Central Vietnam, with its cities of Da Nang (sometimes spelled Danang) and Hue, offers visitors history, culture and food that are quite distinct from North or South Vietnam. Much of this area was hard hit by the Vietnam War, and rebuilding continues, with the government adding infrastructure to shorten travel times to and from major attractions. Its natural beauty, broad beaches, upscale resorts and friendly residents are making this a major destination for travelers from around the world.
Located midway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the port city of Da Nang is Vietnam's third largest city and the largest city of Central Vietnam. Established in the second century, it was once the center of the India-influenced Champa Kingdom and is home to the world's largest collection of Cham art and artifacts. The city is best known for its role in the Vietnam War when it was the site of a major U.S. air base, and it is featured prominently in both the TV show "China Beach" and movie "Good Morning Vietnam." Since the end of the "American War," as residents call it, in 1975, Da Nang has prospered as a commercial center, its downtown bustling with markets and motorbike traffic.
About 65 miles north of Da Nang is Hue. This UNESCO World Heritage Site bisected by the Perfume River was the capital of Vietnam from the 17th century until 1945. Much of its ancient Forbidden Purple City was heavily damaged during the Vietnam War's bitter Tet Offensive in 1968. Restoration is ongoing to enhance the city's growing appeal as a resort and tourist destination.
One popular stop between the two cities is China Beach where American troupes enjoyed sand, surf and recreation during the war. Helicopter hangers and bunkers can still be seen nearby. South of Da Nang is the charming historic town of Hoi An. Some call this UNESCO World Heritage Site touristy, but that's because visitors love its mix of galleries, upscale shops and cafes.