Photography by Dennis Phan





Cinema  A Bridge Too Far

 ( Stars: Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, Michael Caine )




Our cruise ship stopped at Da Nang/Hue after Ha Long Bay. This is an emotional day for my wife coming back to her home town after 42 years!


The ship docked at Chan May, a port situates midway between Hue and Da Nang. We got off the ship and walked to the port gate to get a better taxi deal. We had lot of choices since there are more cars than customers. We had a pretty good idea of how much to pay from a friend who had cruised the similar route so we settled for a sedan with driver for the whole day quickly. We didn't want to share the car with others to maximize our flexibility of when and where we want to go.


Our first stop was my wife home and the Pacific Hotel her parents built in 1973. The government converted a portion of her home to a bank. The other portion is used as a travel agency. When we were there, the bank closed for lunch so we couldn't see the inside. The Pacific Hotel still stands  strong after 46 years! The government keeps the hotel in decent shape to compete with the  surroundings competitors. Da Nang is one of the top tourist cities in Vietnam nowadays. We saw lots of hotels and motels throughout the city. We walked inside the hotel lobby for a closer look.  Having a look at my parents-in-law business for the first time, I realize the scale of their businessback in the 70's. It's not easy to build such a big scale business anytime, anywhere. I salute their business mind. Too bad it lasted only 2 short years up to 1975. I felt my mother-in-law feeling when she refused to go back to Da Nang when we offered her the trip back in 1994. It's really hard for her to see her hotel but can't claim it back! We also walked around the immediate neighborhood for a look at local life. We saw lots of mom and pop restaurants and stores. The streets looked so big when we were there in the 70's now suddenly look so narrow! After living in the USA for almost 40 years, the lifestyle in Vietnam is suddenly so crowded and noisy. The streets and the lifestyle haven't changed, only our perception does.


Before the trip, we got 2 tips for local street food and we tried them all. The first stop was Banh  Xeo Ba Duong in an alley. The restaurant gets its name from the owner. It would be hard to find if we didn't get the tip. After we found the restaurant and sat down, we naturally waited for the menu. To our surprise, the waiter simply asked us how many people in our party and brought us the food. It turned out they served their signature dishes which are banh xeo and grilled pork first. If we wanted something else besides those two dishes, then they would offer the menu. The restaurant must be well known to locals and tourists alike since we saw different walks of life dining there. The price was reasonable. We had banh xeo, grilled pork and fresh coconut for two for a bit less than $9 USD. The vegetable looked fresh so I ate it, an act I didn't dare to do during my first trip to Vietnam in 1994.


Our second stop for the street food was banh nam, a specialty of Hue food. This is a small shop  with no formal tables and chairs. It only has small stools and tiny tables serving 12 people max. Again, no menu needed. They simply brought us food without asking 'cause they served limited Hue style food there. We had a good, decent meal for two for less than $4 USD. If we eat authentic food and don't mind the restaurant environment, food cost shouldn't be expensive in Vietnam. We also tried to visit a beef steak restaurant owned and operated by my wife childhood neighbor. They were out of town so we didn't have a chance to see them.


After satisfying our tummy, we did sightseeing. We stopped at Con Market known for local and  Han Market known for tourist. My wife went to those markets with her mom when she was a kid. She still remembered some of the layouts and designs. We tried che dau van, a typical Vietnamese hot dessert, at Con Market for $0.50 USD. We also bought tropical fruits there. Han Market is mostly for tourist. We just walked around and didn't buy anything. Next to Han Market is the Dragon Bridge which wasn't there in the 70's. We also stopped by My Khe Beach before heading back to our cruise ship getting ready for our next stop: Nha Trang.





Dennis Phan   潘家墉

Khai Minh, UCLA and Investools Alumni

Los Angeles, 17 May 2019


















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