Thursday 21st December
My flight was just after 13:00, so I had a few hours in the morning for one more meander around the maze of streets. That said, I felt I’d done all of the main tourist streets this side of the river, so I randomly dropped a pin in the map on the other side and ordered a Grab bike, as it’s simply not possible to cross that bridge by foot.
The experience was largely uneventful, save for witnessing the result of the first accident I’d seen so far. It seemed to cause a lot of commotion, but it was no more than a slightly dented bumper.
By 11:30 I was back at the hotel, ready to order a car to the airport. It was a domestic flight, going from their domestic airport. I wondered if it would be anything like the small terminal in Kathmandu.
The Grab car drove me through a street I could only describe as Christmas street! There was stall after stall selling baubles, Santa outfits, fake trees, etc. The amount of them was insane. Goodness knows what they’ll be selling in one week’s time once Christmas is over.
The domestic airport was absolutely nothing like Kathmandu’s. In fact, it was more comparable with Birmingham or Bristol. I joined a very long queue to check in for my flight with Vietjet Air. There were however around 9-10 check in desks, all working pretty quickly. After clearing security, I only had a few minutes before boarding, but what a beautiful, clean airport it was!
Typically, the temperature in Hanoi appeared to have improved slightly as I was leaving.
It was a nice, short flight. The aircrew did this strange thing whereby, as we were beginning our descent, they stood in the aisle and saluted the passengers in thanks for travelling with Vietjet.
It was raining when we landed, and it was a few degrees warmer, but at 21 degrees it was still a long way off the 34 I could expect in Saigon.
The hotel was less than impressive. I’d chosen it because it was very close to the beach yet cheap. As can be expected, the ones actually on the beachfront were extortionate. However, the rain ruined my plans. Even a five minute walk had my hoodie wet. I needed to buy a raincoat, so in the end I had no choice but to locate a shopping centre via Google, then get a Grab car there (no bike in this rain for me - though the locals all seemed to still use them).
The journey showed me that whilst Hanoi was pretty third world, Da Nang most certainly was not. Everything was much bigger, grander, and in better repair.
The shopping centre was spread over four floors. On the ground floor there were designer shops - Crocs, Sketchers footwear, Casio and G-Shock watches. Floors 2 and 3 each had different supermarkets, and there was a cinema at the top.
At first, I couldn’t find any raincoats at all. I was on my way down when I overheard a staff member at a stall speaking excellent English, and when I spoke to him he assured me the bigger of the two stores would have one. It was a bit of hassle (and would be boring to read here) but I finally got something. I can only describe it as "functional". I'll label it "my lovely raincoat". I had poppers down the side, which un-popped far too easily, leaving the whole thing flapping around if I was not careful. It took me a while to work out a workable, if ridiculous-looking solution to this. More about that later.
Nothing. Not a trace. It was completely gone!
Another Grab (these were only costing £1-2 per trip) took me to the seafront to try out the other one, a bar called Apocalypse Now. It turned out this one had also now changed its name, but at least there was something there - and it was open. However, aside from around 10 or more staff, the place was utterly deserted. I was the sole customer, with all 10 members of staff watching and waiting for me to order another drink. Da Nang was turning out to be a bit of a disappointment. Had it not been raining I could have just strolled up and down the beach. But it was chucking it down, it was not particularly warm, and it was already getting dark. Luckily I had plenty to read on my Kindle reader, so I just settled down with a beer or two, and read.
The rain didn’t stop, but it did finally ease off, so clad in my new lovely raincoat, I decided to walk back the two or so kilometers to the hotel.
The trouble with many of the little local-shack restaurants is that you sometimes really have no idea what the food is. That can fun, sometimes. Other times you want something familiar. I walked past a wood-fired pizza place, and it looked and smelled too good to ignore. These establishments knock out your food in minutes, and mine was super tasty. The only downside was that it only sold Budweiser - which is better than absolutely nothing… but by the barest of margins.
It had not been a particularly exciting day, and the rain was due to continue. Beachside towns are not a lot of fun in the pouring rain, and I was already looking forward to leaving Da Nang and heading down to Hoi An the next day. I had high expectations of my next location. It remained to be seen what I would actually make of it.