Mobile phones
Getting around

Danang, My Son, Hoi An

18.8: KL -> Danang
19.8: Danang -> Hoi An -> Danang

20.8: Danang -> My Son -> Danang
21.8: Danang
22.8: Danang -> Kota Kinabalu

Continues from the Malaysia 2017 travelogue

Planning and overall impression

This was a short, four day trip to  Danang, a big city in central Vietnam. My wife had the idea to come to this place, apparently because her brother had been here an liked the city.
Danang actually is a big tourist centre with countless hotels, receiving large numbers of visitors primarily from other Asian countries (mainly from South Korea and China). The beach is ok, but the seawater is not very clean. The main reason to come to Danang is to visit the UNESCO world heritage sites in the region (Hue, My Son, Hoi An). Danang itself is a quite modern city with practically no heritage areas. It's rapidly developing, with new skyscrapers added all the time.


Competition keeps hotel rates in Danang quite low and it's possible to stay in good hotels for moderate rates. Otherwise the cost of living in Danang is more or less in line with that of Malaysia, or to put it differently, Danang is neither very cheap nor an expensive place where to spend a holiday.


Food in Danang disappointed me a bit, because having read about the Vietnamese cuisine I was actually expecting a bit more.
There is also a dearth of eateries and restaurants in the shopping area along the Han river. We ended up eating a couple of times in the food courts of the shopping malls and in the restaurants of hotels.


Countless hotels in Danang, especially in the strip of land between the Han river and the sea. Rates are quite moderate, probably due to the fierce competition.

Money  / Exchange rate (August 2017)

1 Euro = 26800 VND
1 Euro ~ USD 1.18
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

Mobile phones and prepaid cards

I bought a SIM card from Viettel at the airport, with 3.5GB of data and 10 minutes of calls for 5 USD. For a few USD more there is a SIM card with unlimited data. Very cheap.

Internet access

We had free WLAN Internet access in the hotel and outside used the mobile phone to connect to the Internet.


We had mostly good weather, with blus skies and strong sun. High temperatures up to 34°C. Not much rain.

Health / Vaccinations

Probably the typical set of tropical vaccinations is needed in Vietnam. We didn't get any immunisations specific for this trip.

VISA / Entry requirements

This year German nationals (and probably nationals of other developed countries as well) enjoyed visa free entry into Vietnam. Nationals of ASEAN countries can also enter Vietnam without a visa.


Danang seems to be a very safe place.

Recommended things

Things to avoid

Getting around

We used taxis to get from one place to the other. These are moderately priced.

18.8: KL -> Danang
Hotel Merry Land, Danang. 1.085 million VND for a nice room with attached bathroom. Adjustable A/C, flat screen TV, fast WLAN, fridge, nice furniture, tea making equipment and instant noodles (not free), electronic safe. The hotel is in a skyscraper in the strip of land between the river and the ocean. The room is on the 12th floor. Breakfast included.
Weather: overcast in the morning in KL. A mix of sunny, then overcast and rainy in Danang. Very strong sun in Danang.

I get up at 7:30am, then leave the hotel at 8:30am. Some traffic jam, so the expected arrival time at the airport is shortly before 9am. In fact it's just one short section of the road and one roundabout which are stuck.

I reach the airport and immediately find the rental car parking. Then I lose quite some time looking for a parking slot, because all Mayflower parking slots are full. In the end I park the car in the Asia Car parking slot because I have no more time. Then it takes some time to figure out how to get to the Mayflower car rental counter, because that is not so obvious.

When I'm finally at the counter, there is no staff. I call the hotline, some discussion, in the end I drop the car key in the key drop. Then I rush to the check-in counter. At the Air Asia check-in there is a queue and it's already 9:20am. I ask an Air Asia staff and am directed to a counter. There the friendly guy checks me in without discussion. Boarding at 9:55am I'm told. I reach the gate at 9:40am - extremely long walk to the gate. The layout of KLIA2 needs to be improved - check-in area too far away from the gates.

At the gate I meet Shirley, her mom and the kids. Boarding starts late at 10:05am (late arrival of the previous flight). The plane, an Airbus A320, starts rolling at 10:45am and takes off at 11am (25 minutes of delay). The plane is quite full (perhaps 80% full).

We land at 12:13pm local time, reach the passport control 10 minutes later, and then wait for a while. Once outside, I buy SIM cards. Mine is from Viettel, has 3.5GB of data and 10 minutes of calls, and costs 5 USD. For a few USD more you can even get one with unlimited data. Very cheap.

The local time by the way is one hour earlier than Malaysia, i.e. in Malaysia the time is one hour ahead.

By 1:30pm we are in a taxi on the way to the hotel. The airport is only a few km from the city centre. We reach the hotel at 1:40pm and check in. The area around the hotel consists of modern buildings, many many hotels, lots of development ongoing.

Around 3pm we have some lunch in the hotel (food is unimpressive). Then at 3:40pm we take a taxi to the Linh Ung Buddhist temple, which is on the peninsula overlooking Danang. Danang has a long sandy beach and a nice skyline of skyscrapers, but the seawater looks a bit dirty. Not sure I'd want to swim here.

At 4pm we are at this temple, which is really very, very nice and photogenic. Some kind of large complex with several buildings and structures, including a Chinese pagoda and a huge, white standing Buddha statue. Lots of people coming here today to visit the temple, but not many non-Asian visitors. The temple seems to be relatively new, because it is quite immaculate and I can't find much about it in the Internet.

We spend some time exploring the temple, but soon it starts raining quite heavily at 4:20pm. We wait for a while for the rain to end, then after 5pm take a taxi to the Han market in central Danang, arriving around 5:40pm.

The Han market is an indoor market (but no A/C), selling lots of traditional Asian things, food, clothes and other stuff. Prices by the way are not low. Not just in this place - all over Danang everything seems to be quite pricey. Food is not cheap, taxis are way more expensive than in Malaysia. Only the hotel is cheap. Not sure why this is the case. Perhaps there is a lot of competition among the hotels.

Many motorbikes on the streets, you even see a complete family of father, mother and two kids on one motorbike. This would suggest that local people are not that wealthy, otherwise they could afford cars, as for instance people in Malaysia or China. Perhaps it's the exhange rate or the income is very unevenly distributed.

Anyway, after some time in this market we walk along the street, and after a while end up in the Indochina mall. Sort of flashy modern mall, but not too flashy, with a food court on the second floor. We have some dinner here starting at 6:40pm.

Even in this place the food is not good. The Vietnamese chicken noodle soup (Pho Ga) they make in an Asian restaurant in Munich is much, much better. I guess if there is good food in Vietnam we haven't found it yet or have gone to the wrong places.

There don't seem to be too many shopping malls, especially large ones in Danang. Also not too many (open air) night markets. I only manage to find one with an Internet search. And I wonder if Danang has a historic core, because I haven't seen one yet. I wonder if perhaps old Danang has been destroyed in the war. We are back in the hotel at 8pm.

19.8: Danang -> Hoi An -> Danang
Hotel Merry Land, Danang. Seems we are the only non-Asian tourists in this hotel.
Weather: a mix of sunny and overcast, but mostly sunny (milky-blue sky, no spotless blue sky). Quite hot. No rain the whole day.

 We get up at 8am and have breakfast. After breakfast we take a taxi to the Marble Mountains temple complex, 9km south of the hotel along the coast. This should be another place full or art and history and with many temples.

The taxi transfer costs 140000 VND and we reach the place at 10:18am. This marble mountain seems to be a complex of limestone cliffs rising up from the plains. Lots of people, souvenir shops and life. There is an elevator which brings you up to level about 50m above the ground, in case you don't want to use the staircase. Entrance fee of 40000 VND.

While the ladies take the elevator, I walk up the staircase. On top there are several Chinese style temples and some caves, interconnected by paths. One of the caves is narrow and tough to climb. The biggest cave, Huyen Khong, is quite tall (around 30m high) and contains a small sanctuary with statues and an altar. Lots of shops in the street selling marble statues, many of Buddha and Chinese topics. Perhaps Chinese tourists come here and buy these statues.

Then something happens in this place. Shirley negotiates the price of a bracelet with a salesgirl of a souvenir shop. The price is 30000 VND. Then Shirley mistakenly gives the salesgirl three 100000 VND bills (easy to get confused with so many zeros if you don't know the money).
The girl accepts the money without saying anything. It's only later when I talk with Shirley that she realises the mistake and we manage to get back the 300000 VND. But the salesgirl probably knew she got 300000 VND and didn't say anything. Not very honest, especially considering that it's a big difference (270000 VND paid more than needed).

At 12pm we take a taxi to Hoi An. The idea is to have lunch there and then stroll in the city. I've been there years ago already once and am curious how the city developed. From the Marble mountain to Hoi An it's less than 20km. Before 12:30pm we are in the historic centre of Hoi An.

Hoi An is a picture perfect and picturesque historic city, perfectly cute for the tourists along a river. In fact Hoi An today is really full, almost overloaded with western tourists. And in fact prices are relatively high, i.e. lower than in Germany, but much higher than in Malaysia.

Between 1 and 2pm we have a lunch in a restaurant along the river. The food finally is decent (better than what we got so far). After lunch we continue walking through Hoi An. But actually it's too hot to walk around, so at 3pm we take a taxi back to Danang.

 We reach Danang at 3:35pm. Shirley and the kids go to a big shopping place to buy while I walk check out the beach. Very long sandy beach, several km, but the sea water is not that clear. By the way, countless hotels in Danang, everywhere. Makes one wonder if there are really so many tourists. And new hotels are being built all the time.

I take a taxi to the Linh Ung Buddhist temple to get some skyline shots of Danang, then get back to the hotel. We get out again for dinner after 7pm, then get back to the hotel.

20.8: Danang -> My Son -> Danang
Hotel Merry Land, Danang.
Weather: mostly sunny with a thin clouds layer and some clouds. No rain the whole day, quite hot at 33°C.

We get up at 8am and have breakfast. At 10am we take a taxi to the Ba Na hills. A bit out of Danang the driver stops and tells us to buy the tickets for the Ba Na hills. Surprise, surprise, the tickets cost 650000 VND per person (children 550000 VND), no kids discounts because even Natasha is already taller than 1.30m. Total for the five of us 3250000 VND, a bit too expensive. It seems that this Ba Na hills is a theme park with a French city. This may appeal to Asians who have no chance to go to Europe and can take some selfies here with European buildings in the background, but it's not terribly interesting for us.

So we change our plans and ask the driver to bring us to the My Son ruins. On the way, we briefly stop at the Chùa Hung Quang Buddhist temple for some photos. We reach the My Son site at 12pm.

The driver stops the car in a big parking. Then we walk to the ticket counter and buy the tickets. Kids luckily don't pay, regardless of how tall they are. It's 150000 VND per adult + two times a 30000 VND service fee. We get in, walk a bit and soon reach the waiting area for the shuttles. These are electric vehicles with about 10-12 seats which bring visitors to the site. Well, actually they drop you off at the starting point of a trail which brings you to the ruins. It's about a 10 minutes walk (around 1km).

The My Son site (Mỹ Sơn in Vietnamese) consists of several groups of ruins of Hindu temples built between the 4th and 14th century AD, named according to letters of the alphabet. It's sort of a much smaller veraion of Angkor. Today the site is full of Chinese tourists. 

We are at the site until 1:40pm, then walk back to the shuttle and get back to the parking. At the parking we then have some lunch in a restaurant. The food is not bad, better than what you get in the food courts of shopping malls in Danang.

 Then, around 3:30pm we drive back to Danang, arriving at 4:45pm. We drop off Shirley and her mom at the Cho Con market, then I drive back to the hotel with the kids. The total cost of the taxi is 1300000 VND. I wonder if the cost would have been lower had I negotiated a fixed price for the trip (BTW, this car has a km cost of 16000 VND for the first 31km, and 12000 VND afterwards).

Around 5:40pm I get out again and walk to the bridge on the Han river for some blue hour shots. There are actually some good views around this river and I manage to get some good shots. After that, I walk to the Vincom Plaza mall, where everybody went. This Vincom Plaza is a nice and flashy mall, not giant, but very nice inside. There is a supermarket, several Korean and Japanese shops, a food court on the fourth floor and even a skating rink next to the food court. We have a simple dinner here and do some shopping. Then we walk back to the hotel.

21.8: Danang
Hotel Merry Land, Danang.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. Best weather so far, almost spotless blue sky. No rain. Quite hot (34°C).

 Day spent in Danang, visiting the city and again some places where I have already been. After breakfast, at 10am I take a taxi to the Marble mountains to visit the Am Phu cave, which I had skipped the other day and to take more photos of the Huyen Khong cave.

I'm at the Marble mountain around 10:45am and look for the entrance to the Am Phu cave. To get in, you need to buy a separate ticket for 20000 VND. The entrance is near the elevator at the street level. There is a staircase going up and this cave is in reality a complex of caves, some very big. I spend almost one hour and a half in this cave complex. There are many different caves, connected by staircases. One staircase leads to an exit on top of the Marble mountain from which there is a view of the coast. Lots of Asian tourists (mostly Chinese and Korean) here today.

At 12:45pm I reach the Huyen Khong cave. There I spend 45 minutes taking photos of the cave from different angles and perspectives. Then I walk out and take a taxi to the Vincom mall where I meet the rest of my group and have some lunch. We leave the mall around 3:30pm, taking a taxi which brings me to the Cham museum, while Shirley and the others go back to the hotel.

The Cham museum is along the Han river next to the Dragon bridge. Inside (entrance: 40000 VND, I'm allowed to bring in my camera bag) there is a collection of statues and stone artifacts collected at various Champa sites in southern Vietnam. Some pieces are quite interesting, but overall the museum is not terribly impressive. The interesting thing however is that in southern Vietnam there apparently is a multitude of sites like My Son, most not very well known.

I leave the museum at 4:15pm and since it is still a bit early for the sunset, I slowly walk along the Han river promenade. This is very pleasant and nicely set up. I also explore the lateral streets a bit. Tourist territory, many bars and pubs and many massage parlours, but not so many places selling food and no convenience stores or bakeries. The few restaurants I find are all priced for foreign tourists.

Around 5:20pm I discover a place selling sandwiches, the Mi AA Happy Bread. Weird place run by Korean (?) ladies, most customers are Korean girls and women. The place is full, lots of business. I have a sandwich there and a drink, then at 5:50pm I get out and walk towards the Han river bridge. I'll be in the area until 6:30pm taking blue hour shots, then walk back to the hotel.

Alissia has some intestinal upset, so we cancel the plan to go to the Asia park and instead have dinner in a restaurant opposite the hotel.

22.8: Danang -> Kota Kinabalu
Hotel Five 2, Kota Kinabalu. RM 105 for a small (10-12m²) room with A/C, a table, TV, phone attached bathroom with shower and nothing else. The hotel is conveniently located in the centre of KL. The only problem is that there is no elevator (have to carry my 24Kg suitcase and other bags to the 3rd floor). Fast WLAN in the room. Bed hard like a stone, shower has only cold water.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some very thin clouds layer in Danang. Quite hot. In the evening it's raining in Kota Kinabalu.

We get up at 8am, have breakfast and pack our stuff. In my emails I find the confirmation that my car booking is ok. I have now a car for one week (23.8-30.8) in Kota Kinabalu. Yesterday evening I have booked the hotels in Kota Kinabalu and in the Crocker range national park. Dinisiah from the Maliau Basin studies centre is expecting me in her office tomorrow, so I'm all set up for my trip across western Sabah.

Shortly after 10am we check out and take a taxi (110000 VND) to the airport, arriving at 10:20am. Then we check in. Airasia doesn't allow batteries in the check-in luggage, so I have to remove the powerbank.

Fast, free WLAN and smooth procedures at the airport. Before 11am I'm at the gate. There are A/C power sockets using the UK/Malaysia plug.

 The Airasia flight to KL is delayed. The plane starts rolling at 12:43pm and takes off at 1:06pm, with half an hour of delay. This is tricky, because in KL I have 2:20 hours to chenge flights and I have to go through passport control and check in again.

We land in KLIA at 4:35pm (20 minutes of delay). Then I'm one of the first to leave the plane, because the Airasia staff reseated me in front. I quickly get to the passport control. There is only a short queue of 5-6 people. Then I manage to quickly retrieve the luggage (mine is one of the first to come out, sheer luck I guess) and at 4:57pm I'm at the check-in counter of Airasia. Since it's not so late and the queue doesn't look so long, I just queue up.

When it's my turn I'm told that for domestic flights I should have checked in first at the machine and got a boarding pass. Never mind. By 5:11pm I have the boarding pass and can walk to the gate. Pretty smooth operation - 36 minutes to go through passport control, retrieve the luggage and check-in again.

The 6:35pm Airasia flight is delayed. It takes off at 7:15pm with 40 minutes of delay, but luckily lands in Kota Kinabalu at 9:35pm, with just 20 minutes of delay. I get out, retrieve my luggage and take a taxi to the hotel, arriving there at 10:18pm.

Continues with the Malaysia 2017 travelogue

Copyright 2017 Alfred Molon