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Da Nang

Lying in the center of Vietnam, roughly midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Danang’s strategic location has not been lost on foreigners. The French first landed here in 1858. American forces would follow more than 100 years later. For a brief time during the war, Danang’s airport was the busiest in the world, surpassing Chicago’s O’Hare. Today a new invasion is underway, but this time the invaders are toting cameras and sunblock.

Close to Hoi An ancient town and Hue city, Danang also boasts its own attractions and makes a great base for exploring Vietnam’s central coast. Danang’s riverside promenade, central square and friendly residents make it a wonderful city to stroll in.

The Marble Mountains are a cluster of five limestone towers rising from an otherwise flat plain. It’s possible to climb to the summit of one of the peaks, and it has become a huge tourist attraction. Get there early in the morning before the tour buses. The hundreds of narrow steps carved into the limestone are steep and often difficult to climb. A couple of caves along the way provide a cool break. The view of the surrounding plains and the sea is well worth the effort.

Beach lovers will want to spend a day or two at China Beach, made famous by the American television series of the same name. The only trick is figuring out which beach is the “real” China Beach. My Khe beach, a short drive south of town, is reputed to be the “real” China Beach, while a few kilometers farther south lies Non Nuoc beach, which also claims the name. The recently-opened Furama Resort, lying between My Khe and Non Nuoc, has also adopted the name. All are a good place to spend an afternoon.

Danang also makes a great base for exploring the nearby cities of Hue and Hoi An. The ancient port city of Hoi An is less than an hour’s drive by bus or motorbike, and makes an easy day trip. The former capital city of Hue lies about 100 km (62 miles) north via scenic Hai Van pass. You can take a minibus, hire a car and driver, or better yet, take the train.

Clearly developers are banking on Danang’s beautiful beaches and proximity to nearby attractions to attract hordes of upscale travelers in the not-too-distant future. Vietnam’s first luxury resort, the Furama, opened here in March 1997. An even larger resort with an 18-hole golf course is slated to follow soon. Can the crowds be far behind?

The best time to visit Danang is from April to September, when it tends to be dry and hot. Danang’s winter, from October to March, tends to be wet and hot.

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