Let’s just preface this trip by saying that for our entire semester in Southeast Asia, we were in the middle of monsoon season. We planned trips regardless of this fact, and hoped for the best. Up to this point, it didn’t pose much of a problem…. Then came Vietnam.
After flying into Da Nang, we got to our apartment quite late. We ventured out to dinner, but by the time we got to the restaurant it was closed. They directed us to a different place a few doors down, Rachel’s, and this became our favorite place to eat. I tried a dish with chicken, mint, and onions, which sounds like a weird combination but it was surprisingly delicious.
The next day we went to use breakfast vouchers at the buffet. It was insanely crowded from a group of Chinese high schoolers. We had eggs, toast, and coffee before heading out on our exciting tour of Ba Na Hills! It was absolutely beautiful. We did have to take the longest cable car in the world to get there – you remember my love of cable cars – but it was well worth it.
At the top of the Ba Na Hills was a French castle grounds, and we learned that Vietnam was once a French colony. We were able to explore gardens (including a love garden with sculptures and fountains), a wine cellar, and the castle itself. Out around the castle, there were more Vietnamese influenced sites – temples, pagodas, Buddhas, and a tea house.
The funniest part of the whole day was that it was absolutely freezing on the top of the mountain. And by freezing, I mean misty and in the 60s. We literally had to huddle together and hold on to each other for warmth. We couldn’t stop worrying about the shock that’ll come in December. This isn’t the equator anymore.
When we got back to our apartment, we found a note and a fruit platter on our table from the people at the front desk. They apologized that our breakfast was so crowded that morning! We didn’t even mind that much, so this gesture was just so unexpected and kind. That night we got dinner at a place called Waterfront, and Katie and I got giant glasses of sangria. When we came back, the woman at the front desk called us over to apologize again in person! She offered to have our breakfast brought to us the next morning. So thoughtful and sweet.
The rest of our weekend was pretty much a typhoon nightmare. Both of our tours for Saturday were cancelled – one because of armed guard around the city, and the other because of the weather. We ended up going to a museum in the morning to escape the pouring rain. Then we went back to Rachel’s for lunch and I tried the chicken pho – it was incredible! And perfect on a cold wet day.
The afternoon was just way too stormy to do anything, so we watched a movie in our apartment (one of my favorites – The Martian). We got dinner out in the same area as Rachel’s, because it’s near the Dragon Bridge. The Dragon bridge is this giant bridge with a dragon wrapped around it that supposedly breathes fire each night at 8pm. So after dinner we went over to the mouth of the dragon to see it, but with no luck. We were standing in the downpour for over half an hour before we gave up to get back and dry off.
On our last day, we made a mistake. Some may call it a brave decision, others may consider it a lapse in judgment. You can decide. The main reason we came to Da Nang was to see the Marble Mountain, which was the tour that had been cancelled due to the weather. So on Sunday, before we left forever, we decided to go see it ourselves anyway. It was very rainy. A typhoon, you might say. We took a taxi there and prepared ourselves for the hike up. As soon as we arrived, some Vietnamese locals came up to us to give us advice on how to get up the mountain as safely as possible. There was barely anyone else there, no one else was dumb enough to attempt the climb in the typhoon. But we went anyway. Up hundreds of narrow stone steps, on a steep incline, that were covered with wet leaves and branches. All I could think was “OK, if I slip and fall on this thing, I’m dead.” Luckily, you know I am in fact not dead, because I’m telling you about the whole thing now! We got to see the temples and shrines in the different caverns of the mountain. Once we got back down, my entire body was drenched from head to toe. A Vietnamese woman rushed over to me to dry my face off with tissues. She looked at my sad, soaked appearance and just had the most concerned look on her face. I think the Vietnamese are some of the nicest people I met while abroad.
I’m so glad I went to Vietnam, to get to know the people there and try all of the delicious cuisine. Although the weather wasn’t the best, I have some great memories to take away. And despite the risk to our lives, I am glad we climbed up that mountain.