Asia,  TDM,  Travel Journal,  Vietnam

Da Nang (Vietnam): Visit of Ba Na Hills, Golden Bridge, Nui Than Tai

During our stay in Hoi An, my parents came to visit us and we went to Da Nang together.

Da Nang is the most promising city in Vietnam at the moment. Located between the ocean and the mountains, Da Nang offers many tourist activities. In addition, its beautiful beaches several km long, its high-speed Internet connection, its airport not far from the city center, its abundant and juicy food, its international fireworks competition, and its many job opportunities are attracting more and more talents, who prefer to leave the polluted cities like Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City.

If you ever take a plane to Da Nang, choose a seat near the window to see this kind of incredible scenery: mountain peaks piercing the thick layer of clouds.

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

The day before the arrival of my parents, I book in one of the many travel agencies in Hoi An a 7-seater car. It picks us up at 7am in Hoi An, then takes us to Da Nang airport (25km away) to pick up my parents and then all together we go to Ba Na Hills (24km away). All this for 700,000VND (the car does not wait for us in Ba Na Hills, we manage for the return).

Ba Na Hills (the hills of Bà Nà) were discovered and exploited by French settlers. They went there to escape the heat of Saigon. Now, there is an amusement park accessible only by cable car. For the moment, there is only one hotel upstairs, belonging to the Accorhotels group (link Booking).

To go to the top of the Ba Na hills, you need cable car tickets. Travel agencies sell them all, for the same price as on the spot. The driver takes us to one of these agencies, and we buy the tickets for 650,000VND/person. That way we don’t have to queue for the tickets, and we are sure to get one (they limit the access to 2500 people/day)

JB booked a night at the only hotel on top of the hill, so once we get there, we look for the employees of that hotel and they take us to the registration office next door, which also serves as a perimeter wire cutter.

But… the person at the front desk can’t find our reservation. After 10 minutes of search, she announces us… that we booked the wrong hotel.

We booked the Grand Mercure Da Nang ( Booking link), instead of the Mercure Danang French Village Bana Hills ( Booking link). As both hotels are managed by different people, you cannot change your reservation or cancel without charge. So, after thinking about it, we decide not to sleep here anymore, and spend the night at the other hotel that we booked by mistake. In any case, it is only 25km away, in downtown Da Nang.

Very nice, the person at the reception desk still offers us to keep our luggage for free and shows us the cutter to take the cable.

Ba Na Hills

Here is the map of the cables and the main attractions (click to zoom)

If you are coming here for the first time, it is normal to get lost. There are so many cables and levels. I advise you to follow the following route:

  1. Take the cable from Toc Tien Station => The indochine Station
  2. Visit and have lunch (the buffet is the best option, cheap and of quality)
  3. Play video games in the building designed for this purpose (3 floors of various games)
  4. Take the cable from Louvre Station to go down one level to Bordeaux Stations
  5. Visit the gardens, the wine cellar
  6. Go up by taking the cable from Debay Station => Morin Station
  7. Watch the shows outside, then come back inside by taking the direct cable from Indochine Station => Toc Tien Station

The cable ride is exceptional! You can see Da Nang from far with its beautiful beaches of several km, and then you can see several waterfalls below, one of which is particularly impressive. One really wonders how they made to install cables in such difficult places of access.

And then when you get to the top, you are 10 degrees down, and an amusement park looking like a French village.

It’s really well done, down to the last detail. We really think we’re in France….

….except for the food which is sold here 😀
JB really hopes to find behind this boulnagerie front, good French style croissants and pains au chocolat, but he will only find Vietnamese desserts. Poor thing!

We are literally in the clouds, they come and go, leaving us about ten seconds each time to take pictures.

Even the hotel (which we thought we had booked) is huge, the rooms are distributed in different buildings.

As it is raining, we will spend a few hours in a building dedicated to video games and 4D/5D movies. All the games are already included in the ticket, you just have to queue (10 minutes max).

We then take the cable to go down one level and see the gardens and the wine cellar (built by French settlers)

The ruins of the old French villas can still be seen.

The labyrinth is also great fun to explore

The main reason why international tourists come here is the Golden Bridge. It looks great on the pictures, but in real life, we were less impressed by the bridge than by the landscapes. I put you the official picture because we didn’t take any, to tell you how unimpressed we were.

Japanese fake cherry trees are waiting for us (we will see real ones in Japan)

All this leads us to the pagoda, where we have a breathtaking view.

We take the cable back to the top of the hill. We have lunch at the restaurant at will for 170,000VND/person (unbeatable rate vs. other restaurants).

We go up to see the temples and tea rooms at the top of the hill to have a beautiful view of the surroundings

It is there that we see a small lake with green islands too cute. There does not seem to be any road to go there.

Evening in Da Nang – Hotel Grand Mercure

We order an Uber to go back to Da Nang (most people come to Ba Na Hills with a driver who waits for them 4 hours, but we thought we would sleep here so we go back in Uber :D).

On the way, we speak again about the lake and there, the driver affirms us to have already gone there, and that the road is good. We take his number and we give appointment the following day.

Arrived at the hotel Grand Mercure (link Booking), we are upgraded (this is what makes us happy because we were a little bit upset to have made a wrong reservation). The suite is huge, there is even a dressing room!

And the view is very nice (overlooking this bridge that changes color and a heart-shaped island with lots of birds)

JB and my dad test the fitness area and sauna while my mom and I hang out at the pool.

We then take a cab to Quán Trần (4 Lê Duẩn), a well known restaurant specializing in pork rolls.

We each take one “Dac San Tran”, 119,000VND/serving.

This consists in rolling these slices of pork in transparent patties + rice cakes + vegetables and dipping the whole in a spicy sauce.

It’s super consistent, I can’t even finish my plate.

We walk along the beach to admire the stone statues. These are entries in a sculpture competition.

Hồ chứa nước Hòa Trung

Yesterday’s driver from Uber picks us up with his 7-seater car at 9am sharp. He tells us that he already went to the lake we were looking for with customers (who spotted the lake on Internet). The road is indeed super easy. It is just necessary to go along the highway AH11 in direction of “Khu Cong Nghe cao Da Nang”. When you see the concrete arch on the left (as in the picture), turn left and drive straight.

This lake was built in the 1980s to store water for farmers. And it was renovated in 2017. We can find there the green islets spotted from Ba Na hills.

We go around the lake to discover an old, abandoned farmhouse where we can sit and admire the scenery.

We are really amazed by the beauty of the place, and so happy to be alone to enjoy it.

Before noon, there is no wind, the mountains are perfectly reflected on the water. From noon on, there is wind, and it is the ideal time to picnic or rest at the abandoned farm. There are some works to do next door but the noise does not bother us too much.

If you ever feel like visiting this place, contact our driver! He does not speak English, but can read SMS in English (Google Translate is his friend). He is really nice and his rates are in line with those of Uber.

Nui Than Tai

We return to Hoi An to visit the city with my parents. Then a week later, before flying back to Japan, we return to Da Nang, two days this time.

Because there is a place that I wanted to visit last time, but didn’t have time to do so. It is Nui Than Tai, a water park/thermal water park built last year. The spring water gushes out at more than 80°C, and it is cooled in different baths, until it goes down to 36°C. One can also take a mud bath, hammam and sauna.

We take an Uber to go there (350,000VND). As it is a little far from the city, the driver proposes to wait for us, free of charge for the return (it is true that with our round trip, he reached the objective of his day).

The basic entry costs 350,000VND, but we prefer the slightly more expensive 420,000VND option, which also includes the mud bath. We are given a bracelet each.

Well, the indications aren’t their strong point so I will explain a little bit the principle, if you ever want to go there:

  • The lockers are free. When you arrive at the locker room, show your bracelet and you will be given a locker. You must badge the bracelet to open and close the locker. No valuables should be put on the locker. If you want, you can rent a safe for 10,000VND.
  • You can rent a towel for 10,000VND leaving 100,000VND as a deposit. There is no shampoo/soap so bring your own.
  • The thermal springs are accessible on foot, but to go to the hammam, the sauna, the mud bath or the water park you have to walk a little. For this, several golf cars are available to take you there free of charge
  • It is possible to sleep here. If you are staying at the hotel, access to the park is included in your stay.
  • There is a restaurant with an all-you-can-eat buffet at noon.

I’m just putting you a picture of illustration because we didn’t take a phone with us.

We start with a bath at 37°C before going up little by little to the source … where we can no longer, would only soak our feet. The water is really really too hot, so we stay in a water of about 42°C…

…as long as our body can tolerate this temperature.

A golf cart takes us to the hammam/sauna. It is a little cold at the beginning but it heats up very very quickly. The employees air them and clean them after each passage of the customers.

We always drive up to the water park, where the water is warm. JB participates in a few games, before going down to the mud bath.

We are first offered to lie on bed-shaped Jacuzzis for about 20 minutes while the employees prepare the mud bath.

Afterwards, one is entitled to a huge bathtub filled with hot muddy water. It’s super nice, and you don’t feel dirty, the mud is clean and doesn’t stink at all. Mud baths are very good for health and for the skin, I highly recommend you!

We finish by a hot shower to rinse all the mud, and then we go back to the locker room to take a last shower + change, and return to Da Nang.

The beaches of Da Nang

The next day, we go to the beaches of Da Nang, between My Khe beach (the most popular beach of the city) and Pham Van Dong beach

It’s really super nice! I think that Da Nang is the city where I’ll see myself spending a month, the next time we’ll go back to Vietnam. It has everything we need: cheap hotels, good food, beautiful beaches, and the proximity with lots of activities and fun attractions. Perfect for digital nomads.

We did not include in our visit the visit of caves, marble mountains, pagodas and temples very different from those we see in the North, 5 star hotels with private beaches… but here is, if you come here for a month, you will not be bored for a second.

In Da Nang, there are two restaurants/cafes run by one of my best friends.

First, Kool Klub. Vietnamese people are used to gather around several bottles of alcohol or beer at the end of the day. Kool Klub meets this need with ultra-fresh beers served in super-fresh glasses (glasses are kept in the fridge) + good food. I’m really proud of my girlfriend because not only the food is excellent, but the decor is top-notch too.

A few meters away is his Gong Cha café, which sells bubble tea. There too, I am proud of her because bubble tea is to die for! The decoration is always perfect, and considering the attendance of the café, I have no doubt about its success.

It is already time to leave Da Nang for Japan. We take a Uber to go to the international airport, which is only 15mn from the city center. See you soon in Da Nang!

Part 2: Practical Tips

Our addresses

  • Lodging :

    • Grand Mercure Da Nang (Booking link), about 55€/night
    • Soho boutique, about 25€/night – there are no windows though, but the hotel is one block from the beach, and close to many restaurants

  • To eat :

    • Quan Tran, 4 rue Le Duan (there are two, ignore the one on the street that sells beef rolls, enter the footbridge, the second restaurant, from the same owner, sells pork rolls)
    • Kool Klub, 81 Nguyễn Văn Linh => go there around 6:30 pm to see groups of Vietnamese drinking together
    • Gong Cha, 29 Nguyễn Văn Văn Linh, => best bubble tea in the whole city

  • To visit :

    • Ba Na Hills: 650,000VND per ticket including cable + access to the park and more than 100 video games, 4D/5D cinema
    • Nui Than Tai: water park + hot spring: from 350,000VND/person
    • Some agencies offer one-day tours of Ba Na Hills + Nui Than Tai from Hoi An or Da Nang. Rates are very attractive because transportation is included
    • Uber has been replaced by Grab in Vietnam (read more here)
    • Hoa Trung Lake: the visit is free, but to go there, you have to take a cab or rent a scooter. You can contact the driver who brought us there, he is super nice

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