After 8 days of steady rain day after day, early risers in Da Nang – pretty much everybody – the Vietnamese get started very early – were greeted by this magnificent sight three mornings ago. It’s 6:30 in the morning and the sun is just making its way above the horizon on almost the shortest day of the year (17 December). Friends further north in places that have real winters may be thinking that 6:30 is still pretty early for a December sunrise. You have to keep in mind that Da Nang is located at 16° N latitude, already about 7° south of the Tropic of Cancer. There is not a huge difference between the lengths of the longest and shortest days of the year. Certainly nothing like I was used to living most of my life in places like Boston, Denver, and Beijing.
Be all that as it may, this sunny start to the day was definitely a false one – by early afternoon it was pouring rain again. Things finally cleared up on the 18th and it has been nice for a couple of days since then. Alas, more rain is in the forecast. It is that time of year.
Chùa Bửu Đài Sơn, pictured here, serves as a useful reminder that the swastika is a religious symbol with a long and honorable history. In Buddhism the swastika symbolizes, among other things, the auspicious footprints of the Buddha. It also is an auspicious sign representing good fortune in Hinduism and other Eurasian religions.
The swastika’s modern history is rather less distinguished. It was co-opted by German Nazis in the 1930s and lives on today as an emblem of neo-Nazi vermin in the United States and elsewhere.
Another view of Cầu Nguyễn Văn Trỗi, this one late in the afternoon on a balmy day in early March. People are out walking, chatting, taking photos, and maybe throwing a fishing line into the river. The previous photo was looking west towards the city of Da Nang, while this view is looking east. The beach and the East Sea are a couple of kilometers from here.
This bridge, now called Cầu Nguyễn Văn Trỗi, was built by an American company in 1965, apparently to serve the US war effort in Vietnam. It connects the downtown urban core of Da Nang with the narrow strip of land that runs between the Han River and the beach area to the east of downtown. One source I saw says there was a wooden bridge across the river in this spot built during the French colonial era. In any case the bridge shown in the photo was the first steel structure traffic bridge crossing the river. A local friend remembers crossing the river in a ferry during these years. She also notes that the beach side of the river was mostly farmland at the time. Today it is built up with residential areas, markets and commercial areas for local businesses, as well as lots of hotels and businesses catering to tourists.
More and bigger bridges were built across the river and at some point this bridge was closed to traffic. When the last of the newer bridges, Cầu Trần Thị Lý (pictured to the right in the photo), was completed in 2013, the bridge was restored as a pedestrian walkway. It is indeed a great place for walking with a wonderful view of the river and the city.
Nguyễn Văn Trỗi is the name of a war hero who fought for the North and was born in this part of Vietnam. Lots of Da Nang streets and public places are named after military and political leaders who sided with the North, a reminder that the winners get to shape the history of a place.
When I pulled away from my apartment at around 5:00 in the afternoon yesterday, the light did not look too promising. How wrong I was. This was taken from the Cầu Thuận Phước, the big bridge at the mouth of the Han River where it empties into Da Nang Bay. The sun was going down over the Hai Van Pass that divides Da Nang from Hue and other points north. Quite a few people were stopped taking photos. You slow down in the middle of the bridge, pull your motorbike to the side of the road, get off, step up to the railing, take the photos and then go. Actually, I was headed the wrong way for shooting this view and had to flip a u-turn in the middle of the bridge to get at the photo op. When in Rome… Anyway, the bridge has a sidewalk on both sides of the road and the railings are not too high. It was squalling intermittently and the rain brought a significant drop in temperature to go with the great clouds and light.