang out in the court yard drinking and playing loud music, which made sleeping very difficult.

The owners had offered to drive me to Da Nang, which is only about 45 minutes North of Hoi An, as a way of apologizing for asking me to leave early.  However, the night prior they had too much to drink and were too hung over, so they called a shuttle to pick me up instead.  I didn’t mind because I was really over that place and just happy to get away.  When I got to Da Nang I had a short walk to my hostel and already I was feeling better.   I didn’t realize until that moment how much I hated not being on the move.  Apparently, being stationary isn’t my jam.

The hostel I had booked was complete shit, far below my standards and truly quite terrible.  When I booked this hostel I had been on Booking for hours already, trying to find a good hostel for my trip to Hong Kong to see Above and Beyond.  I usually do a lot of research and I’m an avid review reader. However, I couldn’t be bothered with wasting more time reading reviews so I just booked one.  BIG MISTAKE.  The worst part was dealing with the shock of being in a dorm again.  I had been in my own room with my own bathroom for the last month.

Upon arrival, the hostel seemed fine.  They had a nervous, yappy little dog that was barking at me, but I just figured it was getting familiar.  Boy was I wrong.   That dog never stopped barking.  I wish I was exaggerating on this one but I simply am not.  I seriously don’t understand how people can live like that.  It would keep me awake at night because you could hear it from everywhere in the Hostel.  The owners did nothing to try to quiet the dog.  It drove me insane.  Lucky for the dog it was a cute little fluff ball so I couldn’t be angry at it.  Didn’t stop me from hating the owners for being bad pet parents though.  I left my first EVER bad review, thanks to them.  You’re welcome, you deserved that one.

As if the yappy dog wasn’t bad enough, the facilities were atrocious.  There were only two showers for all the guests.  One of the showers was located in the bathroom with the only toilet.  In this shower, the shower head was detached from the wall.  Broken and then obviously never fixed.  I don’t know if you have ever tried to shower with a detached shower head, but it’s quite challenging, especially when you have no water pressure.  The other shower had an attached shower head and better water pressure, but had the worst sewage smell seeping up the pipes that it was nearly unbearable to be in there.   Both terrible, you take your pick.

My third complaint about this hostel isn’t their fault at all.  It was the dude that was in my room with me.  He was an awful human being.  He was clearly a drunk and obviously had some severe issues.  He was so hard to share a space with.  He would come back late and make so much noise.  He’d bring back beers and bottles of booze and drink loudly until late into the night while farting, burping and laughing out loud to whatever movie he was watching on his computer.  I’ve never come across a human that disgusted me in such a way.   Coming from having my own space to this place, was a real shock, like jumping into freezing cold water.

Needless to say, I spent as much time away from the hostel as possible.  My first day, after I checked in, I decided to go wander the city.  I was so happy to be out exploring a new place again, my spirit had lifted and I was back to feeling like myself.  I got my smile back and my pep in my step.  I found a little local shop and had a bowl of noodle soup then wandered down to the Han River that runs directly through the city of Da Nang.   Because of the river, there are 9 different bridges in the city connecting the two sides.

I will forever remember Da Nang as the city of bridges, because it is.  The people who live here are very proud of them.  Many locals asked me “have you seen the bridges?”   I’m not sure you could come here and not notice them.  My favorite was definitely the dragon bridge that looks like a dragon flying over the river.  My second favorite was shaped like the sail of a giant boat.  They also have a rotating bridge that I didn’t get to visit, but the thought fascinated me.  While walking along the river edge I also found a park with sculptures carved from marble.

Have you ever seen a pink cathedral?

 

Inside the city I made my way to a famous cathedral.  I had read about it online and mostly just wanted to see it because it was pink and for some reason I found this interesting.  A pink cathedral, really?   It was a truly gorgeous structure and seemed out of place in a big city like this.  I couldn’t help thinking that it looked like it belonged in West Hollywood, maybe just because of the color?  I don’t know.   I must have followed 3 bus loads of Chinese tourists in because this place was swarming.   It was extremely challenging trying to get a good photo.

Da Nang is also known for its beautiful beaches so I decided I had to go check that out.   It was a long walk down to the beach but I was so happy to be out and about that it didn’t bother me in the least.  The beach was very clean, as I have found most Vietnam beaches to be and there were your typical beach loungers with service, as well as, parasailing in the distance.  It was bloody hot out so I didn’t stay long.  Came, saw, conquered and I’m out!

As I walked back to the hostel I stopped at a restaurant I had read about online for dinner.  I ordered some Banh Xeo, which is like a crispy pancake that you roll up with veggies in rice paper and then dunk into whatever sauce is provided, usually a peanut sauce.  My friend An had made these for me back in Hoi An and now I was addicted to them.  I ended up having them every day at different local restaurants.   After dinner I was exhausted so I headed back to the hostel to call it a night.  Luckily that first night my room mate wasn’t too loud, but of course, the dog was relentless.

The next morning I decided to rent a motorbike to go to Marble Mountain, which is located about 15 minutes south of Da Nang city.   It’s known as the 5 elements mountains being that it is a cluster of 5 marble and limestone hills.  The 5 mountains are named after 5 elements; water, metal, fire, wood and earth.   All the different mountains have caves and tunnels leading throughout.  There are several different Buddhist sanctuaries all with their own character.  You can climb to the summit of Mount Thuy which offers killer panoramic views, and there are a few other viewpoints to be discovered.   SHOCKER: this area is known for stone sculpture and stone cutting crafts.  Although, recently they banned direct rock extraction from the mountain, so now it has to be transported in.

On my way to the mountain I decided to stop at a huge supermarket that I read about online.  Think Walmart, Target and TJ Maxx all in the same building.   I have no idea why I went here.   I did need some sun screen and a bottle of water, but I could have gotten those things anywhere.   It was 3 floors and each floor was guarded with security and are independent of each other.  I found sunscreen on floor 2 for $10 USD but it was only $7 USD on floor 3 for the same exact bottle.  Very strange, this confused me.  I felt quite weird having so much to choose from and was pretty overwhelmed for some reason.  Anyways, I bought my sunscreen and a bottle of water on floor 3, as well as a giant 44 ounce ice tea and ran out of there as fast as I came in.

NEWS FLASH: MARBLE MOUNTAIN HAS A TON OF STAIRS

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I arrived at the mountain just as it was getting hot.  Thank god I had my water and ice tea.  I bought my ticket for $2 USD and paid pocket change to park my motorbike before heading in.  I had NO idea there was going to be so many stairs.  I have never climbed so many stairs in my life.  I was huffin and puffin the whole time.  I was drowning in my own sweat and had to stop once to use my inhaler.  I don’t know if it was the heat or the fact that I’m so out of shape, but this was a struggle.  Every time I came to the top of a set of stairs, I would feel relieved until I turned a corner to find more stairs.

There were several different Buddhist temples and pagodas scattered throughout the mountain, all of them had their own character.  It’s absolutely amazing to me how extravagant the temples are here.  The structures are so well designed and manicured.  The shrines and offerings are always over the top, and the decorations are always bright and vibrant colors.  It’s overwhelming at times as a photographer because I want to sit and take pictures of them all day and I end up with more photos then I know what to do with.  Hence, the photo gallery below, which you can enlarge by clicking on any photo.

Buddhist temples are so extra

 

Throughout the mountain there were 6 different caves that you could enter and wander around in.  None of them were worth writing home about but I explored them anyways.  One of them you could climb up through a rabbit hole and it emerged on the top of the mountain where there were amazing panoramic views.  In one of the other caves a local guy came up to me and kept pushing me to go climb some rocks to see some giant Buddha.  I really didn’t want to do anymore climbing but this guy was so insistent that I do.  I didn’t want to miss out, so I climbed.  It wasn’t anything great and as I was leaving the cave he said “money, money for the climb”.   Now, I understood his game.  But NO, sorry buddy, that’s not how this works.  I just kept walking right past him.

There were two different view points that could be reached by yet more stairs.  I did them both and was happy that I did.  Such amazing views and it was such a beautiful, clear blue sky day.  The ocean in the distance and the city down below were simply spectacular.  When I felt like I had seen enough I headed back down the mountain to my bike where I bought another giant water and chugged half of it before heading back into town.

I still had half a day left with my bike so I decided to ride down the Son Tra Peninsula which is said to be the most beautiful part of Da Nang.   I stopped at a little stand on the side of the road and got myself a Banh Mi for less than 50 cents.  Then stopped at my new favorite tea shop, Mr. Good Tea, to get another tea before heading back out into the heat.  As I drove out of the city headed towards the Peninsula, I passed a huge fishing village in the bay that was so beautiful with all the little fishing boats in it.   I had to stop to take a few photos.

LADY BUDDHA protects the city from wind and storms

 

As I rode up around the side of the mountain I was rewarded with gorgeous views of Da Nang.   I love seeing big cities from a far like that.  I kept driving until I found the Linh Ung Pagoda famous for its 67 meter tall lady Buddha which is the tallest in Vietnam, and who is said to protect the city from wind and storms.  You can actually see this Buddha on the hill from anywhere in Da Nang.   It’s quite spectacular.  The pagoda grounds were huge with several different temples and tons of different wood and stone sculptures.   The pagoda being set up on the hill offers amazing views of Da Nang city.   I only stayed long enough to snap a few photos, then I was back on the road.

After leaving the pagoda I continued down the peninsula where the views just kept getting better and better.  The cliff edge that holds the road drops drastically down to the water, as it wraps around the lush green hills.  I couldn’t help but stop every mile or so to take pictures.  There were several little paths leading from the road to the cliff edge where cute couples were enjoying the view with picnics.  I even passed a wedding photo shoot in the middle of the road.  No seriously, IN THE MIDDLE of the road.  Check it out.

Son Tra Peninsula Spectacular views

 

I turned into a large resort as the sun was starting to fall.   At first I was going to turn around but then a local asked if I was headed to the top of the mountain.  That was never my intention nor did I know that was an option.  But who would say no to that?  YES, to the top of the mountain!  I obviously had no idea what I was getting myself into but I just kept going.  The road up the mountain was quite small, only wide enough for motorbikes, although I did pass one car.  Crazy Vietnamese people.  I kept driving for awhile not really knowing where I was going or how long the road was.  I couldn’t see much because I was basically driving through the jungle at this point.

It was obviously getting darker and darker and my intuition kept telling me to turn around because this is not the kind of place you want to be alone when it gets dark.  Not to mention, I kept passing people who were looking at me like I was a crazy person.  I felt crazy, what are you doing on this random tiny road nearly before dark.  I drove a little longer, past my better judgement, just out of shear curiosity.   However, I did eventually turn around and headed back down the mountain so I could make it back into the city before it got too dark.   I have real shit night vision, so as a rule, I always try to make it back before the sun sets.  I wish I had more time to make it to the top because I bet it had amazing view.  Next time.

who doesn't like a good storm?

 

As I drove back into town I watched as a storm came rolling in over Da Nang.  I pulled over, as did many others, to take in the views and watch it pass.  I have actually never watched a storm from above and at a distance like this, it was truly fascinating.  I was mostly just happy to not be in the storm!

When I got back to the hostel I showered and cleaned up, then headed out to get dinner.  I was headed to another little local joint to get Banh Xeo again.  This little place was pretty hard to find because it was down a side street and everything was in Vietnamese.  It was worth it though because the food was delicious.  I was planning on going to the dragon bridge after dinner because on Saturday and Sunday nights the dragon breathes fire and I didn’t want to miss that.  I had gotten lost trying to find my dinner spot and then I took my time eating.  So, I missed the 9 o’clock fire breathing and just headed back to get some sleep.  I meant to go the next night, but never made it.

I'm addicted to banh xeo it's An's fault

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That night the dude in my room was seriously disrespectful and made all kinds of noise.  He was obviously drunk again and he moved from a separate bunk to under my bunk which made me so angry.  It’s almost as if he was intentionally trying to be a dick and made sure I was uncomfortable and not able to sleep.  He was loudly drinking, farting, rustling around and laughing out loud at whatever he was watching.  When we are the only two people in a room with 3 bunks, why the heck do you need to be under my bunk?

The next morning I got up early to drive the famous Hai Van Pass, but I’m going to tell you more about that in my next post.

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