This year marks the five-year anniversary of the inauguration of IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam. Danang is also the location for this year’s IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship on the weekend of May 11th & 12th, with an estimated 2,000 professional and amateur triathletes expected to converge on the city.
The event organiser is again Sunrise Events Vietnam that, according to the professional athletes who return each year, stages one of the best IRONMAN 70.3 events in the world.
Australian Tim Reed, 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and winner of this event last year, rates Danang as his “favourite cultural destination” out of all the races he participates in throughout the year.
While compatriot Aussie Tim Van Berkel, who won this race in 2017, loves coming to Danang not just to compete, but to experience one of the truly fascinating cultures of the world.
Again, Techcombank is the title sponsor of IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, and while the organisation’s sponsorship ensures a highly-professional event that attracts many of the world’s highest-ranked professional triathletes – including current IRONMAN World Champion Patrick Lange – the bank’s involvement in the Danang triathlon reflects its commitment to employee health and well-being and a desire to inculcate a sense of sportsmanship among their employees.
Techcombank’s head of marketing, Ms Nguyen Thi Van Anh, says: “We are committed to bringing Vietnamese a better life and helping them to realise their ambitions and dreams. Our highest level leaders and our employees and their children have participated in this event.”
True to her word, at an event recently held by Sunrise Events Vietnam in Saigon to mark the upcoming May 12 race, Ms Nguyen revealed that since last year’s IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, she has been in training to participate in this year’s Asia-Pacific Championship.
The IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship is expected to attract more Vietnamese participants than ever before. Last year 600 Vietnamese entered, while this year the number is forecast to reach 1,000. This event is growing in stature each year and reflects the increasing desire and financial capability of the Vietnamese population to follow a healthy and active lifestyle.
Getting There & Around
Danang has long been overlooked as a holiday destination, until now. It has always (and perhaps always will) played second fiddle to Hoi An with its Unesco World Heritage “ancient town” acclaim that draws the attention of tourists the world over.
But Danang is forcing tourists to rethink their travel itineraries. It’s blessed with the best metropolitan beaches in Vietnam, including My Khe Beach, otherwise known as China Beach to American soldiers during the war, their golden sands stretching all the way to the outskirts of Hoi An.
Depending on the time of year, there’s decent swell for surfers and lots of fun on offer for water sports enthusiasts. In fact, the surf was considered so strong on the morning of the Sunrise Sprint last year, that organisers considered calling the swim leg off before delaying the race start time.
By 2020, it’s expected that Vietnam’s third busiest airport will handle 13 million passengers a year
The Danang International Airport is one of the most conveniently located airports in Southeast Asia, meaning you can be checking in at race central at the Hyatt Regency Danang within 30 minutes of grabbing your things off the baggage carousel.
In 2011, the airport was upgraded to better handle the city’s rapidly increasing number of international arrivals. By next year, it’s expected that Vietnam’s third busiest airport will handle somewhere in the vicinity of 13 million passengers a year, up from 9 million in 2016, and just over 3 million in 2012.
Danang has become particularly popular among South Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese tourists since those markets have opened up, with reports putting the number of flights per day from South Korea at anywhere between 15 to 20, depending on the season.
Getting around Danang is far less nerve racking than it is in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and it’s arguably more picturesque, too
Getting around Danang is far less nerve racking than it is in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and it’s arguably more picturesque, too. The beautiful Han River slices through the city centre with more than seven bridges crossing over it, including Dragon Bridge, which at weekends in the evening, breathes fire and water before throngs of thrilled onlookers below.
Taxis are quite cheap and reliable, especially if you stick to companies like Mai Linh (green cars), who generally get you from point A to B with little fuss. A fare from the airport to the Hyatt Regency Danang shouldn’t cost much more than VND300,000 (approx. US$13). At the end of your fare, the driver will ask for an extra VND15,000 for the airport fee taxis drivers are required to pay to enter the zone.
Hiring a private car or van directly from the Hyatt Regency Danang is another option if you plan to stay there. Their van seats five people and carries three bikes and costs around VND1.8 million (approx. US$77) one-way or VND3.1 million (approx. US$134) return. Their car seats four people and carries one bike and costs around VND1.5 million (approx. US$63) or VND2.4 million (approx. US$103) return.
Finally, if you’re game, we recommend getting around by motorbike, that’s if you’re tired of cycling or would like to rest your legs. All the usual issues apply if you fall off or have an accident, but it’s the best way to get around by far.
Danang is quite spread out with race central at the Hyatt Regency Danang some 8km from My Khe Beach and Dragon Bridge, to give you an idea of distance. If you decide to rent a motorbike, we recommend Mango Motorbike Rentals (163 Le Quang Dao St.) who charge VND100,000 (approx. US$4.30) per day. You will need to leave some form of identification with the owner.
Where To Stay, Eat & Drink
The host venue for IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam is the Hyatt Regency Danang, a large property on the southern outskirts of Danang and well-located for athletes wanting to split their time visiting Hoi An 20km further south and Danang, less than 10km further north.
There’s plenty of accommodation available in Danang catering for all price ranges. Some reports have the number of hotel rooms in Danang in the three to five star segment at around 20,000.
One hotel we can recommend is Fusion Suites Danang Beach located at the northern end of the bike/run course right on the beach. Fusion Suites is known for its excellent service, modern but minimalist room designs, it’s all-day breakfast, rooftop lounge, amazing ocean views up and down the coast, and its amenities, including beach-side pool, spa and fitness facilities. The hotel can also assist in organising tours to nearby attractions like Ba Na Hills.
So where should you eat and drink when in Danang? Fortunately, there are plenty of places to choose from. Danang is famous for mi quang, a rice noodle dish usually consisting of shrimp, pork and/or chicken and various herbs, like basil and mint. Added for extra flavour is chili, lime, turmeric and peanuts among other things, and is accompanied by a large toasted sesame rice cracker.
There a plenty of places to try mi quang but we can recommend a couple. Mi Quang Ba Mua (40 Ngu Han Son St.) is reliable and popular among the locals, while probably our favourite at the moment is Mi Quang 1A (1A Hai Phong St.). It’s fresh, delicious, popular, and great value at around VND40,000 (approx. US$1.70) for a bowl.
Banh Mi Co Van (7 Tran Van Thanh St.) is another place we recommend to try some local banh mi. Co Van shot to fame in her local neighbourhood a block from the Pullman Danang Beach Resort after she served chef Luke Nguyen and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull lunch when they popped by her stand during a break in APEC proceedings back in 2017.
Along the same street try some bun bo at Co Nga (1 Tranh Van Thanh St.). This dish is typically associated with the city of Hue, however, most parts of Vietnam have their own versions. Co Nga’s version is great value and it’s a tasty way kick off your day. Order a freshly squeezed orange juice (nuoc cam) delivered to your table from across the street.
Another great place to eat is at the Con Market (269 Ong Ich Khiem St.) where you can try all sorts of tasty delights, including snails.
Danang has quite an emerging international food scene as well. We recommend the following places.
7 Bridges Brewing Co.
Danang’s only homegrown craft beer brewery, 7 Bridges Brewing Co. has grown from a 30-litre home garage pipe-dream into a fully-fledged brewing facility with city centre taproom and growing distribution across Vietnam in under two years. Their Hanoi taproom has just opened.
Aside from the great beer, try Vietnam’s only ‘pho pizza’ that smells and tastes like a real bowl of pho bo. The base is made with yeast from their brewing process. Wash it down with their gold medal winning Imperial IPA (9% ABV).
7 Bridges Brewing Co. is at 493 Tran Hung Dao Street, Danang
Think roadhouse slash machinery shed slash hoedown venue and you’ve just about got the feel of the place right there. The menu is all about rolling your sleeves up and digging in with your hands (hence, the name Dirty Fingers). Whatever you can eat with them (just about anything) is on the menu at great prices.
Pig out on chicken wings, nachos, tacos, chips and dips, or go for something more substantial with a burger, steak sandwich or cajun pork sausage sandwich. For the big boys there are “Big Man” platters with wings, ribs and more ribs, and a mixed meat platter with just about every farm animal you can imagine featured.
Dirty Fingers is at 404 Vo Nguyen Giap Street, Danang
Waterfront Restaurant & Bar
Waterfront has one of the best restaurant locations in the city centre overlooking the Han River. It’s been open since 2010 and is without doubt one of the premier eating and drinking places in Danang.
At ground level you can walk straight in off the street and find a spot at the bar or at one of the many tables inside, while upstairs it’s much of a similar thing but offers both indoor and outdoor seating with elevated views across the river.
Waterfront Restaurant & Bar is at 150 Bach Dang Street, Danang
Located on the top floor of Fusion Suites Danang Beach right on the water with panoramic views of the ocean and beachside “strip”, Zen Club offers breakfast (any time), daily afternoon tea and free-flow cocktails and beer for an extra US$20 (approx. VND470,000) per night for guests staying at the resort.
The food and the service is great, and coupled with the exclusivity of the Club, this place makes you feel just that little bit extra special. Plus, it’s nice to know there’s somewhere relaxing back at your hotel to chill after spending the day exploring Danang.
Fusion Suites Danang Beach is at An Cu 5 Residential, Vo Nguyen Giap Street, Danang
The burgers are serious business here. They offer five kinds of patties, eight kinds of homemade sauces, five kinds of cheese and six different side dishes all homemade and fresh, served up in a quaint establishment that perhaps is best described as more of a cantina than a traditional burger cafe. There’s also a small open-air bar out back which is perfect for a sneaky drink away from others.
A collaboration between a local and her French partner, Burger Republic is located away from the beach side of town, just a couple of blocks from Bach Dang Street on the river and minutes from Dragon Bridge.
Burger Republic is at 33 Hoang Van Thu Street, Danang
Fat Fish Restaurant & Lounge
Fat Fish Restaurant & Lounge is an impressive multi-story venue located right opposite the Han River that runs through the centre of the city. On the restaurant scene in Danang since 2015, Fat Fish follows a simple concept of using fresh, quality ingredients prepared with passion.
Appetisers include items like tomato soup, cold cuts, cheese, and flatbreads, while the mains menu includes, among other items, pan-seared duck breast, mahi mahi fillet, pork loin, chicken breast and beef striploin. They also have signature pizzas served up with some of Vietnam’s finest craft beers and some of the city’s tastiest cocktails.
Fat Fish is at 439 Tran Hung Dao Street, Danang
Luna Pub nails it for just about everything – great pizza and pasta, service and venue which automatically makes it great value for money. You can’t help but get swept up in the vibe of this place when you walk in.
Luna Pub is in a great location near the centre of town not far from the river, the service is fast and efficient with no confusion over bills and they offer an extensive menu of pizzas, pastas and everything else you would expect from an Italian restaurant. The only warning we have for you about this place is their metre-long shot trays. Look out for them, they’re killers!
Luna Pub is at 9A Tran Phu Street, Danang
Why Roastery is a chilled little cafe on the corner of a quiet street not too far from the beach. It’s a little tricky to find but well worth getting lost for. It’s the type of place serious coffee drinkers come for some peace and quiet and to catch up on some work away from the hustle.
A well-made latte here will set you back VND45,000. All-in-all, Why Roastery is totally recommended. It’s a great place to while away the stinging heat in the middle of the day during the hotter months while you plan your next move for the day.
Why Roastery is at 64 Ung Van Khiem Street, Danang
Puna Coffee & Cake
Puna Coffee & Cake is new on the block since our last visit to Danang. Situated just a few blocks from the beach and the bike/run course for IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam, Puna Coffee & Cake has quickly built itself a reputation for some of the best coffee in town.
Since one of our favourite coffee shops Goldstar Coffee recently shut down indefinitely, Puna Coffee & Cake has taken up the slack and stocks great local Vietnamese coffee, including Lao and African varieties.
Puna Coffee & Cake is at 23 An Thuong 10, Danang
Located just a few blocks from the beach in an up-and-coming area for bars and restaurants in Danang, 43 Factory is a two-story, architecturally-designed cafe and coffee roaster.
There’s plenty of Vietnamese coffee on offer, but 43 Factory stands out with its Central and South American beans – Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras – as well as African varieties from Kenya, Congo and Ethiopia.
43 Factory is at 419 – 422 Ngo Thi Si Street, Danang
Olivia’s Prime Steakhouse
Olivia’s has more steak than you can poke with a cattle prod, and it’s good, very good. Their signature menu includes Australian Black Angus and USDA beef, ranging in price from VND695,000 (US$30) for a 300g USDA rib eye up to VND2,860,000 (US$124) for a 1.3kg Aussie Black Angus Tomahawk.
The location is a treat too, on the Han River in the centre of town close to Dragon Bridge and a few doors along from 7 Bridges Brewing Co. If you’re wanting to “protein up” before or after the big race, this is your place.
Olivia’s Prime Steakhouse is at 505 Tran Hung Dao St., Danang
The Fruit Empire
The Fruit Empire only recently launched in Danang, quickly growing from a small home-delivery business to now having its own small shop. The Fruit Empire makes signature 100% fruit and all-natural ingredient smoothies, juices and shakes. They also allow you to concoct your own drink according to your specific dietary and nutritional needs.
Their brand new shop is located not far from the beach and close to the IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam bike/run course making it super convenient if you’re looking to stay on track with your health and fitness goals. They also have their own healthy and tasty granola Hardy Har Bars in case you need to eat on the go.
The Fruit Empire is at 15A An Thuong 10, Danang
IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam Course Review
This year marks the fifth anniversary of IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam and what a way to celebrate with winning the right to hold the Asia-Pacific Championship in Danang.
More than 2,000 amateur and professional triathletes are expected to descend on Danang for May 11 & 12 for what should be an amazing carnival atmosphere like never before for this event.
In order to bring you this course review, we asked three-time Australian Champion, two-time IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Champion, 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam Winner Tim Reed to answer a few questions about the Danang course.
SWIM 1.9km (one loop – rectangle)
The first buoy and turn to the left is just 300m from the beach, meaning things can get a little congested at that first turn. Generally, however, the swim is regarded as straight forward, but keep in mind there are six turns to negotiate.
Water temperatures are as you would expect in Danang during May (around 21C). Typically, swells are moderate for experienced swimmers, however, last year the surf was big enough (one metre) for the organisers to consider calling the swim leg off for both the Sunrise Sprint (Saturday) and main event (Sunday).
In the end, both swim legs went ahead with close to half the field in the Sunrise Sprint either not finishing or being pulled from the surf. Therefore, be prepared for swells and plenty of white water close to shore before much calmer water out the back. Note that the run out of the water to the bike transition area is approximately 300m, so keep that in mind.
B: Are there any characteristics about the swim course unique to this event?
TR: Like most ocean swims there’s a small current. I’d take the time to swim on the course the morning before to note the current and where you will have to work a little harder and where you can slow your stroke rate and relax a little more.
B: Would you call it a “fast” or “slow” swim course?
TR: I think it can be fun! A little swell really spices things ups nicely, although last year’s swell was quite unusual, I believe. I think the salt water tends to make the swim relatively fast. I would consider it a moderately fast swim, especially if the conditions are calm.
B: Any tips for the transition from swim to bike for this course?
TR: A lot of people like to really come home hard over the final 100m of the swim. The time benefit is minimal but the physical cost to do this is significant and really not worth it. Relax over the final 100m and get ready to stand up and run. Similar to pushing the final 100m of the swim, there’s no real need to sprint the transition as your heart rate will already be really high switching between disciplines and the goal is as even an output as you can sustain to make for a very strong finish on the run. Mentally run through your head what you need to do prior to getting to your bike so that it’s a smooth process.
BIKE 90km (two loops)
The bike course is described by the organisers as “a scenic two-loop 90km bike course on smooth, well-paved roads that runs along Danang’s pristine coastline and past some of the city’s key landmarks.”
Apart from the major bridge crossing before the turnaround on each loop, the bike course is flat, but gets windy as the day goes on and conditions get hotter. For many amateur triathletes, they will find the going tough due to little shade along the course, particularly from the 10km mark and onwards. Although, during our recent visit in March, trees along the route are providing more shade than last year.
B: Describe the bike course in general.
TR: It’s a flat course. It can be windy, especially on the final 30-40kms, but typically nothing too stressful. It’s a fast course with the heat and humidity being the slowing factors more than the terrain or road surface, which is flat and smooth.
B: What’s a good strategy for attacking the bike course?
TR: A good strategy for attacking the bike course is not to attack the bike course. As in, minimise surges and time well above goal effort, speed or power. Ideally, athletes should aim to target a HR or power 10-25bpm/10-60 watts below their lactate threshold or functional training threshold. With the fitter athletes targeting closer to threshold and the less trained closer to the lower end of the range described above.
B: Does the bike course favour any particular type of rider?
TR: The course would tend to favour heavier more muscular riders due to the lack of hills, however, the heat is not so suitable for these riders, so it evens out as somewhat equally suitable for bigger or smaller riders.
RUN 21km (out-and-back)
The run course is flat, smooth and hot…damn hot. Runners follow Danang’s beautiful coastline north to south. By the time most amateur athletes hit the run leg, the sun will be high, the wind most likely up and temperatures soaring to around 35C in the shade.
As for shade, there isn’t a great deal of it, although our recent visit to Danang indicated that there may be more shade this year at the southern end of the course, but at the northern end you’ll definitely still be out in the elements.
There are plenty of aid stations on the course, so it goes without saying to use them. The finish line is situated down on the sand just along from the swim start in front of the Hyatt Regency Danang.
B: What makes the run challenging compared to other courses you’ve run?
TR: The heat and humidity for sure. It’s a real mental battle to keep your pace in check early, slow to an adequate speed at the aid stations to keep cool and hydrated so that in the final 5-10kms of the run you’re still moving well.
B: Is there a section in the run that sorts people out and requires them to dig deep?
TR: I think 9-10kms just before the turn around point because you’re already starting to really suffer and there’s a whole half of the run still to go! It’s really important to keep the mind neutral at this point and simply focus on getting to the next aid station. Try not to think too far beyond that.
B: How are the conditions generally?
TR: Hot and humid!
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