Hoi An, Da Nang, Marble Mountains & Bana Hills 4D3N free and easy May 2019

Day 1

We arrived at KLIA2 International Airport at 6.45 am for our connecting flight to Da Nang. Immediately we went to Plaza Premium Lounge for our breakfast. Our flight to Da Nang was at 10.30 am.

Waiting for our flight to Da Nang at KLIA2

After another 2 hour 40 minute flight, we finally arrived at Da Nang International Airport at around 12.00 pm. (Da Nang is 1 hour later than KL)  Immigration clearance was fast. Soon we were at the arrival hall where our engaged local tour guide Ms Dong and driver Mr Nong from Travel Sense Asia were waiting for us.

View of Da Nang from the aircraft as we approched the airport at Da Nang.

Da Nang International Airport

Not a busy aiport

We headed straight to Hoi An, a small historical town south of Da Nang. It is also a UNESCO heritage town.  It was another 1 hour drive along the coastal road to Hoi An. Hoi An is a favourite destination for culture vultures and those looking to experience a unique fusion of old and new Vietnam in the city by the river. Immediately we checked into Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel.

Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel at Hoi An

The river in front of the hotel at Hoi An

Buying tickets at the entrance of the Ancient Town of Hoi An

Iconic arch at the entrance of Ancient Town

No car is allowed to enter the Ancient Town. Trishaw and bicycles are very common with the tourists

Vietnamese lunch at Tam Tam Restaurant

Then we walked to the Ancient Town of Hoi An to have our lunch at Tam Tam Café with authentic local Vietnamese cuisine. After lunch, it was walking tour around the Ancient Town. In this Ancient Town, only bicycles, tricycles and motors are allowed to enter. This place gives the visitors a sense of tranquility as most of its natural surroundings remain untouched. We went to the Central Market to explore. We saw some durians at the Central Market, not many as it was not  the peak season yet. Yearning to taste the Vietnamese durian, we bought one fruit to try. The taste is not as good as our local popular species like Musang King or D12, D24 etc. 1 kg costs us around RM 24.

Central Market

Vietnamese durian

This Korean young couple was curious and wanted to buy one seed of durian to try. Of course they don’t sell! I then offered them my durian. They took one seed only to taste. Surprisingly they were able to accept the taste!

Over here you can find a lot of peddlers selling mango cake

We then visited the Phuc Kien Assembly Hall (1757) and also Quang Trieu Assembly Hall (1885) which also houses the Chinese shrines and temples.

Temple inside the association

They displayed all type of currencies from various countries. Surprisingly, we couldn’t find MYR. So we donated this MYR 5 for them to display!

Then we stopped at the Wake Up Café to try out the famous coconut coffee. It tasted good.

Mum and our tour guide,Dong

We then proceeded to the Japanese Covered Bridge which is the most popular destination for tourists visiting Hoi An. This bridge with a small temple was built 400 years ago! Actually the temple is very small, unlike the Japanese shrine you see in Japan! So you do not need to spend much time here. This Japanese Covered Bridge or Chua Cau is the unique and beloved symbol of the Hoi An people!

View from the Japanese Covered bridge

Japanese temple

Japanese Covered Bridge downloaded from the internet. We missed the opportunity to take this iconic photo as there were too many people and we were going the other way.

Then we went to the Nguyen Tuong Family Chapel, a Vietnamese old  house to get an experience of how the Vietnamese live! Of course we also didn’t miss the Agarwood outlet where they used the agar wood to make various products like joss sticks, incense and some wood carving made from this wood. At Hoi An Old Town, there are many tailor shops which can make for you the aoi dai, the Vietnamese national costume for ladies and suit for men. They can make it in 3 hours!

One more shot before going back to hotel.

At around 5.00 pm, it was time to go back to the hotel for a rest. At around 6.30 pm, we set off again to the Hoi An Old Town to explore as well as taking our dinner.

 

Hoi An is very famous for lamps. There are many stalls selling this type of lamps.

The sleepy Old Town comes alive in the evening with the popular night market with delicious street food. It was abuzz with people, local as well as foreign tourists. We ended up taking the local chicken rice at the roadside and tried some BBQ wrap.

Vietnamese chicken rice

We continued our walking tour at the night market. The night market is vibrant with lots of stores selling local food, Vietnamese lamps and weaving bags.  There are quite a number of eateries and massage parlors. However there are not many seafood restaurants here. We tried the local dessert Che, which is made of shaved ice topped with red beans, sweet lotus, green beans, jelly and also corns. I think it would taste better if they add some ice cream.

Local dessert, Che

We hung around and enjoyed the night ambience at the river side before going back to the hotel at around 9.30 pm. All together we walked a total distance of 4.5 km for the first day.

Day 2

Authentic Vietnamese breakfast at the hotel

After a very sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, we checked out at around 8.30 am. Our tour guide was at the hotel to pick us up to visit the Marble Mountains, a famous touristy spot in Da Nang. On the way, we visited the Non Nuoc Stone Carving Village which produces marble sculptures, statutes, furniture and souvenirs.

Then we arrived at the base station of the Water Mountain which has a lift to take visitors up to the higher level where visitors can start taking a walking tour around the mountains.

Marble mountain base station

Bought this non la, a Vietnamese circular cone shape hat made from leaves

Route map of Water Mountain

Actually, Marble Mountain consists of 5 Element Mountains in which Water Mountain is the only one accessible to visitors. The rest are Wood Mountain, Metal Mountain, Earth Mountain and Fire Mountain. All can be seen from the Water Mountain if you climb up high enough.

There are quite a number of caves of which many have temples or shrines inside. We first visited Huyen Khong Cave before entering Tam Thai and LinhUng pagodas. The air up the mountains is clean and fresh. Some parts of the caves could be treacherous as it is slippery and narrow.  We were undecided whether to continue or turn back. In the  end we took the gamble to continue the trail. It was worth it as the view at the top is worth all the huffing and puffing! We climbed up to the Heaven Gate which is the highest point, overlooking the sea. Here you get to take a stunning and breathtaking view of Hoi An and Da Nang. This is also a good way to burn up some of your calories!      

You can see pagoda everywhere in Da Nang. This one is at the Water Mountain

 

There are lots of Lady Buddha statues inside the cave

At the summit of Water Mountain

Stunning of Da Nang beach

Panoramic view of the 4 other mountains

Then we proceeded to Da Nang City where we visited the Museum of Cham Sculpture, which has the world’s largest collection of Cham artifacts housed in buildings with French colonial architecture with Cham elements.  At the museum, you will a more insight history of the Cham civilization in Southern Central Vietnam. Perhaps this is the best way to experience the Chams’ civilization. The museum displays a collection of around 300 pieces of priceless sandstone and terra-cotta sculpture collected from sites in Quang Nam. I was piqued by the omniscient guide about the history of the Cham civilization as all these we didn’t study in our history book in Malaysia. Lunch  was at the Aspara Restaurant which serves Chinese cuisines.

At the entrance of the museum

View of Dragon Bridge from the museum

After lunch, it was time to do some shopping at the Han Market opposite the Han River. This market is actually a tourist market patronized mostly by the Koreans. They sell a lot of imitation goods such as shoes and bags at the upper floor. There are a lot of stalls selling cloths and you can make custom-tailored Vietnamese costumes the ao dai on the spot. On the ground floor are mostly stalls local produce, handicrafts and dried stuffs. The market is very hot and stuffy. Hence we didn’t stay long. Anyway, there isn’t anything we intended to buy. Then we headed to the French & Spanish Cemetery in memory of soldiers of the joint expedition led by French Admiral Rigault de Genouilly in 1858. This is another let-down itinerary as there isn’t anything interesting enough for us to explore.  The place is quite rundown without much maintenance.  

Lunch at this Apsara Restaurant

Street View of Han River

Han Market

French and Spanish Cemetry

We continued our trip by going round the Son Tra Peninsula named as Monkey Mountain – the screen of Da Nang City. Here we visited the Linh Ung Pagoda where you find the highest Goddess of Mercy Statue of Vietnam or more fondly known as Lady Buddha. According to the guide, before this statue was built, Da Nang experienced heavy storm and typhoon every year. After it was erected, the annual catastrophe was gone. The Pagoda offers a stunning view of Da Nang beach and Cham Islands at a distance.

At Monkey Mountain

Largest Lady Buddha in Da Nang

View of Da Nang city from the Monkey Mountain

At around 4.30 pm, we checked into Belle Maison Parosand Hotel along the beach of Da Nang. After a short rest, we walked along the beach opposite the hotel to enjoy the evening breeze. It was drizzling, but this did not deter us from exploring. I noticed this beach is very popular among the locals. Majority of the visitors are locals. Then we decided to go to Banh Trang Thit Heo Tran Restaurant to try the local cuisine as recommended by the tour guide. We hailed an electric buggy taxi. We showed her the name of restaurant and address. She asked for VND 50K.  We agreed. We then boarded the taxi. After about 1 km or so, she said we had reached our destination. We looked at the restaurant, it didn’t look like the one we showed her. She insisted that this was the one we mentioned to her.  We got down and found out it wasn’t the restaurant we were looking for. So we decided to walk back to our hotel as it didn’t look like very far away. Later we googled again and true enough we were conned by this lady taxi driver! In the end, we just had simple seafood dinner at the Quan Ba Thoi 2 Restaurant next to our hotel.   Today we walked a total distance of 6.4 km.

Da Nang Beach

Would have tried this basket bowl boat if it is at the river, not sea lah!

Electric buggy taxi which cheated on us! [Not this one lah]

Simple dinner

Day 3

At 8.30 am sharp, we set off to Bana Hills, a very popular hill retreat for locals as well as tourists. It is about 35 km from our Hotel. Our van passed through some undulating and winding roads which took us about 45 minutes to reach the Hoi An cable car station. It was 5.5 km by cable car to reach Marseille Station which is near to the Golden Bridge. This bridge was packed with visitors. The famous Giant stone hand was newly open in 2018  and became the highlight of Bana Hills.  Here you can enjoy the cool breeze get a panoramic view of Da Nang. Then we went to the garden Le Jardin D’armour  and Linh Ung Pagoda. We continued moving up by cable car to Nui Chua Mountain – top of Ba Na range to visit Nginh Phong top, Le Nim Villas, orchid Garden and the Old French Cellar(Debay Ancient Wine Cellar). Lunch was at the local restaurant at the Hill Resort. After lunch we visited the theme park and experienced the 5D cinema. At around 3.00 pm, we started to descend and back to the hotel at around 4.30 pm. Altogether we spent about 5 ½ hours up the hill.  In the evening, we chilled out at the Skybar at the rooftop with an infinity pool on the 21st floor for a snack dinner and at the same time enjoying the night scene of the beach and sea. Today we walked a total of 5.5 km.

Cable car station at Bana Hill

Our tour guide is a very good photographer. All sorts of pose she suggested!

The iconic golden hand at Bana Hill

 

Panoramic view of Da Nang at Bana Hill

A closer view of the Golden Hand

A lot of performances at the theme park

 

Dancers from Latin America

At the 5D cinema

A pose with our driver, Nong before bidding goodbye to him!

At the roof-top sky bar

Day 4

It’s time to get ready for departure. Our flight was at 12.35 pm. So we checked out at around 10.00 am saying good bye and bringing back all the good memories from Da Nang, a beautiful coastal town in Central Vietnam. 

Da Nang International Airport

P/S: For this trip to Da Nang, we engaged a local tour agency Travel Sense Asia to take around. All in including hotels, lunch and airport transfer and English speaking tour guide came up to USD 700. Service was very good.  

 

 

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About HP Lim

An experienced Form 5 chemistry teacher from Johor Bahru.