Danang is best done on the swerving finesse and horsepower of a motorbike. Our writer becomes a pillion passenger through narrow roads to taste a Vietnamese-style crepe and see the fiery breath of a dragon.

Photos: Bigs Vatcharasith
Words: Yelin Qui

Fresh off the Danang Airport, I’m ushered onto the back of my friend’s motorbike, and moments later; we’re speeding through the dizzying theatre of downtown traffic. The streets were steadily buzzing with noisy swarms of motorbikes. As the fantastic urban tableaux bursts into view, my tired senses were all of a sudden awake. I see a family of four piled onto one bike; on another, a man perched on the seat of his ride for a nap, utterly oblivious of the honking and roaring around him while granny zigzagged through the wet market, balancing dozens of eggs on the backseat.

To first-time visitors, the daily cacophony of motorbikes might spell chaos and danger; to locals, these magical vehicles, along with the impossible payload or passenger configuration, carry the fantastic spirit and energy of a fast developing city.

First stop, dinner at Bà Duong, a well-known food joint hidden deep in a narrow alleyway {K280/23 Hoang Dieu]. We sat at the table closest to the open kitchen, where the shop’s main attraction, Bánh Xèo, was fried and stacked. The golden sizzling rice crepe holds a fold of bean sprouts, stir-fried shrimp, pork, fried sausage on a stick, spring onions and lettuce. Like most local foods here, condiments and fresh accompaniments matter as much as the main ingredient. You lay open the Bánh Xèo, spread all of the goodies on top, roll it up and wrap in a thin rice paper before dipping into the thick peanut sauce, consisting of peanut, hoisin sauce, chillies and pork liver. My first mouthful of Vietnam packed so much flavour that it quite literally knocked me out of my seat. I leaned over to fetch an additional order from the kitchen counter next to me and lost my balance!

A divine first meal and a good laugh set my Danang trip on the right track. Minutes later, joined by more friends. we rode to the city’s best-known site, Dragon Bridge. As far as heavy symbolism goes, there are few I know as ostentatious as this dragon-shaped bridge that breathes fire and spits water. Long a symbol of prosperity in Asia, the dragon cannot be a more perfect image for a once buoyant shipping port poised for re-awakening. Standing atop this marvel of engineering, you could see the lone skyscraper up north – Danang’s administrative centre – and other iconic bridges punctuating a resurgent city with improving infrastructure and growing confidence.

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