Da Nang, on the central coast of Vietnam, was the centre of the ancient Central Champa Kingdom, a civilization that dates back to the first century AD. The belief system of the Chams incorporates both Hindu and Buddhist views. The people have a language of their own, and the society is matrilineal, meaning that it is the women who choose their husbands. Today the minority group of Chams who remain in Vietnam today carries out the traditions of this 2,000-year-old culture.
Fortunately for the visitor, a Cham museum and many ancient Cham monuments in and around Da Nang can be seen, including the Cham Towers of the 12th century. In more recent history, the French occupied Da Nang during the 18th and 19th centuries, naming the city "Tourane", due to the shape of the bay. In 1965 when military forces arrived in Da Nang preparing for the Vietnam War, the U.S. established Air Force and Naval bases here. From here you can drive over the Pass of the Clouds, Vietnam's highest mountain passage, to the former imperial city of Hue (the ancient capital). Further afield visit Hoi An - a French colonial river town that has remained largely unchanged for centuries. Rich in history, Hoi An boasts an impressive collection of nearly 850 antique structures, including merchants' homes, pagodas, and an entire city block of colonnaded French buildings. Or explore the Five Marble Mountains, each dedicated to a different natural element (such as earth, water, or metal) where you can climb the 157 stone steps of "Water" Mountain and pass temples, statues, caves and grottoes.
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