Danang has several monuments to visit including Lady Buddha, but the Marble Mountains are Da Nang’s main attraction.
The Marble Mountains were not named by the Vietnamese, but by the French who had studied the chemical element of the mountain soil. In Vietnamese, they are known as Ngu Hanh Son (the mountain of the five elements).
They are famous for their incredible system of pagodas and shrines as well as the caves carved into the mountains.
The Marble Mountains are actually 5 hills made of marble and limestone representing 5 elements:
– Thuy Son (Water), the only one that can be visited.
– Moc Son (Wood)
– Hoa Son (Fire)
– Kim Son (Metal)
– Tho Son (Earth)
I also must warn you that the Marble Mountains are not huge. Basically, don’t expect to see anything like the Alps.
The Legend of the Marble Mountains
The Cham legend goes that an old fisherman, who lived on the coast of Danang, saw a dragon emerge from the water to lay a dragon egg.
When the dragon left, a turtle appeared, claiming to be the god Kim Quy. He was instructed by the fisherman to protect the dragon egg, which was then buried underground. The egg grew until it hatched, breaking into 5 pieces.
What to see in the Marble Mountains?
Thuy Son Marble Mountain, which is the largest of the 5 (15ha surface area and 105m high), is overall the most interesting since it has several caves and pagodas, some of which date back to the 17th century.
To access it, you have 2 options:
– Climb the 156 steps that will take you up to the first part of the mountain. The entry fee is 40,000 VND per adult
– Take the lift. This option costs 55,000 VND (15,000 VND to use the lift and 40,000 VND for the entry fee)
Opening hours: Every day from 6 am to 5 pm
Tip: I recommend taking a photo of the map at the entrance upon arrival so that you don’t miss out on anything. Take a torch as well (possibly the torch on your smartphone) since some caves are quite dark and you won’t see the parts that are unfortunately unlit.
THE MARBLE MOUNTAINS’ MANY MONUMENTS
– Am Phu Cave (or Hell Cave) is a 302m cave with impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Located at the foot of the mountain and opened in 2006, it is not only the most surreal cave you’ll see in Vietnam but also the most impressive in the Marble mountains.
Why surreal? Because the cave is the Buddhist representation of hell and purgatory. The cave has 2 sets of stairs – one leading to the sky and the other down to hell. You’ll find some unimaginable statues in the hell part of the cave. I’ll let you discover them for yourself but here is one of the representations above.
It is certainly not to be missed.
The cave is exceptional but it is not included in your Marble Mountains entry ticket. It costs 40.000 VND to visit it.
– Tang Chon Cave. Located on the mountain, this is the first cave you will visit. It has a small temple in the middle. You can feast your eyes on a Buddha statue at the end of the cave. It is rather nice.
– Van Thong Cave. It’s a tiny cave but has a small vertical underground gallery, located behind the statue. The most courageous and daredevils among you will try to climb it to reach the summit. You’ll be rewarded with a magnificent view. You can go back to the other side by making your way between the different stones.
– Linh Cave is quite shallow. This is one of the least interesting ones. Have a look anyway.
– Huyen Khong Cave. This huge cave is the most well-known and overall the most interesting alongside Am Phu Cave.
The entrance to this place is guarded by two administrative mandarins (to the left) and two military mandarins (to the right).
It has a unique and captivating atmosphere thanks to an opening at the top that lets in rays of light. Inside, there are several altars and a small temple. You can also see a large Buddha statue on the rock.
On a side note, the cave was used as a hospital during the war and a Vietnamese even shot down 19 American planes from there.
– The various pagodas including the Tam Thai pagoda (Built in 1630 and rebuilt in 1825). The Buddha’s story is represented on the pagoda’s frescoes.
Don’t forget the Linh Ung Pagoda that dominates the mountain. Inside the main sanctuary, you will find representations of the three Buddhas: A Di Da (Amitabha), the Buddha of the past; Thich Ca Mau Ni (Sakyamuni, or Siddharta Gautama), the Buddha of the present and Di Lac (Maitreya), the Buddha of the future.
– The Xa Loi Tower (30m high) contains 7 floors. You’ll find nearly 200 Buddhas inside the tower.
You shouldn’t miss out on the Highest Peak either, which is the mountains’ highest point and provides stunning views of Danang.
How to get there?
The Marble Mountains are one of the region’s attractions and it is easy to get there:
By local bus (yellow colour): It costs 20.000 VND from Hoi An. The journey time is approximately 20 minutes. All you need to do is take bus number 1 that goes from Hoi An to Danang.
– By scooter: It costs 100,000 VND to rent a scooter.
– By taxi: it could cost anywhere between 200,000 and 250,000 VND (round trip: 500,000 VND) depending on your haggling skills.
– By private car, it will cost 450,000 VND. I recommend you to do it.