First order of business today is exchanging some more cash before we head up north. We’ve been told they do not accept cards at most places in the north, and now that we’ve found a great exchange place I figured I would just get money now in preparation. If you need to exchange money in Saigon, go to Koicha. Their exchange rate was better than what Google said it should be, the tea is delicious if you want to stick around to enjoy, and upstairs has an air conditioned room with fast wifi. While every other exchange was offering 22,650 vnd to 1 usd, Koicha gave me 22,790 vnd to 1.
One last shot while walking the streets of Saigon.
You won’t see them right in the tourist hot spots, but you will see these 80’s looking, Soviet style propaganda posters throughout some of the neighborhoods.
It was about 30 minutes to get through security for our domestic flight. It was also an incredibly confusing airport to navigate. Staff gave us bad information, our flight boarded almost 30 minutes after it was supposed to, and tourists have to board at a separate gate and be bussed onto the tarmac.
If you’ve ever joined us for a day trip you know that our flight almost always leaves the same terminal at LAX; the terminal with a Burger King. It’s gotten to the point where I make the joke, “It isn’t vacation unless we get Burger King”. So I had to get SOMETHING when we saw it here.
When we landed in Da Nang we ordered a grab and headed towards our hotel. We arrived quickly, but as we got closer Cat and I were both getting nervous. The neighborhoods aren’t really unsafe here, but very near the hotel is what appears to be a homeless camp. As we enter the lobby we can hear the ongoing construction on 2 nearby buildings. We asked the attendant at the desk what time the construction started in the morning. She told us 7am. We went ahead and checked into the room and brought our bags up. Unfortunately the problems didn’t stop at construction. We realized the construction noise was so loud because the window that you see in the photo above did not have glass. It was an open hole in the wall with metal bars to keep something out. Birds? It was not keeping out noise or bugs, that’s for sure. To add insult to injury, the view from the window in the main part of the room was of construction about 10 feet away. Scaffolding and bare cement would have been our view for the next 2 nights. Cat and I quickly decided we couldn’t stay. We started looking for another hotel that was more city center. While Da Nang is known for beaches, Cat and I know that we are city people and need to be in the heart of the action. Construction noise is intolerable but the sounds of the city (cars, voices, doors opening and closing) are something we’re accustomed to.
The hotel staff was incredibly apologetic. So much so that we actually felt bad leaving the sub par hotel. It wasn’t just the construction noise. The room itself was dirty, the hotel was run down, the wifi was terrible, and the glasses in the bathroom were still wet from being washed. The front door had a gap even when closed, and the key got stuck on our way out; so stuck that we couldn’t get it out and left it stuck in the door when we went to explain we were leaving. The girl working the reception desk asked what they could do to make the hotel better. She made sure that it wasn’t something they had done. The owner of the hotel even came over and insisted that she refund us for one night. We repeatedly declined (the room was $47 for 2 nights…I was willing to just take the hit), but she persisted.
Once we got situated in our new hotel (which was 3 times the price of the last room and worth it!) we stepped out for some dinner. First stop Mỳ Quảng Bà Mua. We ordered the Mỳ Quảng (of course) and Bánh Tráng Thịt Heo Đại Lộc. Both were delicious. The restaurant was so clean we even ate some of the herbs.
Mỳ Quảng is a popular tumeric noodle dish originating from Central Vietnam.
Here are the ingredients making up Bánh Tráng Thịt Heo Đại Lộc where you use the rice paper and wrap the already-cooked slices of pork with the herbs and dip it in the sauce.
This place is apparently known for making their own Mắm Nêm (Fermented Anchovy) sauce which we ate with the pork spring rolls. It was pretty spectacular.
After dinner we went to have a drink, but the bar that I had found was crowded and music was too loud. I know, I know; I sound like an old man. Instead we opted for a nice walk along the river. It was worth it. While this city is a lot quieter than Saigon, we see now why people want to visit. That bridge that you see lit up in two colors is the Dragon Bridge. It shoots fire from its head at 9pm on Saturday and Sunday, so you know where we’ll be tomorrow night at 9pm.