Cocktail of marbles, beaches and a golden dragon to the old pathways.

A visit to the Danang Town and the Golden Fire Dragon


I am not an Einstein, but this equation is not difficult to solve even for one who struggles with math as much as me:

         (White sand beaches + (gateway to ancient cities X ancient townships) + mountains + golden dragon) / overflowing VCs = ?


You got it right. The answer is Danang, the beautiful coastal city in central Vietnam. Yes, we are once again in Vietnam and it is time to explore and celebrate more of its charm.


Yay! Time to celebrate
Here are several interesting facts on Danang.
  • Danang is the 4th largest city in central Vietnam. 
  • Many names have been used in the past to refer to Danang. These names were mainly related to the Han river. In Cham (the language used by the Kingdom of Campa in Central Vietnam), Da Nak is translated as "opening of a large river”. 
  • Two things that come to my mind when one mentions Danang. First, its beautiful soft sandy beaches and  second the sky-blue seas that it is blessed with. Danang is the perfect choice for beach lovers. You would be spoilt for options here. Danang has a 90KM long coastline. The more popular beaches for travelers are Non Nuoc, Bac My An and Xuan Thieu. Additionally, some of these beaches are close to the city.
Non Nuoc


  • December and January are the coldest months and have the most rain fall. That explains the wet, windy photo shots. It gets hot from April to August, ideal for those who love the sun. 
  • As mentioned earlier, Danang is ideal for those who love the sun and for the beach lovers. It is also correct to note that tourism is a vital source of income for Danang. However, it is not only famous for its beach resorts but also for being the gateway to access other important sites in the central region. There is a wide range of accommodation here, especially along the beachfront. In recent years many resorts have been built to cater for the increasing tourist demand. It’s the perfect place to treat yourself after backpacking in Hoi An.  I got a good hotel deal and so I did just that 😊.

  • If the sun is too much and you decide you need some cold air, head to Ba Na hills. This is a hill station at the west of Danang city. You can get to the Ba Na resort within 45 minutes by taxi.  From here, use the world’s longest non-stop single track cable car to get to the famous picturesque Ba Na Hills resort and then to the French village. There are nine gardens here. It will take you more than a day to visit and take them all in. I have to save this for my next trip so stay tuned. 
  • The Marble mountains is a cluster of marble and limestone hills in the south of Danang. This place is known for its stunning beauty, but one would need to climb a bit for that view. It is located near the city. The taxi ride is just about half hour from the centre.   
  • Danang has recently hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in December 2017. Many economic leaders attended this important event. Below is one of the welcome displays just a few kilometres from the airport. 


  • Danang Coffee – Coffee is hugely popular, need I say more. 😊. The typical coffee atmosphere is street-coffee style. It is common to see small wooden tables and chairs indoors and outdoors in these joints. The concept is simple, and it transports you back to the days when things were less complex. People of all ages, young and old, sit together with a glass of coffee each and chat or text. 
Local Street Coffee


  • Danang is indeed the transportation hub for central Vietnam. Danang is well connected, so you can opt to travel by any of the following ways:

           
   By Air
  • This is the most popular travel mode for international travellers.
  • The Danang International airport is the 3rd largest in Vietnam. During the French days it was known as Tourane Airport. Later in 1957, the name was changed to Danang Airport. Between 1959 and 1975 this airport was the air base (during Vietnam War) for the central region. At that time, it was the busiest airport in the world.
  • Air Asia flies daily to and from Kuala Lumpur to Danang and currently runs a promotion for its flight booking on Traveloka Malaysia. For the best Air Asia airlines promodo not miss out checking this page.


Rain or Shine, I'll take you there. 

        By Land
  • Rail – Danang is a major station along the north-south railway line (Also known as the Unification Express).
  • Road –
  • Excellent expressways run through the city. These connect Danang to Hanoi in the north, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) in the south and Laos in the west.
  • Thuan Phuoc Bridge (that crosses the lower Han River), is the longest suspension bridge in Vietnam. It was completed in 2009
  • For biking enthusiasts, here is something to consider. There are 14-day cycling trips from HCMC to Hanoi via Danang covering very interesting and educational sites and spots. 
  By Sea 
  • Danang has a large port which also serves passengers and cruise liners. 


In terms of tourism, Danang, for travellers like you and me, serves as a gateway to several UNESCO world heritage sites. Danang has so much more to offer than just being this gateway. Unfortunately, its beauty and importance is often overshadowed by the other ancient jewels that surround her. These jewels are the Ancient Town of Hoi An, My Son Ruins and the Imperial City of Hue.  


·    What did I do in the city? 😎

Visited the Han Market

This is a large wet and dry market complex where one can get various local products like; vegetables, meat, snacks, clothes and souvenirs at reasonable prices under one roof. Bargaining is allowed, but there is no guarantee you will win the bid.

 Tried some local coffee


    We had some good coffee at Highlands Coffee before exploring the city. I couldn’t decide which coffee to choose from – they offer several standard options. We went with the hot cappuccino. Highlands Coffee is a home-grown coffee chain. It originated as a packaged coffee business in Hanoi in 2000. This local coffee chain also offers a fairly good choice of petite cakes and light meals in their menu.


At Highlands

Took a City Rickshaw ride

I found this very entertaining. The friendly people on the streets were as  animated as we were. They waved at us and snapped photos of us. We did the same, snapped photos of them and waved back. We started the one-hour tour at the Han Market. Just a tip – agree on the rate and time before you start and keep to that agreement. The important sights along this route were the:



               Danang Cathedral

This Cathedral was built in 1923 by a French priest named Louise Vallet. Because she stands tall (70 meters high), she is known as Con Ga Church (Rooster Church).
Dressed up.


Dragon bridge

I regard this as one of the most prominent landmarks in Danang. The bridge was completed and opened to traffic in 2013. It is called the dragon bridge because of its shape. What’s more interesting - the dragon breathes out fire and water every Saturday and Sunday nights at 9PM. So, get your cameras ready for those night shots.

Waiting .....

Cham Museum

The museum displays exhibits dedicated to the period of the Champa existence (7th to 15th century). It is noted that this is the only museum of its kind dedicated to the Champa era. It was founded in 1915.



Ho Chi Minh and the Fifth Military Zone Museum

If you haven’t been to any other museum in Vietnam, then this would be the place to see Vietnam’s interesting political journey. It’s not as big as the ones in the bigger cities in the country. However, it has sufficient good exhibits and pictures.

          

Ruling Party Office Complex

This is a large administrative building complex. Pictures are not allowed even outdoors, so I don’t want to get my rickshaw driver into trouble.

Eden Hotel

According to my rickshaw driver, this is a very famous hotel in the city centre.

Pho Da Pagoda

This is a very serene (Buddhist) pagoda temple built in 1927. Apart from being a place to worship, many monks and nuns have been trained here. During our visit, we saw many school children reciting prayers.
For peace

Lunch @ Tuc Don

This is a local, 100% Buddhist, vegetarian restaurant right opposite Pho Da Pagoda. After one hour of rickshaw ride and when you are hungry the Vietnamese language no is longer a problem. The food here was the cheapest and tastiest food I have had in Danang. I would come back here again.

Vegetarian noodles


I will cover more on Marble mountains and Ba Na hills in another trip. Yes there will be more from Danang.

Till then enjoy your cuppa and the PyeongChang2018 games. May the fire of the golden dragon be within each participant as they compete for honour and glory. Book your tickets to Danang and let’s travel to the Ancient City of Hoi An next. See you there.
💗💙💚💛💜💗

Travel Savvy - Checklist # 1 - Lets not forget

How many times have you arrived at your holiday destination and said 'Ah, I forgot to bring that.’ I have almost always done this. So, I decided to put my PM skills to use off work and to come out with a traveller's packing-checklist. This list is my recommendations[?] for the casual traveller. Some tweaking is required for the business traveller, but this serves as a general guide.


Documents


  • Travel Document 

  • Passport or personal identification or a valid travel document.
  • VISA - this is applicable for international travel. Without a valid approval, the traveller will not be allowed into the destination country. If required, here are several ways to obtain this
  •  on arrival
  •  from a local consulate
  •  authorised online portals
Do check the validity of the visa and if it covers the entire duration of your stay. If not, you may need to cross borders and then re-enter. 
This is an excellent website to cross-check:
https://www.visahq.com/visas.php.

  • Travel tickets

  • Tickets – train, bus, flight, helicopter, car rental, payment cards for faster tolls booths checkout (TouchAndGo & Smart Tags).
  • Entrance tickets – if you have purchased any of these online - concert, broad way or museums.

  • Hotel reservations 

  • Hotel reservations and to confirm your reservation with the hotel before arrival. 

  • In-country travel arrangements.

Finances

  • Credit card
 I prefer to take two cards with me.
  • Cash
Do some homework, check how much money you’d need each day and budget for this. A mix of currency is always be good to take, especially if you are going to be crossing borders regularly.
  • Local currency
Have some local money with you. Hawkers and street food operators, taxis and buses do not accept foreign currency/credit cards/travellers’ cheques.

Gadgets

  • Notebook/Netbook/Tablet/Ipad.
  • Cell phone & essential numbers – this is a meaningful way to be contactable.
  • Camera & its battery.
  • Device chargers  & universal adapters – Notebook and cell phone, cameras will not be useful without these.
  • Data and call plan – International data and call roaming cost a lot, so a local plan is always a good option. In many countries, you can purchase a temporary plan at the airport or train stations.
Gadgets

Wearables

  • Cap – for sun and style.  If you collect caps, this could be an opportunity not to pack these and get one there instead.
  • Shoes - your most comfortable pair for walking and one or two more if there is a specific function where your feet will be looked at. The couple below has travelled with me for the last 10 years at least.
  • Slippers  – if you are going to the beach.   
  • Jackets – At least one light and, one semi-warm coat if you are travelling to a place more cooling than the average temperature where you stay most of the time.  I come from the warm tropics, so anything below 10 degrees Celsius is classified cold for me.
A jacket is most certainly needed  when travelling here
  • Clothes – of course, unless you plan to buy a new wardrobe there. My general rule is, if you can get clothes washed, take lesser clothes otherwise take enough + one extra pair to cater for a contingency (rain, travel delays). Also, select wisely (lighter weighing clothes) and take only up to the weight you can carry.
  • Prescription glasses/cool sunglasses – basics first.
  • Toiletries and try not to carry them on board – some airport security require them to be taken out and displayed on the trays.

And we have travelled places haven't we?

Food and drinks

  • Instant mix drink packets – I need these because not all hotels give you the unlimited coffee refills (unless you are camping at a casino, do they still do this?). Plus, when on vacation I need more than one cup of coffee.
  • Snacks – I like to carry my own mini-bar of chocolates, biscuits and chips. Hotels dislike guests like me.
  • Pre-order your meals, especially if you have diet restrictions (vegetarian, Jain, halal, kosher, etc.
    Energy booster to carry that suitcase

    Other Essentials

    • Medicine – know what you need and prepare for the unexpected. I always make sure I pack in my Paracetamol and Enos, everywhere.
    • House keys – otherwise, how would you get in after that nice trip.
    • Umbrella – for rain mainly.
    • Book - a travel companion.  
    • Pen – at least to fill in the dis-embarkment cards.
    • Check out  www.reachingdelphi.com your travel friend.
    • If you are travelling for a long duration, appoint someone you trust to:
    • Collect your mail
    • Pay your utility bills
    • feed your fish, automated food dispensers may not always work
    • water your plants
    • Have enough balance in your bank accounts for all those automated standing instructions.

      Raining Again
      I travel reasonably light but tend to over-pack sometimes. Pick and choose what's important to you. Pack smart. 

      And after all that packing I need some coffee. And Happy Valentine's Day.

      Enjoy your packing, enjoy your cuppa.  See you there.  

      Valentines Coffee





      A journey of a thousand steps begins with the first

      Exploring Batu Caves


      Beauty is subjective and comes in many forms. And thankfully one of them is just around the corner. But before getting there, I would need to overcome two forces that protect this interior beauty. First, our very distant cousins who would do anything to make sure the gifts and offerings I take along are theirs and rightfully only theirs — they truly believe in the saying ‘welcome, my home is your home, but your things are all mine’. Once you have mastered the art of handling your possessive cousins, you are ready for stage 2. In stage 2, all you need is to gather the remaining energy to take steps, one at a time, to reach the top. There are 272 steps in total. A piece of cake, that doesn't sound that bad at all does it? 😄 

      Today, you are travelling with me to a famous spot in Malaysia. Batu Caves. There are a couple of things one can do here, and I will talk about those in a bit.


      Come right up

      The Batu Caves area is well known as a religious site. On the hilltop, inside the caves, is a temple, dedicated to Lord Murugan. The temple complex consists of 3 main caves and the largest is known as Cathedral Cave. According to research, Batu Cave Temple was promoted as a place of worship by K. Thamboosamy Pillai, an Indian trader, and he later in 1890 installed the Murti of Sri Murugan Swami in the temple cave. He was inspired by the Vel shaped entrance of the Cathedral Cave. These caves are part of the 400-million-year-old limestone hills. The view of the stalactites and stalagmites in their natural lighting is overwhelmingly breathtaking and the surroundings are immensely serene. 

      Batu Caves is not too far from the Kuala Lumpur (KL) Sentral station. The KTM Komuter train ride is a quick, cheap and comfortable way to get here. Train service runs every ½ hour (during non-peak hours) from the KL Sentral station. The commute is a 15 km hassle-free one. It would take you approximately 30 minutes to get here if there were no track delays. Taxis and private car rental options are also available. 

      The temple grounds are open until 9 p.m. Afraid of heights? Don't worry, there are many temples, restaurants and activities at the ground level as well. This area is generally a place of worship, so clothing rules apply. The food served around the temple complex is usually vegetarian. Do try the coconut fruit drink. I just got myself one. Awesome!

      Fuel up!

      Batu Caves is also a popular outdoor rock-climbing spot. A close friend, Chong, and his local adventure group are sometimes here for outdoor climbs. It is said that there are over 160 climbing routes of different levels of difficulty and intensity to satisfy each passionate climber’s needs. 

      Caving is also a popular activity in this area — the Dark Wet Caves is one of them — test your eyes’ ability to focus in the dark, hear and feel the nature that surrounds you. You'll likely come face-to-face with some creatures there, and I am sure if you are quiet enough, you will hear that pin drop. The entrance to the Dark Wet Caves is at the ¾ point to the temple cave. Tours to this cave are organised by the Nature Society of Malaysia for a small fee.


      A picture after that awesome drink

      Remember when I introduced you to our possessive distant cousins? Well, say hello to the Macaque (old world monkeys). These are a small dominant group of monkeys that live in these limestone hills. 

      Here are some interesting facts to digest — humans and monkeys are both primates and humans share a common ape ancestor with chimpanzees; Apes and monkeys share a distant relative which lived millions of years ago. I guess it’s because of this closeness, they are used in animal testing. Well, macaques feed on the seeds and plants available in these hills. They are indeed cute and highly intelligent, they know how to imitate humans and will gladly ‘accept’ your things. They open your soda cans, eat ice cream, pose for photos, smoke cigarettes, snatch and wear your dark glasses and comb their hair using your comb. Some can get cheeky, one even lifted Anna’s  (a friend who was visiting) skirt. I have not tried a selfie with them and wouldn’t encourage you to do that either. As cute as they sound, they do tend to get wild if you overdo being friendly. Here is a secret. Hush. They go to bed early, so if you visit the caves at night before closing time, chances are you wouldn’t be hassled by them. Wouldn't be as exciting though. We are visiting their home after all.

      Cousins


      Thaipusam Celebration

      Thaipusam is one of the major events celebrated in Batu Caves. This is an annual religious festival that falls on the full moon of the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). In Batu Caves, this is a 3-day auspicious festival that attracts millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. If you are here during this period, join in and be part of this celebration. Thaipusam was celebrated on the 31st of January this year. Thaipusam is also celebrated grandly in other states as well (Penang, Perak, Pahang, Johor, Melaka).
        
      Braving the crowd for good intent
      Here is a recap of the events during the 3-day Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves: 


      Day 1 – The chariot procession begins in the early hours of the morning where Lord Murugan makes his way from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple to the Batu Caves Temple. This is a 20KM pilgrimage walk with the chariot. The chariot stops at several stop points along the way to allow worshippers to give thanks and break coconuts. Along the way, you’ll also see some children and adults carrying either paal-koodams (milk pots) by hand or on their heads, or shouldering kavadis (decorated carriers). There are also many like me, who may just decide to walk. Kavadis vary in size and shapes. The bigger and more colourful ones are usually seen at night. The colour theme for the celebration is yellow. Yellow is an auspicious colour, but that doesn’t mean one is not allowed to wear other colours. Food and drinks are distributed free along the way. My request from past years’ observation is that we all respect the food, take only what we need and do not litter along the way.

      Paal koodams

      To avoid the crazy crowds during this period, many worshippers fulfil their Thaipusam vows weeks prior to Thaipusam during the same Tamil Month. Trust me, the Komuter trains are sardine-packed with people during this period. But that is where the fun starts, isn't it? 😀

      Kavadi
      Day 2 – Thaipusam day – Thaipusam is a day of prayers and a time for repentance. Many devotees start their Thaipusam rituals weeks earlier by either detoxing or going on a vegetarian diet or spiritual cleansing (reciting prayers, meditation). Wikipedia mentions its origins and states that: 

      The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel ‘spear’, so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. It is commonly believed that Thaipusam marks Murugan's birthday;



      Giving thanks

      Day 3 – the chariot procession heads back to Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. 

      I visit Batu Caves often and so have many of my travelling friends. Climbing the steps can be challenging for the different age groups, but it is not necessarily impossible. Just as everything else in life, every step forward is a move towards something greater. 

      And just as these great steps are, my coffee for the day is one that is many steps away from home. It’s an Orange Peel Latte, before I take the next few steps onward. Its flavour is tangy, fresh and topped with spicy cinnamon, served warm as a welcome for the next festival that’s around the corner. The view outside is pleasant but deceiving. I could stare outside for hours all day. A Japanese proverb states ‘A journey of a thousand miles starts with one’. 


      Those 272 steps, challenging – we are all built differently. We are different, but that difference need not stop us from climbing the heights at our pace. The view up there is worth every step.

      Enjoy your cuppa and have a great week, one step at a time. 💗💙💚💛💜💗


      Orange Peel Latte