Situated on the Son Tra peninsula north of My Khe beach, the tall white figure looking down the beach is kind of hard to miss. Furthermore, this religious icon is one of Da Nang’s largest and best known landmarks. Who or what is it? She is the impressive 67-meter tall Lady Buddha (also known as the Goddess of Mercy).
The pagoda encompasses approximately 20 hectares and took six years to construct. Surrounded by lush green vegetation and panoramic ocean and city views, it’s a feast on the eyes. You have that feeling of being in a remote location without being too far from civilization.
This particular pagoda sports nine temples in total and endless gardens to explore. If you love taking photos, you could be here for hours. I loved it, and I would definitely go back again for more (but at an early hour this time). Best part is, it’s free!
Update: I wrote this a while ago and since then we’ve been back. This time we got there at 6:30AM and it was bliss. It was hot, even that early (during April) and there were a couple of other smart people out there with us but not many. For two hours we explored in relative peace and got better photos and footage, much to our delight. Highly recommend going out there early morning, especially in summer as it gets hot fast in the mornings.
This pagoda is unique too in that you can visit it during the evening, unlike others in Vietnam. I’m keen to do this at another time as I’m sure the view back to the city at night is pretty spectacular.
We weren’t sure what to expect from this visit either as neither of us has been to a pagoda and thought it a temple initially. Turns out, a pagoda is an area with several temples and shires in or on it but isn’t one itself. Never too old to learn aye? Ha-ha
Legend has it a buddha statue mysteriously washed ashore on the peninsula one day. Locals believing it to be an auspicious sign, named the spot “Bai But” (Buddha’s sanctuary on earth), and erected a shrine.
From there on in, the Goddess or Mercy became their watchful deity. Offering protection and strength from the wrath of storms, and bringing peace to everyday life.
We can only find a couple of accounts of this story online, but we can confirm it is still the original site of worship. Today it offers a place to pray as well as a unique visiting experience. If you’re lucky enough to speak to one the monks, they might tell you a tale or two about the ancient history of the temples. We hear that is rare though.
A short ten-minute drive from Da Nang city will get you to the entrance of the park. You could walk there from the city, but it’s a long way and all uphill. Be prepared with good shoes and plenty of water if you do decide to go that way.
Arriving at the entrance you’re greeted by an impressive stone staircase.
At the top of the staircase is the three-entrance gate, hence the name Linh Ung (three gates) Pagoda (an area where there are multiple temples and shires, which this site has many of.)
Once you cross the threshold, you’re surrounded by a serene scene of beautiful manicured gardens, dotted with statues. If that doesn’t impress you, the view back over the ocean certainly will.
The Goddess of Mercy
The garden won’t hold your attention long though. You instinctively want to gravitate towards Lady Buddha and her calming effect. Even with the selfie-stick wielding crush robbing you of the experience.
(I’ll be honest and say I could only handle the crowd for a short period of time. By 10AM the place was already crawling with busloads of tourists and that’s on us. We did get there later than anticipated and read about the madness. They were running around snapping pictures as fast as they could, then scurrying off to the next spot with little regard for anybody around them.) The best times to go seems to be early morning or evenings. Something to keep in mind if you’re only in town for a short time.
Getting away from the selfie stick brigade
Not quite the peaceful experience you were expecting? Me either but fear not, there are plenty of quiet spots to retreat to.
The Goddess of Mercy is impressive and you can’t help but feel safe in her gentle gaze. She has another treat hidden at the base of her feet though. Nestled inside the 30-meter diameter lotus flower pedestal is a small temple.
Close your eyes and spend a minute here to absorb the cool and tranquil calm, it’s heavenly on the senses. It can be hard to tune out those few that treat it like an amusement park, but well worth the visit.
Finding peace from the crowds
I did take a few minutes outside a couple of the other temples too. Walking past the main temple to the right, we found two buildings joined by an alfresco-ish type roof. It recognizable by the two rows of large wooden statues.
That spot was by far my favorite. It almost looked like an invisible force field surrounded the building. The crowd just seemed to unconsciously flow around and away from it. It was fascinating to watch
I sat there, absorbing the tranquil surroundings. Watching the crowd mill around as the ocean played backdrop to the whole scene.
I’m not sure if it was sheer luck or what? For those twenty minutes I only saw five people enter the space. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend the time with my thoughts. It’s a memory I will always cherish.
Also, on this trip I learnt never to turn your back on a Buddha statue. You should back away while still facing the statue before you turn around and walk away. (Please feel free to leave a comment if you can add to this.) While I’m not a religious person myself, I can respect others beliefs and be mindful of them.
The Bonsai trees and Arhats at Linh Ung Pagoda
The area in front of the main temple hosts an impressive collection of bonsai trees. Flanked by 18 arhats (those who have attained nirvana, but not full Buddhahood) frames this garden beautifully. Each one depicting a different human emotion. I would’ve loved to learn more about these guys but that might need an experienced tour guide.
I’ll keep you posted if I do learn more about them.
Travel Tip!: If you do go into any of the actual temples please be mindful that these are active places of worship. Be quiet and respectful to those inside the temple praying. Take off your shoes (always!), there are signs everywhere to tell you when to take them off. If you’re wearing shorts and singlets, please cover your shoulders and legs. Ladies make sure you carry a sarong or scarf with you, it will come in handy.
On our walk to the last temple at the back of the park, we found another Buddha statue. Sitting peacefully under the canopy of a rubber tree, accompanied by four others. This spot seemed to go unnoticed by the crowds too. It’s the perfect place to sit for a minute and take in the view.
To the side and back of the pagoda is the Tap Sa Loi tower. I wish I could give you more info but I’m finding it hard to source English info and translating Vietnamese doesn’t help much.
The last find on our Linh Ung Pagoda visit
What we can say is that has a distinct nautical feel to it and give me the impression this is where the maritime worshippers come to give thanks for protection from the elements and abundance from the ocean.
It also has a giant sleeping Buddha below it with another beautiful garden and view. This spot seemed less chaotic and worth a look.
See if you can spot the surprises in the bonsai trees (wink-wink), they are all over the pagoda.
Travel Tip!: Take plenty of water with you. We burnt through a liter in two hours (it was pretty hot). I didn’t see anywhere to buy more (not that I braved the crowded spots). Plus, if you bring your own, you’re not adding to the rubbish that is ever present. My trusty 1lt drink bottle goes everywhere with me and it was invaluable here!
There is a lot to enjoy at the Linh Ung Pagoda and it’s a pleasure to explore. Volunteers do an amazing job of looking after the place and a dedicated team ensure the beautiful gardens look their best (we salute your efforts). And butterflies! The only other place I’ve seen this many butterflies, was the east coast of Australia. Plenty of birds to keep a keen eye out for too. I can go on and on lol, but it worth seeing if you come to Da Nang.
If this is your first visit to our site, then don’t forget to go to our Things to do in Vietnam Page for more ideas on what to see and do!
We also have a pretty good library of all our Vietnam adventures on our Leon and Tash YouTubel channel, perfect for those times where you just want to watch instead of read. Hope you enjoy it!
Thanks for reading and see in in the next post…