Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventures in Da Nang

Usually blog posts cover one day, but as soon as we left Phuket, time started playing tricks on us, probably because we weren't sleeping regularly.  Our time in Da Nang is kind of all blurred together in my brain, which I think was scrambled from lack of sleep.  But here's my best account of it all:

The first day we were there we arranged a flight back to Singapore for late the next afternoon.  I think we were all a little disappointed in not being able to see what we wanted to see in Vietnam, but I guess sometimes you just have to improvise.  At that point in our trip, we could have tried to scramble and get something together to try and do some other big thing in Vietnam, but we were a little out of sorts with where we were and what was around us, and there was still plenty to see back in Singapore.  Gaining a couple of days there would do us no harm.

Mark's spirits lifted significantly once we had solid plans to go back to Singapore the next day.  He had really taken to the city, and was looking forward to having more time to explore.  After we booked the tickets, we consulted the yellow bible to see what it said about Da Nang.  It recommended a vegetarian restaurant in the area.  We walked and walked and asked directions a couple of times, and we finally found it, closed up tight.  No vegetarian food for us.  Our venture did land us at a pretty neat Buddhist temple though, and we wandered the grounds awhile, admiring the architecture and behemoth statues.

Before too long, our hunger overpowered our desire to explore, and we headed out in search of food.  Near our hotel, we found a chic little cafe, where KT ordered some of the best potato soup I've ever eaten.  We washed it all down with yummy lime sodas, which I'd never had before.  They were pretty much just limes squeezed over ice, with soda water poured over it, and they were really refreshing after bearing the heat.  As usual, Mark ate like a teenage football player.  When we ate at the same cafe the next day, Mark double-fisted sandwiches while KT and I watched him in awe.
What?  Doesn't everyone order two meals?

Walking around Da Nang was interesting, as the town is fairly scenic, particularly along the river, which is spanned by a colorful modern bridge.  Along the river a number of similar fishing boats are docked all together.  With the Marble Mountains as a backdrop, the effect is pretty striking.

In the evening of the night before we left, we again ate dinner in the awesome hotel restaurant.  Located on the eighth floor with panoramic windows all around it, the restaurant offered a dizzying view of the city at night.  We ate dinner off of a delightfully Engrish menu (my favorite menu item was "rice with mixed foods").  We had a marvelous time ordering drinks and seeing what they would bring us.  For example, "egg nog" was some bright pink concoction with a neon green cherry, served in a margarita class.  Obviously.  Every time they brought something new to the table, we politely said thank you, bit our lips until the waiter walked away, and then burst out laughing at whatever new invention had arrived at our table.  KT ordered spring rolls, and a plate of beef was brought to the table.  Mark ordered a mixed drink, which was served in an aperitif glass.  We were busting up, thoroughly enjoying our new game.

After our raucous game of menu roulette, KT and I decided to go out and get a few beers to bring back to the room for the evening.  There was nothing like a store anywhere near our hotel, so we stopped to talk to an old lady selling beer along the side of the street.  She didn't speak any English, but through sign language we managed to get six Heineken in a plastic bag, the classiest six-pack I've ever purchased.  When we got back to the room and took the beer out of the bag, KT and I started laughing again- the cans were filthy.  It looked as though someone had played kick-the-can in the dirt with each one of them!  We wiped them all off before drinking.

Hanging out in the room gave us the opportunity to take inventory of the minibar, which yielded this gem.  White Fungus Bird's Nest Drink.  Mmmmmm, nothing says thirst-quenching like bird's nest.  Yessir, pass that right on over here.  I'm pretty sure this is made of swiftlet nests, which the birds build from their own saliva.  It just gets more and more appetizing.

We had an enjoyable night, drinking beer and watching X2.  The next day we got some lunch and headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Singapore.  The airport was a disorganized nightmare where everyone squished together and shouted at the ticket agents.  It looked a lot like the stock market floor.  But we'd anticipated some chaos and arrived early, so we were some of the first passengers through, which gave us time to explore one of the most unusual airports I've ever been to.  Mark found a couple of Christmas trees in one of the was June.  Obviously it was time for dilapidated holiday decorations.

We flew first to Ho Chi Minh City, where we had sushi and Mark got his daily allowance of cake.

We finally got on our flight and got back to Singapore.  We were a couple of days early, and I hadn't told Bryan because I thought it might be nice to surprise him.  We were all really happy to be back on familiar ground, and I was excited to see Bryan.  Going up the elevator to my apartment at two in the morning, we were talking about how great it would be to sleep in familiar beds.  We didn't anticipate that Bryan would have put the chain on the door, making it impossible for us to get in. And he was sleeping in our room at the back of the apartment, with the door shut and the noisy air-con running.  Crap.  My phone battery was dead, so I couldn't call.  I resorted to yelling through the crack in the door- "BRYAN!!!! BRYAN!!!" but I was feeling guilty about possibly waking up the neighbors, who all have young children.

As a last resort, Mark and I walked all the way to the 24-hour McDonald's with my phone charger so I could call Bryan.  When we got there, we were both astonished to see about sixty men inside, chilling and watching the World Cup.  Singapore really needs a few more bars.  Anyway, I felt like I should buy something, so I got a small Coke, only to realize that the only cash I had was a $50 bill.  After being stared down by the disgruntled fast food worker, we made our way through the crowd to the only open table, conveniently located next to the only outlet.  I plugged in my phone and commenced repeatedly calling Bryan, to no avail.  I knew his phone was probably still on silent from work that day, sitting on the table in the dining room.  Dang it.  We walked all the way back, and were contemplating hanging out in the stairwell until Bryan got up for work in a few hours.  As a last-ditch effort I mustered up the loudest shout I could manage, and a very confused Bryan stumbled out of the bedroom, thinking that I had shouted "FIRE" instead of "BRYAN"  He stared at us, asked me what day it was, was everything okay, where did we come from?  Was there a fire?  I gave up trying to explain, and the night's misadventure finally ended with everyone happily asleep inside the apartment.  Next time I'll call first. Worst surprise ever.


  1. Funny, you ended up in the same hotel in Da Nang as we did. We really liked the place, although I was not impressed by the town. We had a hard time finding a place to eat, other than the restaurant on top of the hotel.

    (btw, that's not Marble Mountains in the picture but the Monkey Mountain --- the Marble Mountains are in the opposite direction farther away on the way to Hoi An.)

  2. Yeah, we found there was a relative shortage of places to eat as well. The restaurant on top of the hotel was OK and the little cafe a couple blocks away was all right too, but it was super slow.

    Thanks for the geography correction- we were a little disoriented, as we didn't even expect to go to Da Nang at all!