5am. Da Nang. There are roosters about. Not a ton of people, but a ton of roosters. And I could have sworn I heard that trumpet that kicks off a horse race. That couldn’t be, could it? I’m settling into this early morning routine. It occurred to me yesterday that without this bizarre schedule, the blog might not be happening so embrace it, revel in these free hours before the day gets going. But if you came here to read about what happens in Vietnam after 10pm, you’re going to be disappointed because I do not know.
We checked out of the Essence D’Orient Hotel at 9 to catch our 12:45 flight from Hanoi to Da Nang. Thank you to Jack and the lady who brought me a yogurt spoon – you were very accommodating. Our plan was to take a bus back to the airport. We’re veterans at this point – cabs are for tourists. We were walking back to the Hanoi Opera House where we got dropped off when we passed another bus stop with our bus number on it. We’d read some thing about the 86 route being changed so we weren’t sure if this was still a stop, but neither were we sure where the opera house stop actually was. The opera house is on a roundabout with five spokes and we’d already talked about maybe having to miss a bus just to find out where it stopped. We decided to wait 20 minutes here and if one hadn’t come by then, move to the opera house.
We waited for about 15 minutes, trying to decipher the large route map posted on the bus stop shelter. Sadly, we were no match for it and decided that we were probably better off walking back to the opera house, a proven stop. We hustled a little. Anxious. Not wanting to miss our bus OR have an 86 pass us on the way to the stop we had just abandoned, commonly known as “the rider’s pickle.” No problem. We got to the opera house and spotted a bus stop sign. We knew what they looked like now. We crossed a couple wide streets, got to the stop and saw our bus number on the sign. We high fived. We literally high fived. We dropped our bags on the ground and set to waiting.
Right after we got there a scooter cab driver approached us and asked us if we were going to the airport. No man. We told him. We don’t need a ride to the airport. Look at us, we’re Hanoi veterans. We’re waiting for the bus, and we’re a little offended you would even ask given how obvious it is that we know what we’re doing. Please leave us alone. ‘No’ was the only word that was spoken out loud, but you could read the rest on our faces. He walked the five feet back to his scooter, which was parked on the sidewalk, and sat there waiting for some suckers to taxi. I was relieved when he finally left.
Joe and I just kept waitin’ for that bus. Shooting the breeze. Just talking about life, you know? Making jokes about this blog. Jokes about the trip. Jokes about how the bus hadn’t come yet. Where was that bus? We saw one going to other way. OK we thought. Good deal. It’s running and it stops here. Another 15 minutes went by, still no bus. Well as long as we don’t see another one going in the other direction, we’re fine. We see that, it’s a bad sign.
We saw another one going in the other direction. I tried to signal the driver with waving arms and ask him with sign language if he was going to come back our way. He either didn’t see me or willfully ignored the plight of the gesticulating maniac on the sidewalk. 50/50. Mercifully, a different scooter cab driver who was parked nearby correctly interpreted my flailing. He spoke the language and flailed at our bus stop sign and then pointed around the corner. Uh oh. Joe walked over to him and he took Joe by the shoulder and walked him over to the sign to show him that on the other side of the sign, there was some additional information. It was in english and it informed all who bothered to find and read it that this bus stop was only used by our bus from 4:30 to 8:30pm, Friday through Sunday.
OHHHHHHH. It’s a weekend evening stop? OK.
The cab driver pointed around the corner again. We thanked him, picked up our bags, walked far enough around the corner to be out of sight, and hailed a cab.
In the cab we vowed to never high five again since it’s clearly the kiss of death, and it hit us that the first scooter cab driver might have been trying to relay that same information half an hour earlier. If only he spoke flail.
Noi Bai airport went smooth.
We had to check our large heavy bags. Joe’s was too heavy so the made him take his camera and shoes out so that’s what he carried onto the plane, a camera and a pair of shoes in a pink plastic bag.
The flight went well.
During the hour flight we listened to the Radiolab called Baby Blue Blood Drive. It’s about horseshoe crab blood. It’s ok. Da Nang is a nice looking city from the air. Arcing, sandy white coastline with big verdant mountains inland. We looked up busses from the airport to the hotel, but decided to get a cab since there didn’t seem to be much service and our bus confidence had been shaken. We grabbed our bags and headed into Da Nang.
We arrived at the hotel and they told us to sit and offered us a welcome beverage, as is the custom. So far, every hotel has offered us a welcome beverage. Mango juice at Essence, Chinese tea at Van Chai. This was some kind of cold ginger tea. It was our favorite so far. We checked in and headed up to the room which is when we learned what put this hotel on the map.
I’m not sure if we’re going to go with that flow, but I sleep better knowing it’s there. We did our thing in the room which consists of lying down, watching music videos and googling things to do in whatever city we’re in. We found this taco place that sounded good and after we were FULLY rested, we headed out there.
The sun here is intense. It presses down on you. Even at 4pm it’s hard to be in, but it wasn’t far to the taco place.
This place is outstanding. They offer three tacos, chicken pork or fish, with four different available toppings. If you eat four, you get a tequila shot. If you eat 10, you get a free taco. Every month the male and female who eat the most tacos are crowned king and queen. Two heroes have been enshrined for having eaten the most tacos of all time.
I was pretty fired up about giving this a shot, or at least trying to dethrone this month’s king who only managed to put away 12, but then we got our first tacos.
They were big. And so so good. Here’s a link to a blog post that they had printed out and hung at the restaurant in case you want to read more about this place. It’s amazing. Joe ate three tacos, one of each, and I ate four, earning Joe a tequila shot. Thank you Taco Ngon, We’re gonna be here for a few days and we’ll definitely be back.
After our taco coup was quashed. We headed to the beach along the sleepy streets of Da Nang. Unprompted, Joe began pronouncing the Nang in Da Nang with a soft A sound. Da Nang, like Justin Long. Not Da Nang like Vera Wang. He did so without evidence, merely on the belief that it’s the more correct pronunciation. Who am I to judge or research?
The sun began to set giving us great lights.
We got to the beach and paid a couple bucks to rent two beach chairs. Joe took the first shift watching our stuff and I went and jumped into sea. The water was warm and the surf was gentle. As Joe put it, we are in absolute paradise. Perhaps a bit caught up in the moment of finally getting to the beach, Joe rated Da Nang better than Hawaii AND Costa Rica. For those of you who know Joe well this will not come as news, but Joe loves a beach. When he came back from his turn in the water he was nirvana adjacent.
“When I got in the water I was like “YEAH!” And people looked at me like what is this guy talking about and then I caught a wave and as I rode it I made eye contact with somebody and they gave me the Shaka, they didn’t really give me the Shaka but I could feel them want to give me the Shaka. They gave it to me in spirit, it was a spirit Shaka.”
He went back in for seconds, returning a few minutes later to grab his camera.
“I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out. I want every evening to be this. We gotta… maybe some days… I don’t know maybe some days it’s gonna be raining! We can’t… we gotta take advantage..” (Runs away)
He galloped away from me like a colt in the field.
As the sun set, the area where we were darkened, but if you looked back west, there was still a lot of light.
We strolled back to the hotel along the boardwalk. When we got to the room we googled Da Nang night life and found some music venues a couple miles away. We swore up and down that we would rest for, “no more than an hour” and then get out into it. We immediately fell asleep. It was about 9:30.
Tonight, we’re really gonna go for it, guys. We won’t promise, but we’ll promise to try. One thing is for sure though. We are in absolute paradise.