A spectacular view across Da Nang Bay opens up as I drive towards the summit of Hai Van Pass. The pass goes over the mountains that divide Da Nang and the coastal plain to the south from Hue and the coastal plain to the north. Looking due east, Da Nang’s downtown area is hidden by low clouds just to the left of center of this image. The city, which now has close to 1.4 million people, has expanded along the south side of the bay, with urban development now extending almost to the base of the pass.
There is never snow or really cold weather in this part of the world, but there is definitely a winter season in central Vietnam. It is characterized by rain, overcast days, and the occasional damp chill with temperatures in the 60s. Laugh if you will, but when you live in a house that is completely open to the exterior environment and the temperature inside is the same as the temperature outside, a damp 65 degrees can feel pretty raw and uncomfortable when you are lounging around that house. Normally, the rainy, wintry season begins in late September or October and is over by early to mid-January. Not this year – unseasonable rain, wind, and low temperatures have been with us throughout February.
Why do people choose to build and live in a raw, undeveloped area like this, remote from the city center and almost completely lacking in amenities and services? Money. That is certainly my first guess. Land costs closer to the center of Da Nang are prohibitively high for many Vietnamese families. An area with lower land costs like this one makes home ownership affordable to people who would be hard-pressed to buy in more developed parts of the city. You can be sure the families that have built the homes pictured here expect their investments to appreciate significantly in the years to come. And this will almost certainly happen as more people move to the area and businesses serving the new residents follow in their wake.