Why Da Nang?
Da Nang’s tourist industry is relatively new so although it’s already established with an array of hotels and resorts, there are still many spots untainted by an influx of tourists, making it a cross between a bustling city past the river, to a laid-back beach town by the coast. It is still extremely affordable but sadly, it’s fast becoming a popular spot for most travellers, especially since its city's airport opening in 2012. It's so often the dilemma where you would want the local community to thrive, yet the inevitable expansion through tourism often takes away the soul of most places.
For the Foodie
Banh Xeo are delicious crispy pancakes filled with pork, prawns and beansprouts. In true Vietnamese style, they come with plenty of fresh greens, herbs, pickles and chilli that you can wrap in rice paper. At Quán Bánh Xèo Bà Dưỡng, they'll automatically dish out their house set once you're seated and you'll be served with a generous portion of pancakes and sticks of minced pork that you can dip in a warm peanut sauce. It’s fun to eat at an affordable 30,000Dong (around $2 USD).
This restaurant is at the end of a closed street with a few other bánh xèo spots that'll try to lure you theirs. Don't be tempted and walk straight to the end for the best bánh xèo in town.
Quán Bánh Xèo Bà Dưỡng, K280/23, Đường Hoàng Diệu, Phường Bình Hiên, Quận Hải Châu Hải Châu, +84 511 3873 168
There are plenty of seafood options in town but for one of the more adventurous options, especially when you don't speak the local language, head to Quán Bé Mặn along the beach. Grab a table when you arrive, and then walk to the back of the restaurant where you'll find an array of buckets filled with live seafood to choose from. From clams, sea snails, lobster, crab to more species of fish that we care to identify, simply point at your seafood of choice and quote your table number. The live seafood will be weighed and there'll be an exchange of words that you'll try to decipher, but it's probably best to head back to said table and wait to see how your fish will be served.
Clams are most popularly cooked in its own juices and flavoured with typical Vietnamese spices that are salty, bitter, spicy, sweet and sour. Order a whole fish and it may come with a fish head vegetable soup and a grilled body so you can wrap chunky fillets in fresh rice paper rolls.
Image from Stickyrice
Quán Bé Mặn, Hoàng Sa, Quận Sơn Trà, Đà Nẵng, +84 90 520 78 48
Local Food Markets
There's no better way to see how the locals eat than to take in the sights and smells of a local food market. There are many in town and most even have a valet service if you're on a scooter. A decent-sized one is Chợ Bắc Mỹ An where you can head down to explore the fresh produce, grab a quick bite and even shop for clothes and souvenirs like Vietnamese coffee filters.
Noodles from a local market
Chợ Bắc Mỹ An Market, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Bắc Mỹ An, Ngũ Hành Sơn, Đà Nẵng
Hailing from Hanoi, this grilled pork and noodle dish is a perfect lunch or afternoon snack. The family who own this Bun Cha cart is originally from Hanoi and now runs a small cart noodle place in the heart of Da Nang. The meat patties are charred on a barbecue and finished with honey for a wonderful balance of sweet and savoury. It's served in a soup with fresh greens for you to dip the noodles in and slurp away. They'll even provide extra noodles on request.
Ha Noi Bun Cha, 137 Đường Nguyễn Văn Thoại, Quận Sơn Trà, TP Đà Nẵng, +84 90 673 48 80
Scooters and traffic
Do as the locals do and rent a scooter. The best way to cross the street on foot or on a scooter is to go straight, see the on-coming traffic coming in all directions, and go anyway. Hesitate and you’ll get nowhere.
Out of Da Nang
Jump on said scooter and take a day drip to Hoi An. It’s only around a 30-minute ride and the area is full of great activities to explore. The atmosphere is a little busier than the laid-back vibes of Da Nang and is perfect for a break from relaxing on the beach.
The best option for a tour is the Hoi An Free Tour, not only because it’s amazingly free, but because it’s run by students who want to meet travellers from around the world to practise their English. Their bicycle tour will take you to an island just a short ferry ride from the centre where you’ll visit a few local houses. A small fee will be collected at the start of the tour (around US$1.5) and the tour guides will donate this to the local villagers after you visit their houses where you will you learn the craft of making sleeping mats and flat rice noodles.
It's a great initiative aimed to help improve the state of economy and the quality of life for Hoi An villagers. The volunteer tour guides are enthusiastic students that will show you a glimpse into daily life in Hoi An.
Finally, you cannot visit Hoi An without trying their famous Cao lầu noodles. Made from water from an ancient well found only in Hoi An and ash from firewood, these noodles are uniquely chewy with a yellow tinge. Join the Hoi An Food Tour and you'll be taken to try these sought after noodles in a local market. The four-hour food tour will take you around the historical sights of the town with as many food stops as you can take, including the best banh mi in town, all for a steal at US$29.
Cao lầu noodles from a local market, Hoi An Food Tour
The best banh mi in town, Hoi An Food Tour