Trying (and failing) to hike Son Tra Mountain

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A Buddhist temple and Da Nang’s skyline seen through the midday haze from Son Tra Mountain.

After the amazing nature we experienced in Indonesia, we were ready to tackle Vietnam’s hiking trails. Unfortunately information online was sparse and having not yet fully internalized how poorly the hike from Tumpang to Bromo unfolded, I figured we could just go out to a place, pick up a dirt path, and follow it in and out. There was mention online of biking trails on Son Tra Mountain, which lies on a peninsula just north of Da Nang and wouldn’t be too far from civilization. So one morning we packed our bags and caught a taxi out there to try hiking around the mountain.

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Signs along the road on Son Tra Mountain. This shadeless path seems to be the only path for cars, bikes, and the unfortunate person who wants to walk.

 

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Cars and motorbikes speed past us as we hike up the road.

This hike was a failure, though not in its objectives. We were able to hike up the mountain and see some of Vietnam’s natural beauty. No, where this hike failed was in that it was utterly miserable for two reasons: lack of information made it impossible to find a walking trail and it was swelteringly hot. When we arrived at our destination, we asked the staff at the InterContinental Hotel about hiking trails and though they spoke English, they didn’t seem to understand the hiking part. They directed us to the vehicle road leading up the mountain. This shadeless pavement path was our trail for the hike and the noontime tropical sun beati down on us. The sunblock we applied simply dissolved in our sweat and we burned. It was not a fun hike.

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Stoytcho rests in the shade of a tree.
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The sun shines through the tree’s leaves. We never get full respite from the sun.

We realized an hour in that we weren’t going to make it to the top of the mountain and picked a smaller, nearer peak as our destination. It still took us another hour and a half to reach this peak and at the top we collapsed in the shade of a tree, panting and gulping down water. From here we could make out Da Nang’s skyscrapers in the midday haze and see the sparkling blue water along the shoreline below. “We should’ve gone swimming today,” we agreed as we hiked back down the mountain, passed by whizzing cars and passing vehicle debris.

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The shoreline of the peninsula, with its alluring aqua waters. Should’ve gone swimming.
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Incense sticks beside a pile of motorbike debris, probably indicating an accident where someone died. 

For those of you who found your way here because you’re looking for a hike in Da Nang, don’t do this one because it’s hot and just not worth it unless you have a motorbike or bicycle. For those of you reading along on our travels, this is a good moment to enjoy the fact you’re at your computer and not thousands of miles away hiking, sweating, and burning in the tropical sun. For us, this experience is a reminder to know there’s a trail before going. While traveling we’re trying lots of new things, and they won’t always work out. Best to keep the spirits up—and remember more sunblock.

Oh! And there was some cool wildlife:

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A Paris peacock butterfly (Papilio paris) collects nectar from a flower.
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A groundskimmer (Diplacodes trivialis) rests on a leaf in the sun.

 

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A soldier ant (unknown species) defends a line of foragers (from us).
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A planthopper of the family Flatidae rests on my hand and nervously eyes the camera.

Halfway through our year of travel

Edit: this was of 2017/04/30

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Our gorgeous appetizer of smoked meats, fruits, and veg.

Guess what today is? Halfway day! As of today, April 30 2017, we are halfway through our year of travels. We’re celebrating by going to a fancy restaurant tonight, Da Nang’s fusion restaurant Fatfish. Stoytcho is having the braised duck breast, the beer tasting flight, and a Vietnamese coffee, while I’m having the duck leg over noodles and a dessert of crème brulee.

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The duck leg at Fatfish.
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The duck breast at Fatfish.

It also happens to be Reunification day in Vietnam, so there are huge crowds gathered at the riverbank and there’s a celebration with fireworks during our dinner.

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The street chaos as a car tries to turn around on a street full of pedestrians and people on motorbikes, post-fireworks display.
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Decorations for Reunification Day.

To six more months of good travel!

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Da Nang City Shots

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A boat on the Han River in Da Nang

Da Nang is a seaside city we remember for its gorgeous beaches and amazing food. Tourism isn’t the primary industry in Da Nang, so accommodations can be found that are cheaper and more backpacker-friendly and there aren’t a lot of pushy travel agents and salespeople on the streets. The open-air restaurants lining the streets down to the beach are a mix of traditional Vietnamese and seafood eateries, a dream for those here to eat the ocean. AND it had our favorite boba and banh mi places in all of Vietnam. If we were to come back to Vietnam, it would be to visit this city and Da Lat again.

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Well-enforced motorbike laws.
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Fresh vegetables grow in a plot in the middle of a Da Nang neighborhood.
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A man waters his vegetable plot.
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Locals take photos on a closed-off bridge, before being chased off by guards.
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Men stand on their boat on the Han River with Da Nang’s cityline in the background.
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A man transports balloons on his motorbike.
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A woman hangs a Vietnamese flag on her house for Reunification Day.
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A woman waits with a delivery at one of Da Nang’s open-air restaurants.
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A man looks over a streetside restaurant along Nguyen Van Thoai Road.
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A man grills pork for banh mi at our favorite banh mi stall.
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Our favorite banh mi in all of Vietnam: a few slivers of cilantro and onion, but mostly pure grilled pork meat and pate.
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Stoytcho sits at a tiny table in a local boba stand.
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The Da Nang Dragon Bridge.
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A toad hides along the Han riverbank.
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A man pulls a boat ashore after rowing visitors out to see the city lights.
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Da Nang’s Dragon Bridge spouts fire for onlookers at its weekly show.

Off to Da Nang!

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We line up to march onto the tarmac at Da Lat Airport.

It’s time to head on to our next city, Da Nang. While a lot of backpackers attempt to bus or train around Vietnam, we’ve found it’s insanely cheap to fly. Our average flight per person flight cost is $100 USD, and this flight from Da Lat to Da Nang cost us $121 per person. Sure, the bus from Da Lat to Da Nang can be found through a travel agent at $11 per person, there are some horror stories out there and you have to go through Nha Trang, which we’ve heard from fellow travelers is one of the seediest, unpleasant places they’ve ever visited. So yeah, we’re not sad that we’re skipping the on-the-ground travel in this case.

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Walking the tarmac! Off to Da Nang, now.

Looking for flights? Your best bet is to check Jetstar, which had a ton of deals while we were there. Air Vietnam also sometimes has deals to compete with Jetstar.

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This advert was just so weird, so it’s here. You’re welcome!