(No.6, Vol.2, June 2012 Vietnam Heritage Magazine, Advertorial)
There was a time not so long ago when anyone choosing to fly into Vietnam had the choice of either Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi airports. These days when I am asked by people thinking of coming to visit the country for the first time what their port of entry should be, in particular if they do not have the time to discover the whole country, I do not hesitate to advise them to hit the target at the centre and fly to Danang. When I first flew into here around 13 years ago the only international flight was from Bangkok, now it is well connected with all the countries in the region and there are even flights direct from European Russia.
I went there this May and it had been a few years since my last visit. As soon as I entered the brand new airport terminal building upon disembarking from my flight from Ho Chi Minh City it became evident that somehow the city has made herself attractive to investors and is fast becoming the â€˜Dubaiâ€™ of the country. There are new bridges spanning the Han River. High-rise offices blocks have been erected making this a city of two river banks. Famous international hotel chains have built their palaces here already and there is a sporting complex area with stadia of daring architecture which makes one wonder if Danang is about to put in a bid for the Olympic Games.
Yet the fundamentals remain the same. Everything Vietnam has to offer is easy to find here. There is history and heritage nearby in the ancient capital of Hue and the erstwhile international port of Hoi An. Unlike the two main cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City where you have to drive for hours to find a decent beach, Danang has its bay and corniche. There are hill stations in its mountainous backdrop and the Unesco heritage site of My Son. The renowned Cham Museum in the city itself gives you the background to this major world civilisation which, perhaps on a par with the Egyptians or Mayans, had its centre in the area. The Sa Huynh culture that precedes it is featured in a small museum in Hoi An. There is even a dive centre on the Cham archipelago.
Should you choose to explore this area allow me to introduce to you two wonderful places at which to stay and relax that I have recently had the pleasure to sample each, with its own private gardens and beaches.