Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sweet Danang

People ask me all the time, "What's so special about Vietnam?"

I suppose it's natural to wonder why a backwards little country on the far side of the Pacific has swallowed up my third-born daughter for the past three years. 

I'll admit that at first, I didn't get it either.

But once I flew across the ocean, wiped the transcontinental sleep from my eyes, and took in the sweet city of Danang, I totally understood. 

These scenes from this year's trip - my third - to my daughter's adopted hometown might help you understand too.

^ Coffee shops everywhere. A western phenomenon filtered through Asian sensibilities, these places never fail to delight me with their chic aesthetic and knack for interesting details. I downed a glass of an icy cold blended winter melon here and, between that amazing drink and these concrete and geometric tile floors, felt utterly refreshed inside and out.

^ Obviously, Vietnam does Vietnamese food well. But Danang restauranteurs have a keen sense for preparing Western food with a twist. Example: at Burger Bros, this conventionally delicious cheeseburger came with a side of eye-poppingly tangy slaw, and the combination was pure delight.

^ Is it the terra cotta tiles around the archway, the blooming vine, the ubiquitous cluster of motor bikes or even the standard blue address tile that charms the socks right off my feet? I don't know but every darling detail of this street scene is classic Danang.

^ Blended drinks are quite the rage here, and as a non-coffee drinker, I take advantage of the full range of options. Also, as a sun-starved Seattlite, I can't get over the fact that in Danang, you need your sunglasses every single day.

^ Sudden rainstorms blow in, just as they do in many tropical cities. But only in Danang have I tucked my rain-drenched poncho into the seat of my motor bike and taken refuge in a cozy coffee house to watch the rain pound down on the Han River while I wait out the storm.

^ It's my good fortune to visit Danang not as a tourist but as a guest of the Vietnamese people. Through my daughter, I've met many of her high-school and college-age students. They adore her and they readily embrace me too. Neither jaded against the west or overly timid around foreigners, the good people of Danang just want to be friends.

^ And that is the sweetest thing about Danang of all.

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