As the days go by in Da Nang and I wander the city, the same thoughts as so many times before when doing the same come across. I used to evaluate each city that I took walks in when I was on my twice a year vacation. I was lucky my last few years to see San Diego and Vancouver BC. I would go back to Vancouver again because it has this certain elegance and beauty. The city and the False Creek and the parts combine to make more than the whole. I wandered there for 3 days or so and got to see different districts like Gastown and north to Stanley Park. Walking there was a joy. The city is so well managed it seems to me that pedestrian tourism flourishes with the the way the city was designed. Blocks and squares and easy to remember landmarks.
Now in Da Nang, I face the same thing. I will have wandered here for almost 30 days and have done the things I wanted save the Marble Mountains and one more museum. I will likely do Marble Mountains next week and do the museum on Friday this week and return to have another of those great American breakfasts at the Healthy Heart Restaurant here. The museum is just past the restaurant so its an easy reach.
I have been adding in photographs to my Da Nang album and would like to provide the link about right here for how Da Nang looks to me. In a word, the city is beautiful! During the daytime, get this! Traffic stops at red lights. Even motorbikes. I was amazed when they all just stopped when I had the crosswalk. Very cool. Walking the city you get to see the touristy areas and then soon you are out of that and you see small shops, side streets with beauty salons, and nail parlors all waiting patiently for the neighbors to get their day started.
Farther you get to quiet residential streets with beautiful wrought iron gates and little parks where kids run and say “hello” as I walk by. Older people wave and smile and nod. Young Vietnamese girls and boy will smile and laugh and I hear the hello’s echoing down the street as I go. Sometimes a businessman will walk with me and with pretty good English ask where I am from, if I am on a working vacation, or what has brought me to his city.
So the last question is the big one. What did bring me to Da Nang? I think the same things that have taken me to Seattle and Portland and Tokyo. Its the people, the city, the terrain and the taste of the city. Each city has this particular feel to it and as you walk them you somehow get attuned to it. Da Nang is no different. It has a taste and wonder that sometimes lay hidden around a corner. Maybe the camera will capture it and let others see a moment of majestic mystery.
Lets face it, traveling through cities and their parks and memorials and skyscrapers and lakes and rivers; you see the life blood of a city sometimes. Its not those things though. Its the people. And the people of Vietnam have a rich and wonderful outlook on life. Meeting them is always fun whether its in a bar or a park. They are genuinely interested as to what brings you to Da Nang.
So me having the same question of course is relevant. What does bring an enterprising old retired guy to a city? What am I, this old wanderer and vagabond, looking for through the camera lens and the talk and the eyes?
I think its both simple and complex. Its the touch of the morning air and the laughter of children. The zoom of the motorbikes and slower ebb and flow of people making their way to coffee shops. You see. In the end its not the museums or buildings. Its the people. I enter and leave though and then move farther and the city becomes important a lesser level for more personal reasons. Is not just a city to cross off the list. Its a passion and feeling of walking each day. Knowing I will never see it all or even the major part of it. All of the cities of Vietnam never yielded their secrets even though I walked the beautiful big blocks of Hanoi that a lot of 5 day tourists don’t know about. No, the secrets are still safe with the cities and I decide whether I should ever come back. Some cities I quietly say “no”. I would not go back to San Diego. I would go back to Kyoto. I would see Ho Chi Minh City more than twice again and most likely I will.
So, here we have a wonderful city by the sea and river that has a warm climate and wonderful restaurants and great bars. Places where locals and the travelers gather. It has the ingredients that make it more. There is a keen zest for living and I have thought people here are proud of their city.
Now as I have a week left, I’ll wander a bit more and see a few more streets and know that down one of the alleys is that mystery that will never unfold. If you can, be a walker of cities sometime. They unfold and become real and yet mysteries before your eyes.
Well worth the effort I think!