Finally went and explored the coast today. Just south of the city is a strip of resorts: Furama, Fusion Maia, Intercontinental, Hyatt Regency (which consists of unimaginative bomb-proof concrete blocks that I happen to find fugly). The beach they all line up on is gorgeous, but the surrounding is a little uninspiring.

After 4 kms, I saw the first beach access called Non Nuoc (mountain and water, home country), just a little past Marble Mountains. Further ahead and even just across the road is not as developed. Mostly empty lots with overgrown grass and rubble. It was probably set for fancier structures but came to a halt amidst the real estate market freeze. This area was one of the most overblown speculations in the country. And Danang government’s reputation of  investor-friendly attracted not only resorts but also beach condos and villas complex, with the majority of buyers coming from Hanoi.

trail to beach in Da NangOne of the beach trails

scooter on Da Nang beach
True to my heritage, I rode my scooter all the way in. It wasn’t a great idea; the little monster definitely got a good workout.

Da Nang has seen a sharp rise of visitors in the past few years, but is still far behind Hoi An. I would like to think of myself as having a pretty good hunch when it comes to tourism. Back in 1998, my family spent a month in Nha Trang to visit my dad. That was before any tour operators set foot in the sun-bleached city, and a long time before the Vinpearl resort island started construction and put up the cable car. We mostly stayed in during the day to avoid the summer heat. My dad took me to the oceanography institute once, and we took some beach walk in the afternoon. There was hardly anything to do. Yet for some reason – might be the seafood, I remembered that time fondly and for a long time Nha Trang was my favorite coastal town. And I knew one day it’d get a lot more crowded. Again in 2003, I traveled with my sister to the central coast. We went to Hue, and then to Da Nang and Hoi An. I found Da Nang bland (to be fair, didn’t spend a lot of time there) but fell in love with Hoi An, back then still a sleepy quaint old town. And yup, true to my prediction, just a couple of years later, it blew up. Da Nang has been playing catch-up, but many people still skip right through it in favor of the little neighbor Hoi An. If only I had the money to invest back when I was 10 or 15, I’d be rolling in gold right now.

Self-pride aside, I’m glad I made it to the beach today. The water was colder than expected, the waves were messy from the wind, and “no swimming” signs were posted every 50m. But nothing could kill the fun of having the waves splashing all over me, the sand tugging away under my feet, while late afternoon sun gently warmed my back.

20130316_165540a local boy getting a good sand scrub and salt water shower

surfboards at Hoa's place, Non Nuoc beach, Da NangSurfboards at Hoa’s place. So retreo they have only 1 or no fins.

By the beach, there’s a little b&b well-known among backpackers called Hoa’s place. They had broken boards by the sign so I stopped and asked if they knew any surfers around. Turned out they actually rent boards, so I took a look and couldn’t have been more disappointed. To be fair, I shouldn’t have expected anything better. On the way back to town, I took a detour to check out the famed Tam’s pub and surf shop. I’d gone there twice and they were closed both time. Couldn’t get them on the phone and thought they might not be in business any more. But third time was certainly a charm. The pub was open and boasted a much better selection of boards, but still far from desired. There are 3 or 4 ok short boards, the rest are in a sorry state. Some of them have thick layers of sand on top geez. The guy there was not in the friendliest mood so I didn’t ask anything beyond the price. I’ve so far visited dozens of travel/surf sites, forums, blogs and I think I’ve read all there is to read about the surf and surfboards in Da Nang. There’s one option left: this German surfer guy called Gunner who lives by Marble Mountains. The information is a few years old so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not there anymore. But who knows. If so, not only can I rent a somewhat decent board, but maybe also ask to see if anyone might want to team up (more likely let me tag along) for the surf ‘cause I don’t feel too sure about this beach break business.