Đà Nẵng is a beautiful city at night! Last night I went for a walk and enjoyed the cityscape and riverside which lit up the sky with Lunar New Year (TET) celebrations and festivities. “TET Nguyen Dan translates literally to – the first morning of the first day of the new year. Long before TET, Vietnamese try to get rid of any bad fortune by cleaning their homes, buying new clothes, resolving disputes, and paying their debts.”
I traveled to Hoi An via the hotel’s shuttle bus and went on a tour of the surrounding area. The weather was foggy and moist again – not the best visibility for sight-seeing. Hoi An is an ancient town with well-preserved architecture including historic temples and pagodas. With its 1,360 relics and landscapes, Hoi An became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.
We passed though rich green jungle vegetation over the Hai Van Pass. Some interesting sites along the way included:
- The fishing village at Lang Co
- Museum of Trade Ceramics with artifacts from the 8th to 18th centuries
- Phuoc Kien (Kim Son Pagoda)
- Hoi An Historical Cultural Museum
Hai Van (means sea clouds) Pass is an impressive landscape that looks like a giant dragon lying along Highway 1. It’s the highest pass in Vietnam but its foot lies close to the sea. Hai Van Pass forms a boundary between North and South Vietnam and you can see fortifications built by the French and later used by the South Vietnamese and the US.
We stopped at Marble Mountains which consist of marble stone hills representing the five elements of the universe – water, wood, fire, metal, and earth. They are known as Ngu Hanh Son in Vietnamese or mountains of five elements. The largest and most famous of the mountains is Thuy Son (Water Mountain), a pilgrimage site containing natural caves. The mountains were once islands. Now each of them has several caves and grottoes which have been carved out naturally.
Th Marble Mountains are also a region of Buddhist sanctuaries. In some areas the marble was carved out into temples and pagodas. In earlier times, Hindu and Buddhist gods were revered in these shrines. Now the temples are dedicated to the rulers of the Cham dynasty. One of the caves, the Huyen Khong Cave, was a base for Vietnamese revolutionaries during times of war. Local artisans chiseled out beautiful handicrafts from the marble of these mountains. This marble is also exported to other countries.
Hoi An is one of the best places for shopping in Vietnam and a large stock of Vietnamese and Japanese silk, cashmere, and cotton fabric is available for custom clothing.
One of the main attractions in Đà Nẵng is the Cham Museum displaying a collection of Cham sculptures dating from the 7th to the 15th centuries. Two French architects – Delaval and Auclair – designed the museum using common architectural aspects of Cham towers and temples. The Chams are people of Indonesian stock who formed an ancient kingdom along the coastal part of Annam. They lived primarily in Cambodia and central Vietnam. The Chams reached their peak of power in the 7th and 8th centuries and often appear in the artwork of the Anchor Wat complex in Cambodia.
Mỹ Sơn was the religious, cultural, and educational center of the Cham empire. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 and is one of the best preserved Cham sites in Vietnam.
Tomorrow I head south via the Unification Express for the coastal city of Nha Trang known for pristine beaches and excellent scuba diving.