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.
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.
The clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped about four days ago. At this time of year, gray, flat, overcast weather like this can last for days at a time, with or without rain. The temperature hovers just above 70 in the day and drops into the 60s at night. For Vietnamese used to nine months or so of hot, mostly sunny days, it feels downright cold. Yesterday, blustery 20 to 30mph winds made it feel pretty chilly out at the beach. This is looking north across Da Nang Bay at the mountains that separate Da Nang from Hue about 80km to the north. The Hai Van Pass that goes over the mountains is covered by clouds.
A couple of weeks ago, on Dec 3 to be exact, the rain stopped and some pale sunlight peeked through the overcast briefly. I immediately walked out of the house to get a bit of exercise and some relief from cabin fever. The Han River is muddy and swollen in this photo. It has been raining for much of the two weeks since then.
Da Nang was hit on Monday with a tropical storm that dumped a huge amount of rain on the city. The rain began around 7:30 in the morning and continued all day, torrential much of the time. Apparently, there was flooding in parts of the city, though not around where I live. Tuesday morning, it was overcast but not raining so I ventured out in search of food. The Han River, usually a flat gray with hints of blue or green depending on the light, was swollen with runoff and silt from the storm and had turned a muddy reddish brown. The water’s color makes an interesting contrast to the overcast gray sky. There was no rain Tuesday until evening, at which point the sky opened and water poured down in sheets. Water accumulated quickly on the deck upstairs from me, and eventually started dripping down the wall of my living room. Repairs were undertaken Wednesday and the drainage system on the deck was improved. The verdict on the improvements awaits the next time it rains.