Wide streets and leafy boulevards, a riverfront promenade, kilometres of powdery sand, a cafe on almost every corner…when it comes to Southeast Asian cities, Da Nang is one of the most surprising.
Ringed by mountains on one side and overlooking the South China Sea on the other, Da Nang offers a laidback pace of life and a refreshing sense of space.
It’s also a walkable place. The Han River separates the bulk of the city from the Son Tra Peninsula where most expats live in neighbourhoods close to the uncluttered, white-sand beaches.
When it comes to a place to set up home here you’ll be spoilt for choice. You can rent a small apartment from as little as $395 a month. Push your budget to $790 and you can settle into a beachfront villa.
Currently on offer for $460 a month is a large, bright, studio apartment, two blocks from a local market and a 10-minute walk to the beach. That includes a weekly cleaning service as well as water charges, Pay TV and internet. The only utility not covered is electricity, with monthly bills averaging around $90.
I live in a large, comfortable, studio apartment, with three walls of windows looking out onto lush, tropical trees. My landlord lives on the floor below and his wife often chases after me, her hands full of homemade desserts—warm brownies and crumbly cheesecake—for me to enjoy. The beach is a 10-minute walk away and I’m just two blocks from one of the city’s best markets. My rent is $450 a month.
But if you’re savvy, like Melbournians Sarah Tonin and Luke Sharrock, you just might find a way to wipe out your rent entirely.
The couple left Australia for Vietnam five years ago. They spent four years in Ho Chi Minh City but made regular trips to Da Nang and soon fell in love with the slower pace of life there. Last year, they made the move north, where they not only found a new home, but a new business as well.
“We loved Da Nang every time we visited, but we never found any coffee to keep us happy,” says Luke. “We decided to open a cafe here because we never found any coffee shops in Da Nang that sold our style of coffee…being fussy Melbournians about our coffee!”
Sarah and Luke settled into a large, four-bedroom home with a big, tranquil tropical garden down a quiet alley in Da Nang. They opened their cafe, Six on Six, on the ground floor and rent out upstairs rooms on Airbnb. In a good month, Luke says the money they make from the Airbnb bookings covers their rent.
The couple’s cost of living in Da Nang is about half of what it was back in Melbourne. Utilities in particular are very cheap, they pay around $5 a month for water and $197 a year for internet. Petrol is the same price as in Australia, but motorbikes are efficient and Da Nang is small, so running costs are low.
Their dining out and food expenses have also dropped significantly and although certain imported items, like Australian wine and cheeses, cost more than back home, they save in other areas. A budget dinner in a restaurant costs around $4 and their tropical garden is laden with mango and starfruit trees.
Luke and Sarah didn’t know what to expect when they first moved to Vietnam. But, as Luke says, “It turned out we love the lifestyle here—the pace of life, the beautiful tropical scenery and the spirit of the Vietnamese people we meet.”
The couple’s experience echoes what I so often hear from fellow expats here in Da Nang, they call it Vietnam’s “most liveable city”. It’s easy to see why…