Sitting on the central coastline of Vietnam - an hour's flight from both the political capital of Ha Noi and the overcrowded economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City (Sai Gon) - Da Nang is a metropolis on the rise. Thanks to its relatively newfound economic prowess, some people have started referring to this port city as one of Asia's economic dragons.  As you will see shortly, this nickname is certainly not lost on Da Nang's urban planners.   

The very definition of an Asian boomtown, Da Nang has changed from a backwater harbor to a metropolis featuring high-rise hotels, expensive real estate, palatial beachside resorts, a beautifully designed airport, and one of the world's most unique bridges.

The metro area, which is home to more than a million people, is divided by the Han River. Two bridges now connect the city's downtown and airport with the main beach and resort area (there are six bridges over the Han in all). Both of the urban spans are lit up brightly at night, but the newer of the pair has a little bit more light, thanks to the fire-breathing dragon that sits just above its roadway.  

Dragon bridge

The aptly-named Dragon Bridge (it's called Cầu Rồng in Vietnamese) feature a snake-like dragon that seems to be slithering along the six-lane roadway. Opened in early 2013, the Dragon Bridge has 2,500 LED lights provided by Phillips. The bridge was designed by American architecture firm The Louis Berger Group. Berger's design also included a wide riverfront plaza that stretches along the banks of the Han.    

Each night at about 9 p.m., people gather in this plaza and line the sides of the bridge  to watch the dragon's head spout fire and water while various-colored LED lights illuminate the dragon's head and body. The gas-powered flame and the spout of water are each given their own three-minute "show." 

Da Nang's original Han River Bridge is also illuminated by LED lights, but it lacks the circus-like appeal of its newer sister.  But if you stay up late enough, this older span will also provide you with a spectacular show. The bridge was designed so that its massive deck could swing 180 degrees. In the middle of the night, it does just that to allow ships from the busy harbor to move upriver. 

Many tourists stop in Da Nang on their way to the ancient capital, Hue, and the historic town of Hoi An. With its fire-breathing spectacle (and overall user-friendliness compared to Vietnam's other more-chaotic large cities), Da Nang is bidding to become more than a pass-through point on Southeast Asia's tourist trail. 

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Photo credit: Bui Viet Hung/Shutterstock.com