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Da Nang, Vietnam: Tees, Temples & Tamarind

DA NANG

TEES, TEMPLES & TAMARIND

WORDS BY DAMIAN SHUTIE

SITUATED along the Han River inVietnam's South Central Coast,Da Nang – a Vietnamese adaptation of the Cham work 'DaNak' which translates as "opening of a large river"– remains today one of the country's most important and influential ports.

A blossoming coastal city along the South China Sea, Da Nang offers a host of varying activities and sightseeing attractions, ranging from pristine beaches, fishing and natural wonders to ancient Buddhist shrines and historic monuments.

'DA NANG' IS A VIETNAMESE ADAPTATION OF THE CHAM WORD 'DA NAK', WHICH IS TRANSLATED AS "OPENING OF A LARGE RIVER".

With its tropical climate to enjoy, cultural architecture to peruse and indigenous cuisine to consume – as well as a rare golfing experience – Da Nang proves to be a fascinating destination for the intrepid traveller. »

» Da Nang's Dragon River Bridge is a towering symbol of the city's growing prosperity.

A BRIEF HISTORY

THE story of Da Nang is one steeped in ancient tradition and war – both culturally and militarily.

The city was at the forefront of Vietnam'ssecession to France and the expansion of French Indochina in 1887, having twice been the scene of French-led invasions.

The first influx came during the bombardment of Da Nang in 1847, and the second during the Cochinchina Campaign in 1858 under the orders of French Emperor Napoleon III (Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew).

Remnants of French colonial influence still exist in the city today, particularly in the form of French cathedrals and villas. Gastromically speaking, the cultural ties have survived through French-Vietnamese fusion – think Bánh Mì (or 'Vietnamese Baguette'), while a vibrant coffee and cafe culture also pervades. During the Vietnam War, Da Nang's geographical location played a pivotal role strategically.

While today Da Nang is a commercial hotspot, its strong ties to fishing and agriculture have not been lost in translation.

It was here the first US troops landed on Vietnamese soil in 1965, and it was Da Nang the soldiers used as a place for rest and recreation during the drawn-out struggle.

Operationally, it was crucial. What is now the Da Nang International Airport was then a major air base used by the South Vietnamese and US Air forces during the conflict.

In fact, it was one of the busiest wartime airports in the world at the time, averaging more than 2500 operations daily.

Following the communist North's takeover of Da Nang and the US withdrawal in 1975, the city endured a long period of chaos, before finally re-establishing itself over time to become the thriving urban, commercial and agricultural hub it is today. »

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS

A temple pagoda in the Marble Mountains.

FEW places offer the array of differing activities you can experience as a visitor to Da Nang.

From relaxing at world-class beaches to venturing on hill walks that offer breathtaking vistas, this place has it all.

One of the most popular activities with tourists is a visit to the famous Ba Na Hills. While you can take a cable car all the way to the summit – reportedly the longest single track cable in the world – the walking trail is a far more invigorating prospect.

Incredible beaches, ancient monuments, abandoned temples, war museums and an abundance of natural wonders await you in and around Da Nang.

Along the trek you'll cross the Golden Bridge, a grand thoroughfare held up by two giant hands and with breathtaking views over the city out to the South China Sea.

Buddhist temples – and a giant Buddha statue – are significant religious sites scattered along the way.

You'll stroll through a French Village in he hills at an elevation of nearly 5000 feet along the way, complete with cobblestone streets, European-style buildings and the beautiful 'Love Garden'.

And then there's the Ba Na Hills Fantasy Park, featuring some pretty hair-raising rides for the thrill-seeker, as well asa wax museum. »

ANOTHER must-do activity is climbing the Marble Mountains. This cluster of five limestone and marble hills have significant religious and cultural meaning in the region and are said to represent the five elements of nature inBuddhism – fire, earth, water, metal and wood.

A popular tourist attraction, it is a historical site with much to explore, including caves, temples, ancient pagoda sand some of the finest panoramic vistas in all of Vietnam.

One such view is that over My Khe Beach, one of Da Nang's most popular beaches and one US troops frequented for recreational downtime during the Vietnam War. It's just one of many stunning beaches to be found in this region, and it's not surprising that spending time on the sand is one of the biggest drawcards for tourists visiting Da Nang.

So, too, is the culinary experience, and Da Nang's Han Market is everything you would imagine it to be.

Vendors selling an abundance of the freshest local foods, coffee, tea and wine, flowers, as well as textiles and jewellery adorn this marketplace situated along the western bank of the Han River.

It's a cultural experience you do not want to miss while in Da Nang. »

THE GOLF

PURE BLISS » Da Nang's Ba Na Hills Golf Club was voted the World's Best New Course in 2016.

IT WOULDN'T be a real trip without at least one obligatory round of golf, and while Da Nang has several worth checking out, the Ba Na Hills Golf Club is definitely the one we'd be eyeing off most.

The first 18-hole championship course designed by former world No.1 Luke Donald is a beauty set among world-famous mountain ranges and it echoes that feel, with massive undulations found throughout the layout.

Stretching to more than 7800 yards (or 7132m) from the back tees, Ba Na Hills is the longest course in Vietnam, although it does have multiple tees from which to choose your play, allowing a less challenging round for those just looking to cruise around in peace.

From a design perspective, Donald has created an appealing track here with two fairly distinct nines – the first being more of a traditional parkland trek while the way back in traverses through the hillside and is markedly more twisting in its orientation.

The superb, manicured condition of Ba Na Hills is immediately evident to any golfer stepping out onto the tee, and it's hardly surprising the course has received several awards despite its relatively young age, including being voted the World’s Best New Course upon its 2016 opening, and being awarded Asia’s Best Golf Course at the 2018 World Golf Awards.

Courses don't win those kinds of accolades without the accompanying bells and whistles synonymous with a truly great golf experience, and Ba Na Hills sings along to that tune.

Managed by IMG, this resort puts a premium on service and quality, evident by its first-class driving range setup and practice facilities, superb dining options, modern lockerrooms and abundance of smiling and knowledgeable caddies waiting to help take your round to the next level.

ONE OF THE UNIQUE ASPECTS OF BA NA HILLS IS ITS FOCUS ON NIGHT GOLF, WITH FLOODLIGHTS RUNNING ALONG THE ENTIRE 18 HOLES OF THE COURSE.

One of the more unique aspects of Ba Na Hills is its focus on night golf, with floodlights running along the entire 18 holes of the course allowing players the option to tee it up at night when the temperatures are cooler in the tropical climate. Such a brilliant addition to an already stunning golf course.

While Da Nang itself is a city worth a visit for a whole range of reasons – least of which is its rich history, ancient culture and natural beauty – the addition of this golf course moves Da Nang into the bracket of 'bucket-lister' worthy of any intrepid golfer. Ø

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