The modern city of Danang stays off the tourist radar, except as a transit point between the historic town of Hoi An and the ancient imperial city of Hue. It is partly understandable, as Danang does look like an average Asian city, functional but uninviting. The only attraction as such here is the newly built and heavily promoted fire-breathing dragon bridge. On the other hand, it does make a good base for exploring the area - which is full of beautiful marine landscapes and includes the famous Marble Mountains - actual mountains made of actual marble, with cave temples and artisans' workshops. The bays around Danang will be of particular interest to photographers, offering a good glimpse of traditional fishing techniques and seaweed collection - exposures of giant fishnet silhouetted against reddening sunset sky and aerial views of seaweed fields have won quite a few photographic awards.
The only real tourist sight in Danang city is the famous Dragon Bridge. Completed in 2013, it would have been a perfectly ordinary automobile bridge if not for the two metal dragons flanking it on both sides. On weekend nights (Saturday and Sunday), the dragons are switched on to perform: fire-breathing and water-spouting. Well, those are Eastern dragons, after all, spirits of water and fire is probably a tribute to European folklore. Other than that, photographers might want to visit the busy fishing port - in the morning, to shoot the unloading of night's catch, or around midday, for a chance to capture one of the classical shots: a Vietnamese fishwife repairing a translucent blue net. Son Tra mountain, right next to the city, will do for a nature walk and sunset views. Watch out for monkeys - if you are lucky, you may spot a rare douc langur, although Marble Mountains are a better bet for it.
Once known as "Five Elements Mountains" and later renamed by the French, Marble Mountains are just that: five peaks composed mainly of marble. Since the mineral is not just noble-looking but also easy to cut, caves and grottoes have been created here since early centuries CE - in addition to the natural ones that have been expanded. In times of peace, such caves served as temples, during wars - as shelters. Nowadays, only one of the five mountains is accessible to tourists, but the cave temples are majestic. The most impressive sanctuary is Huyen Khong Cave, with its warrior some deity statues and strategically positioned lighting. But be sure to see the rest as well. It is all beautiful: Linh Nham, Dong Tang, and other caves, a number of pagodas, and the views from Dinh Thoung Thai, the summit. Even the ancient stairs and gates leading to the complex are very atmospheric, almost enough to make one believe in the Vietnamese triple religion (or perhaps in Tolkien's elves). Marble was also mined here for craftsmanship, but recently this practice has been banned for fear the mountains might otherwise soon disappear. The army of stone carvers near the entrance had to switch to imported materials, but this has not reduced the amount of statuary displayed for sale along the access road. This is worth a look in its own right - as a free open-air art gallery.
The area north of Danang cannot offer many historical attractions but has some of the best seascapes in Vietnam. The railway stretch across Hai Van pass is worth riding just for many tourists' views. Photographers would have to cover the same route on foot or by motorbike, stopping at the best viewpoints. At the end of the road, Lang Co bay has some beaches and no big waves, plus clusters of typical Central Vietnamese lever nets - giant contraptions operated by a manual wrench. At sunrise or sunset, those make award-winning shots. Another area where photography lovers score a chance to win a competition is Ran Nam O. Covered with seaweed, streaming like the green hair of a marine witch, this little cove looks otherworldly enough in itself, and the boats of seaweed collectors add the element of human interest.
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