Danang is Vietnam’s 4th or 5th biggest city. To get there from Hoi An it was 45min by local bus. I paid like $2.50 (probably double what I was supposed to pay) and I fired up the kindle while waiting for it leave the station. Well that turned out to be a futile effort! As soon as we hit the road the Vietnamese music went full blast and the horn did not stop blaring. This guy would literally be honking every 5 seconds. As soon as he would come up to a motorbike he would get as close as possible and just lay on the freaking thing until they moved. Even if we were picking up someone who flagged the bus down on the street he would never come to a complete stop and the person getting in would have to go into a little jog and hop on the moving bus! After he’d lurched everyone out of their seats for like the 5th time jamming on the brakes, the lady in front of me did the crazy sign next to her head and raised her eyebrows. Ha. Well at least the Vietnamese thought this guy was nuts too!
As for Danang there is not really anything to do inside the city center itself, but it has some cool things to do on the edges of town. So once again, motorbike rental is the way to go. I only had one full afternoon/evening in Danang, and wasn’t spending the night, so I hoped the hostel I stopped in at would let me leave my stuff there for the day. I ended up paying them $3.50 (more than half of what it costs for a bed!), rented a bike and I was good to go. First stop: Marble Mountain.
It has a name that sounds like a stage in Mario Kart, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I got there. I knew it was supposed to have stuff carved into caves and that was about it. It was midday when I arrived, which meant battling the crowds of the Chinese and Korean tour buses.
The place was certainly interesting. And by interesting I mean creepy as hell! In a Dante’s Inferno sort of way. Carvings of religious icons, goblins, ghouls, skeletons, people being killed and their souls being dragged off into the netherworld. All within a dimly lit cave of course. I liked it! And that was just inside the caves at the base of the mountain. You could take an elevator to the top of the mountain where there were more pagodas and cave chambers. This involved a rain delay (shocking) but definitely worth it! At one point you're passing through this narrow stairway and it opens up into a massive chamber, with some small temples build into the sides, plus a huge Buddha carved up high into the rocks. Really neat place! I spent much more time here than I thought.
Originally I thought I’d have time to hike the mountain overlooking the city, but daylight was running thin, so I only had time to check out the lady Buddha statue, also on the outskirts of the city, that’s the largest of it’s kind in SE Asia (I think). Also cool! I had time to get a bite to eat, collect my bags and start heading towards the train station. A woman on a motorbike saw me walking with all my stuff and offered to give me a lift. Nice woman! Nice city! I liked Danang!
Vietnam has a nice train system running up and down the country and I knew I wanted to take it for at least part of the journey. This would be my longest travel stretch, so I figured this was the ideal time. Although it wasn’t cheap: $33, which is a pretty massive amount by Vietnamese public transport standards. But the prices were jacked because it was getting close to Tet, the Vietnamese new year. Fortunately the massive migration at that time of the year is mostly South to North, so at least I was still in the position to be able to book a train in the first place.
In each car there were 6 beds and I had the top bunk. In my car was a Vietnamese family, and Irish guy, and a Chinese girl. The girl was trying to get me to switch with her to the middle bunk, because the top bunk has a tiny bit of more space. I’m like twice her size. Sorry lady. I wasn’t a big fan of her. The Irish guy was cool though. We’d go on to hang out later at our intended destination: the beach town of Nha Trang. 10 hours of travel time and maybe 5 hours of sleep later we were there. Our hopes of bright sunny weather were quashed however. But I had bigger things to worry about, figuring where in this town I could watch the Packers game at 3:30am!