Discovering Da Nang

Vietnam’s favourite beach-side city plays host to colourful local life off-the-beaten-tourist-track.

While Vietnam boasts many beautiful seaside towns and cities, none truly offer the charm and luxury of Da Nang. Stretching south from the city’s trademark Dragon Bridge, the coastal road alongside Non Nuoc Beach is crammed with sprawling resort upon sprawling resort. North of the Dragon Bridge, one will find a plethora of restaurants, cafés and businesses catering to tourists’ every need lining the River Hàn. 

And while one can happily wander Da Nang’s beaten path, sipping Vietnamese coffee, sampling roadside Bánh Mì or flirting with the sunshine on the beach, venturing north of Da Nang’s tourist district provides a taste of local life otherwise hidden from visitors’ eyes.

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This gentleman stopped for a smoke break while working at a construction site. Buildings in various states of completion are nearly as common in Da Nang as resorts, as an influx in tourism and foreign investments prompts development.
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At many of the tourist destinations in Da Nang, such as outside the Con Ga Church —  a Gothic-style, baby pink cathedral built in 1923 for French colonists — women flock a variety of wares, including jaunty souvenirs, cold drinks and fried snacks. This woman paused from selling a collection of cigarettes to have her photo taken.
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While wandering away from the tourist hordes shopping, eating and sightseeing near the River Hàn, we couldn’t help snapping a photo of this man as he sat outside his shop — which showcased an abundance of pigeons in candy-coloured cages.
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Tourists and locals alike are enamoured with Da Nang’s many beaches, including the popular My Khe — which boasts more than 30 kilometres of white sand coastline.
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Motorcycles are the most common mode of transportation for locals. In fact, it is a common sight to spy a family of five crammed on to one Honda 125 — and as the traffic rules in Vietnam seem to fall into the category of survival of the fittest — locals zip in and out of traffic lanes with a calm and confidence that is at first unnerving to visitors.
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Wandering away from downtown Da Nang, tourists became far less common — offering a more authentic glimpse into the local life of Da Nang’s 1.3 million residents. As the afternoon began to wind down, locals relaxing in and outside their shops seemed to patiently await closing-time.
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These gentlemen are perched beside Than Binh Beach — a favourite haunt for Da Nang residents located in the Hải Châu district.  
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Nearly as much, if not more, of daily life in Vietnam takes place on its streets — from starting the day with a bowl of Phở to taking quiet moments of reflection.
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As the night winds to a close, life in Da Nang continues to bustle. While restaurans begin to fill with tourists and locals in search of dinner, this little boy waited complacently for his trim.

Photos and Text by Sarah Comber 

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