Global Grad has an aim of integrating students into the cultures and countries they are visiting. This is why there are study hub locations students stay in for numerous weeks rather than repeatedly moving around. In the South-East Asia semester, the second study hub location is Da Nang, Central Vietnam.
Both of the Da Nang hostel’s we stayed in are owned by Christina’s, who also organise tours through a group called OneTrip. We partook in one of their tours during the first week of our time in Da Nang, which was the perfect time to do so.
WHAT TOUR DID WE TAKE?
South-East Asia has an abundance of motorbikes. They’re cheaper, mobile for zipping around the chaotic streets and the locals somehow manage to fit themselves on alongside their spouse, children, parents…some literally look like the bike is carrying the whole family tree.
OneTrip has managed to connect with local university students who will take tourists around on the back of their bikes in exchange for donations. So, we got a tour for us booked so that we could see what laid just outside of the city.
ON THE DAY
Earlier than organised, the whole group of bikers appeared outside of our hostel ready to take us on our tour. We all introduced ourselves and tried to keep track as to who was who before picking which student we would be travelling with. Like our own group, the OneTrip group had a variety of personalities.
FIRST STOP- WATER MOUNTAIN
We headed eight kilometres southwards of the city to a stop nearby which is rather well-known. There are five Marble Mountains, named after the elements- fire, water, earth, metal and wood. We went up the Water Mountain. There was a small admissions fee that we had to pay for ourselves and our guide but as is common in Vietnam, the cost is not particularly much for someone coming from the West.
There is an elevator to get to the top of the mountain which jutted out the side of it paradoxically. Instead, we chose to go up the stairs. There weren’t overly many but they were steep and uneven and so it took a while. We did stop to get some group photos on our way up.
We started off by going to the viewpoint which showed the other mountains as well as the marble village below, which sold goods below ranging from tiny tourist gifts to larger-than-life lions. We were taught about the story behind the mountains as well as their names, asking the OneTrip group any questions about Da Nang and Vietnam we had.
We then continued exploring the mountain. Around it were pagodas and statues of Buddha and the OneTrip group taught us about customs of Vietnam such as which part of a village gate to enter. There were also some glass designs on one of the pagodas we visited. This wasn’t just any old glass; it was made from the remnants of beer bottles the Emperor drunk from!
After climbing down the Water Mountain, which was considerably easier than going up, we got back onto our bikes for the second stop.
SECOND STOP- FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE
The next motorbike ride was fairly long as we headed back into Da Nang before heading further north to the outskirts of the city. This journey was all along the coast of the South China Sea so there was a great sea breeze since we were open to the elements on the motorbikes.
We pulled up onto the seafront pathway and parked up next to the Fisherman’s Village. There wasn’t much there apart from a few small buildings but it was a great angle to see all the boats trying to get their catch of the day. We ended up getting some more group photos while here before heading onto our next stop, which was visible from much further away than the Village.
THIRD STOP- LADY BUDDHA
Lady Buddha is around 9 kilometres from My Khe beach, which was where we had just come from. She is the largest Buddha statue in the whole country standing at 67 metres with the lotus she stands on adding another 35. To put this into perspective, she is the same height as a 30-storey building! This means she can both be seen and identified from all the way down My Khe beach, including the closest patch to where students were stay in Rom Casa.
The route to get up to Lady Buddha was fairly steep with some more stairs again before we could get to her. There were lots of people stood around her but a serene mood remained. From the statue was also an amazing view of the city. We got plenty of photos of Lady Buddha overseeing the city before heading back down.
FOURTH AND FIFTH STOP- VIEWSPOTTING
We continued heading away from Da Nang first enjoying the greenery of the more rural area. There were hardly any other vehicles and no houses so it was crazy to think the fifth largest city in Vietnam was just a short drive away. We all then pulled up a small patch which hosted another amazing view of the city as well as the coastline and the natural beauty surrounding us. There wasn’t much walking space but we spent a little while there taking the view.
As we were heading back, we managed to catch sunset. With such a peaceful but contrasting view with the city backshot, we definitely wanted to catch some group pics as well as get some footage. Some of us contemplated in silence while others chatted about how the day had been as the sun set but we all headed back to the city before it got too dark.
RETURNING TO ROM CASA
Upon getting back to the hostel, we all thanked our drivers for the fun and informative day. It was great to see several sights of the city which weren’t within walking distance while also getting to meet locals in the same age range as us. Being able to speak to locals was also useful in the sense they could direct us to other must-see places that didn’t have such a tourist bubble and could help us respect the culture more. There were a lot of subtle actions they did that we wouldn’t have picked up without them actively informing us.
Despite the amount of petrol they must’ve used and the time they took to guide us around, we were only suggested to give around $5USD for the whole day which seemed insanely cheap. We said our goodbyes after, although we saw some of the group a few more times throughout our time in Da Nang. Afterwards, the group headed for food, mostly in the nearby night market.
Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.