Some practical advice on avoiding frustration at the International Fireworks Festival in Da Nang
ireworks explode over the Han River during the Da Nang International FireWorks Festival in 2009
No one says the display at the International Fireworks Festival in Da Nang, soon to celebrate its fifth edition, is not spectacular.
But that cannot be said of getting to enjoy them fully. Many people have reported that their great expectations were belied by the hassle of getting a vantage point from which to watch the displays.
Experienced visitors say switching spots to have different views of the firework displays and not choosing hotels too close to the performances are among several things to keep in mind when attending the annual Da Nang International Fireworks Festival.
This year, the festival will not be a competition as in the four previous editions, but a compilation of performances by the host team and previous winners Canada (2008), China (2009), France (2010) and Italy (2011).
The fireworks will explode over the Han River on April 29 and 30, the Vietnam Reunification Day, instead of during the commemoration of Da Nang Liberation Day, March 29.
There are tickets for 25,000 seats worth VND200,000-300,000 a night at the official stage for the festival, but half of them are reserved for guests, so there's never enough space.
Visitors should rather become locals to find a good spot among many other options in the city.
As there are 15-minute breaks between each performance that will be held on two nights, visitors are recommended to choose at least two different spots to get alternative views of the fireworks with different landscapes as the background.
There are many good spots on bridges across the Han River, with favorite ones being the Han and Thuan Phuoc Bridges, according to advice carried in a recent report by the The Thao & Van Hoa (Culture & Sports) newspaper.
From the Han Bridge, fireworks are seen as "resting on the estuary," the report says. From Thuan Phuoc, a higher bridge and the last one before the river joins the sea, visitors can see the fireworks blossoming above the city lights.
Fireworks would emerge from the water when visitors stand close to the river bank, which would be a hard spot to get and one would have to arrive hours before the performance. But if one has the luxury of time, it costs less than a dollar to hire a plastic stool.
Visitors can also take a boat along the Han River for a more romantic enjoyment of the fireworks. They can ask around fishing villages on Tran Hung Dao Street to hire some boats and boatmen.
But the service, which costs between VND200,000-500,000 (US$24) a person, is not reliable as far as some of the safety precautions like life jackets are concerned.
People can also enjoy a drink and listen to music while watching the fireworks at Memory Café near Han Bridge or the Green View building over 20 stories high on Bach Dang Street, for VND300,000-400,000 a person.
Those who want to avoid the crowd can ride motorbikes to the Son Tra Mountain near the city. The road up to the top of the mountain has been expanded recently from a military road and people can choose their own spot or stop en route at the Da Nang View café.
The good news, according to those who have attended the festival several times, is that it is quite easy to find a good spot to view the fireworks in Da Nang, as the city is not so crowded as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, and does not have as many high rise buildings dotting the skyline to obstruct the view.
Too close for comfort
Hotels that are located nearer to the firework performances such as those on Bach Dang, Tran Hung Dao, Dong Da and Ba Thang Hai streets are more likely to overcharge customers.
It's not worth it anyway.
Not all hotels near the performances can offer a good view of the fireworks, and it would hard to leave one's room or come back to the crowded area.
There're hotels around four to six kilometers from the Han River, which would be good enough at prices around VND500,000 a room for two during the festival.
Other advice contained in the report are not to drink too much before the performance as there are few public toilets around, and not to carry unnecessary cash or jewelry because large crowds always attract thieves.
One should also think carefully when planning to travel to nearby attractions in the morning, since traffic jams and other obstacles can prevent one from returning in time for the fireworks at night.
Destinations like Hoi An, Lang Co Beach and Ngu Hanh Son the five top mountain representing the five elements are only around 7-30 kilometers from Da Nang, but the crowds that gather during the holiday clog streets and can lead to unexpected delays.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most carriers in Vietnam operate in Da Nang, with six daily flights by Vietnam Airlines, three by budget airlines like Jetstar and VietJetAir, and the private Air Mekong.
A train journey from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang takes 15 hours.
Interested persons can also go on tours that are organized during this time of year. The tours not only cover Da Nang and the firework festival, but other attractions in central Vietnam including the UNESCO heritage towns of Hue and Hoi An, as well as the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park that includes the world's largest and most beautiful caves.
Tour operators in Ho Chi Minh City, like Vietravel, TST Tourist and Saigontourist are offering three to five day tours departing from April 27 at prices ranging between VND7,590,000 ($365) and VND10,290,000 ($494) a person.