DANANG, VIETNAM, January, 20, 2018: Today, nearly half a century after the Vietnam War came to a bitterly tragic conclusion, Vietnam is making a comeback that will witness a major rise in tourism within the coming decade. For new tourists seeking a central location as a base for their tour of Vietnam, the city of Danang has much to offer.
Other than what they’ve learned in their history books, Baby Boomers, born on the cusp of World War II’s conclusion, have little or no recollection of that epic conflict at the conclusion of which America emerged victorious. But in an ironic echo of history, many of those same Boomers later provided the bulk of the military forces stationed in Vietnam during the mid 1960s to early 1970s. That tragic and lengthy war took a very different turn.
In the end, however, both these wars left in their wakes two physically and economically devastated Asian countries. But things change.
What is amazing today, many decades after those violent, war-torn and strife-torn days of the 20th century, is the resilience and economic durability of both Japan and Vietnam. Both countries have long-since rejoined the brotherhood of man, the former in dramatic fashion, the latter potentially showing signs of accomplishing a similar renaissance.
Today, in 2018, Danang is the fourth largest city in Vietnam and the largest city in the central part of that country. Serving as a major port and gateway to the South China Sea at the opening of the Han River, modern, thriving Danang is destined to become a major tourist destination during the next decade.
Already, major hotel chains and casinos are adding properties, anticipating the influx of Vietnam vets and their families who will return here as tourists to view a far different environment than the tragic country they knew half a century ago.
Easily accessible by land or sea, Danang is within 60 to 70 miles of several UNESCO World Heritage sites. That makes it an easy destination to use as a base for touring Vietnam.
Danang is known by several names. But the best known place name refers to the Han River estuary, which is a Vietnamese adaptation meaning “opening of a large river.”
Danang proudly boasts of six masterpiece bridges throughout the city, including the Rong (Dragon) Bridge; the Thuan Phuoc, the country’s longest cable-stayed bridge; and the Song Han (Han River) Bridge. The latter is Vietnam’s first swing bridge, which swivels 90-degrees each day between 1:30 and 4:00 a.m. to allow ships to pass.
Possessing such intriguing architectural credentials, Danang is justifiably known as “the city of bridges.” In particular, travelers and locals alike love to gather at the one-of-a-kind Dragon Bridge each Saturday and Sunday at 10 pm when it ejects fire and water from its mouth.
Most of the area’s remaining bridges are relatively new, adding further emphasis to the budding economy and Danang’s popularity as a travel destination.
Just across the road from beautiful My Khe Beach, better known to Americans as China Beach thanks to the popular television series, sits the mostly deserted Da Nang Air Force Base.
The onetime French facility was a major base for the United States during the Vietnam War. Today, with large, decaying Quonset Huts scattered about the grounds, the facility still conjures up vivid images of those wartime days, as vividly depicted by Robin Williams’ in the film “Good Morning Vietnam.”
Visitors hoping to view this landmark need to hurry however. It won’t be long before the base becomes home to a series of massive elegant beachfront hotels. In that sense, this is one aspect of Danang’s history the Vietnamese will happily erase from their memories.
Not far from the city center, Non Nuoc Beach is historically famous because it was a popular R&R destination for American soldiers during the war. Both Non Nuoc and My Khe Beaches are today the sites of some of the most exclusive resorts in Vietnam.
Just south of Danang, the rocky limestone outcroppings of the Marble Mountains offer hiking paths leading to forested cliffs with stunning views of Non Nuoc Beach and the South China Sea.
Even more dynamic are the cliff caves once occupied by Cham people and later, site of several interior pagodas that were build during the Nguyen Dynasty.
To avoid the heat of the city, another popular retreat for locals and visitors alike is Son Tra (Monkey) Mountain. Just 35-minutes from Danang by car, Monkey Mountain and its well-known monument offer a both panoramic and an architectural and wonder rising some 2,300 feet above sea level.
Hailed as the tallest statue of the deity in Southeast Asia, the main attraction here is the Linh Ung Pagoda. The snow white 220-foot sculpture of the Goddess of Mercy stands atop a lotus-shaped platform concealing 17 levels inside displaying 21 miniature Buddha statues. Entrance is free. But plan ahead, because this destination become extremely crowded during special events.
Venturing approximately 40 miles west from Danang, My So’n is a thousand year-old archaeological site situated in a remote forested area that once contained more than 70 temples and stupas.
This onetime capital of the Champa Kingdom was heavily damaged during the war. But it still retains enough surviving, historic structures to have been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Time was, not so very long ago, that the very mention of Vietnam often inspired young American men to flee the States for Canada to avoid participating in an unpopular politicized war.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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