By Cheang Kaiwen
The start of summer saw me venturing to Da Nang, Vietnam, for an eighteen-day stay with my peers from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Most of the trip centred on a project that we were working on, but while we were at it, we had ample time to explore roads less ventured and food seldom devoured. Armed with both a digital and a film camera, here are some of the highlights of this magical place.
Temple Gods (Film.)
Temples and nunneries dot the streets of Da Nang; nearly every street had one nestled among the houses. These places of worship varied in size; there was a fair share of both large temples with elaborate architecture and smaller (possibly family-owned) ones that were a lot smaller and simpler. These smaller temples, however, did not lose out on its importance to the locals. While possibly tougher for the typical tourist to spot – as they blend in very naturally with the quaint houses flanking its sides – locals still flock to these temples at any time of the day to offer their prayers.
As The Gates Pulled Apart (Digital.)
Railway lines plough through the Da Nang landscape. Hearing the metal carriages rattle past occasionally was a rather interesting experience. As a group of us ventured along the busy streets of Da Nang, we came to a halt as motorcycles and lorries lined the street. Needless to say, the kaypoh and kiasu blood in us saw our feet shuffling past these vehicles, landing us right at the front of them all. The gates preventing traffic from passing over the railway tracks were drawn closed as a train passed mere metres away from us. The tunnel of wind it brought with it was exhilarating. This picture was taken the moment the gates were pulled apart. Though barely open, throngs of vehicles squeezed their way through the tiny opening. Rushing for time? Or maybe, just maybe, some sort of kiasu-ness too.
Coffee, Tea, Or More Coffee (Digital.)
Coffee production has been a major source of income for Vietnam. A visit to Vietnam cannot be quite complete without a cup of cà phê đá (iced coffee). Made with a traditional recipe, locals frequent the numerous coffee houses by the road for a cuppa anytime of the day. A cup of iced tea is usually served before the coffee is brought to the table. For reasons I’m not yet sure of, this cup of tea seems to be a mainstay for most shops. Cà phê đá was not only strong and rather potent, but also extremely refreshing, especially under the sweltering Vietnam sun. Locals and tourists alike visit these coffeehouses as if visiting a Starbucks outlet, just that cà phê đá was cheaper, better, and traditional.
Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg? (Digital.)
Something similar to balut (half-developed duck eggs), this was a half-developed quail egg that was served as an appetizer for one of the dinners we had at a coffee-shop. It was my first time trying something so unusual and somewhat exotic. Getting past the psychological barrier was the toughest part. There was an overwhelming uncertainty of how it would taste like, or whether your stomach would reject it. Once I was past that and had the egg in my mouth, I was surprised to find myself savouring the taste of egg yolk and chicken meat, and tasted best when dipped lightly in a special dish of salt provided.
Childhood Laughter (Film.)
29/3 Park, Da Nang’s main recreation park, was named after the 29th of March, also known as Veterans’ Day for the Vietnamese. Apart from a huge lake in the middle of the park, the sprawling compound also houses a mini zoo and a mini amusement park. The rides found in the park were very much like those we would find in a local pasar malam (night market). What made these rides different was the fact that they were of a much larger scale, and were a lot more exhilarating. One such ride was a two-seater Viking-like ride. Seated directly opposite a friend, the carriages steadily gained speed as it travelled up and down its cradle. At the highest point, time would seem to stop for a split second, and a scenic view of the 29/3 Park will greet you. It was definitely a great way to make you feel like a kid all over again.
Sunsets (Digital & Film.)
Da Nang showed me the prettiest sunsets. It was a joy to watch the sky every single evening as the sun disappeared behind mountains, then beneath the sea. Every evening, the sky was painted a brilliant deep orange (and sometimes, on lucky days, a bright beautiful pink). It was one thing that made Da Nang magical – sitting by the beach with a cup of sugarcane juice, and taking in the beauty unfolding in front of your eyes.
The sun will set on all the trips we’ve been on, but on this trip, this very act of closure at the end of the day made everything so much more magical.