Xin Chou ( hello in Vietnamese )
On a Thursday late in November we embarked on our little research trip to the Golf Coast of Vietnam by flying from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh city on Vietnam airlines and connecting to a flight into Danang.
The Vietnam airlines flight was a codeshare with Qantas which means that Qantas has a number of seats allocated on the flight, and if you want to accumulate frequent flyer points you need to specifically target those allocations..
We left Melbourne at 11.25am, and arrived at our hotel in Danang just after 8pm - but with a 4 hour time difference it was after midnight Melbourne time. We left the country feeling like fugitives!!!
Well, not quite - but we did take 5 million Vietnamese Dong with us ( having converted the life savings of $300AUD )
Our first real glimpse of the Vietnamese culture when we exited the airport in Ho Chi Minh city briefly and were struck by the mass of humanity before us and the noise they generated!
The accommodation for our short stay was the Hyatt Danang - located right on China Beach and only a few years old - very nice!
Friday moring we woke early and walked along the beach before sitting down to a delightful breakfast. Then we were off to play Montgomerie Links - designed - of course - by Colin Montgomerie - and voted the best course in Vietnam each year since it opened. It is now regarded as one of the best in Asia.
Please refer to the report on Montgomerie Links under course reports
After a lovely lunch at the course we headed back to the Hyatt where we sat by the beach and pool and contemplated life as a Travelling Golfer and commenced compiling our many reports. Then it was off to sample the massage and spa facilities.
Some care was taken in evaluating the cocktail menu by the pool, and later the dining facilties overlooking China Beach - we could leave no stone unturned!
Saturday morning we were again up bright and early - we were still running on Melbourne time, and were ready to go at Danang Golf Club just after 7am. Danang GC was designed by Greg Norman. Located right next door to Montgomerie Links, Danang GC shares the same sandy terrain...
Danang GC is regarded by many as one of Norman's best design efforts world wide
Please refer to the Danang GC course report
After golf we headed into the historic old town of Hoi Ahn. En route we stopped to take in the popular beachside eateries at Bang - but our guide warned us against eating here as the hygiene standards might result in upsetting our western digestive systems. Next stop was old Hoi Ahn where we lunched at a family restaurant ( Blue Gecko ) in the heart of town. After a yummy lunch we walked the old town precinct, taking in the many shops ( dominated by tailored clothing and shoe shops ). Heather got measured up for a jacket, and then we visited the main historical sites where our guide took great pleasure in educating us on the local history, customs, and beliefs...
It had been a hot day and we were weary, but we did leave with a lasting memory of Hoi Ahn and its very friendly people. And the absolute chaos of the road system where cars, pedestrians & push bikes are significantly outnumbered by the kamikaze motor bike and scooter riders - they drive anywhere haphazardly - streams of them can come two abreast against the traffic on the wrong side of divided highways!
And they all toot their horns incessantly!
We rose early again on Sunday, and drove through the city of Danang on our way north to Lang Co. Danang is the 3rd biggest city in Vietnam and a prominent port. It is also known for the marble mountains which overlook the city. To get from Danang to Lang Co we needed to negotiate the formidable Hai Van Pass. On the ourbound journey we used the relatively new tunnel under the mountains - a tunnel nearly 7kms long.
Our destination for the day was the brand new Laguna Lang Co Resort with it's Nick Faldo Course.
And what a set up!
This resort will eventually comprise 7 luxury hotels as well as the golf course and spa and other facilties. The resort is located right on a glorious beach with pride of place going to the hotels rather than the golf course.
We were given a guided tour of some of the resort- the world renowned Banyan Tree Spa, and the beach side villas which comprise the Banyan Tree Resort. We also visited the Angsana Resort next door - surrounded by swimming pools winding in all directions. Needless to say our next visit to the area will include a stay on site!
For a full report click Laguna Lang Co course
Heading back to Danang we took the long route, driving over the Hai Van (which means Ocean Cloud ) Pass, stopping at the top to admire the magnificent vistas both north and south.
Once back to China Beach we put our working hats back on and visited Fusion Maia Resort, which was located nearby to the Hyatt where we were staying. China Beach really is a gorgeous beach - and is famous for the occupation of the allied troops at war end. It is now home to a number of high end resorts.
We were very impressed with Fusion Maia - the villas with private views and beach views were impressive. And we liked the fact that 2 spa treatments per day were included in the room rate. Nice!
We can imagine many a travelling golfer enjoying staying here.
Monday was another warm sunny day for our last day in Vietnam. November is traditionally the end of the rainy season, and the lead in to the cooler months - this time last year the whole area was in flood - but we scored another mid 30's muggy day.
Now Heather loves a swim in the ocean- and China Beach is one of the top beaches - pristine flat white sand, rolling waves, and warm water - so a dip before brekkie was mandatory.
Our last assigment for the trip was to visit the historic My Son archaelogical site ( pronounced me son ). Buried in the jungle for over 500 years and then bombed by the US in the war, teams from Italy and some locals are still restoring what they can of the site. It dates from the 4th century and represents temples and holy ground for the Cham period.
My Son is a good 90 minute drive from Danang, and is an interesting drive through local villages and countryside. Our day got more entertaining when our driver was stopped by the police. Apparently corruption in the police force is still rife, and knowing the driver had international travellers on board the whole process was delayed to frustrate him. They made him move the car - with us in it - out of hearing range - and took him behind a truck so we could not see him pay to allow us to continue.
My Son was a small but interesting site and worth seeing - but I imagine it would pale into insignificance alonside Angkor Wat.
And there ended our quick research trip to Vietnam.
We will remember the friendly people, crazy road system, and quality golf, dining, accommodation and beaches.
This should be a must do for golfers and travellers alike
The Travelling Golfer can tailor golf trips to Vietnam to suit your group. For itinerary suggestions see Great Golf Destinations: Vietnam
Please enquire here: