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Five Free Things to do in Da Nang

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Whether your passing through or staying for a while, there is always something going on in this epic city. We’re here to tell you about five free things to do in Da Nang.

No great introduction to any new destination has to start with a hefty price tag and Da Nang is no exception. In fact, Da Nang has the unique advantage of offering both beach and city activities.  That alone, makes it the perfect all-round vacation destination.

Five free things to do in Da Nang

Free Thing #1 – DA NANG FREE WALKING TOUR

Free walking tours are the best way to get a genuine introduction to this amazing city.

The guides are local university students who are are passionate about their city.  It’s also a chance for them to meet new people from all over and to practice their English.

For visitors, this is a chance to meet someone who can tell you more about the local food, entertainment and living side of Da Nang.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Exploring Da Nang with an amazing free walking tour

The tour lasts about 2 hours and includes five planned stops. Between those, you get a ton of information on where to explore further on your own. It’s super easy to book too, just head to their Da Nang Free Walking Tour website.

Now, we listed this as a free thing to do in Da Nang as you don’t have to pay for the tour. There is an opportunity to give you guide a tip at the end IF you want to. More on that in the link below.

Leon and Tash Blog

Come with us as we explore our first Vietnam destination, Da Nang with an amazing free walking tour

Travel Tip!: Test your haggling skills at Han Market while you have an interpreter there with you. That way you can communicate with the seller and you can come back with a bit more confidence later to buy more.

Free Thing #2 – DA NANG BRIDGES

It’s true! Da Nang, is also known as the city of bridges and for good reason. It has 7 bridges and three of them are super stars with their own history. They are Han Bridge, Dragon Bridge and Than Thie Ly Bridge.

The most recognizable of the three is the famous Dragon Bridge. This one comes alive every Saturday and Sunday night at 9PM. Make sure to check it out as not only is watching the bridge fun, but watching the crowd is fascinating too.

Leon and Tash Vlog

A real dragon that spits real fire! For real!!

Travel Tip!: Not fond of crowds? Then head down Tran Hung Dao street towards the Than Thie Ly bridge where you’ll find the street side vendors. They’ll prepare you a fresh coconut or sugar juice of your choice on request. All you have to do is grab a seat at one of their adorable tiny chairs and tables with the perfect view of the action. A fresh coconut should set you back about VND35,000 (~USD1.50 / ~AUD2.10) and the seat if free.

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Free Thing # 3 – DA NANG FRESCO VILLAGE

This was one of the neatest things we found in Da Nang and believe is part of a worldwide movement.

Local residents were looking for a way to get tourists and locals to interact more with each other. The idea of a fresco village came about and they set out inviting local artists to be part of the initiative.

Their aim was to transform their labyrinth of narrow alleys and high walls into an outdoor gallery where artists could show their talents and visitors could enjoy the artwork for free.  You just have to find the narrow entrance to let the magic begin.

Leon and Tash Blog

When street meets art gallery and you can experience it for free!

You can explore this spot in your own time, admiring the artworks and take as many pictures as you like. Each painting tells its own story and there are so many, you wouldn’t know what to look at first.

The Da Nang Fresco Village isn’t far from the city side of Dragon Bridge and absolutely worth the visit.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Experience a personalized tour of the Da Nang Fresco Village

Travel Tip!: There is a small ‘outdoor food courtyard’ where you can buy a traditional Vietnamese herbal drink. There are other refreshments and light street food available too. It’s not expensive and the money goes back into the project for maintenance and expansion.

Free Thing #4 – MY KHE BEACH

One of Da Nang’s stand out features is without a doubt its spectacular beach called My Khe, (pronounced Mi KE beach).

One of the best things to do on it is to simply walk along it, no matter the time of day. From dawn till dusk it’s everyone from tourists to locals’ favorite playground. It’s a great place to meet locals to, especially in the mornings.

Along Vo Nguyen Giap road is plenty to do, eat and drink too but it will cost you. Not much, just not free.

Travel Tip!: Find a cheap beach cabana for the day. If you want to experience the most epic chill beach day of your life, then hire a lounger under a beach hut/cabana. It will cost you around VND40,000 (~USD1.70 / ~AUD2.40) but shop around, there are a few options. This way you get a comfy spot for the day and you don’t have to worry about getting fried. Also, where there’s a cabana, there’s usually refreshments too and loads of street food vendors that wander along the beach. Perfect, huh?

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Free Thing #5 – LINH UNG PAGODA (Son Tra)

If you’re sitting on your beach lounger chilling on My Khe beach then you will notice a gigantic white figure standing at the base of the Son Tra Peninsula. What is it you ask?

She is the famous Lady Buddha and she is an epic 72 meters tall. The Lady of Mercy isn’t the only amazing thing about this spot either. It’s perfect spot for sunrises and sunsets, not to mention great photos.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Say hello to the magnificent 70 meter high guardian of My Khe beach

The complex sits on 20 hectares so there is a lot of room. It is super popular with tourist crowds ! If you want the place almost to yourself, then you need to get in and out, well before 8AM or after 5PM-ish.

Leon and Tash Blog

Come meet the mysterious tall lady of Son Tra in Da Nang

There is a small catch with this one. The complex is free to enter but you will need to get there which will either be by GRAB, taxi or a rental bike.

Neither of these options are expensive as it is a short ride out there and well worth a visit! If you do rent a bike/scooter than Son Tra Peninsula is another awesome free thing to go and check out!

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If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

The Reunification Express – Da Nang to Hue

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The Reunification Express - a top ten train ride !

Trains, love them or hate them, they are still very much a part of our modern society.

The daily commute on the work doesn’t exactly inspire romanticism or a burning desire to go traveling either.

It’s usually more of a ‘get me the hell off this thing as fast as possible’ scenario. I know because I traveled by train to work and back for the better part of five and a half years.

Here in Vietnam though, we rediscovered the fun of journeying by train. This adventure took only 2.5 hours and it’s called the Reunification Express. Here’s why we loved every moment of it.

What is the Reunification Express?

It’s a beautiful sounding name isn’t it? And rightfully so but, here’s the thing, it’s not the name of a train, but rather the line itself.

The Reunification Express line spans approximately 1,726 kilometers. It links the capital, Hanoi in the north to bustling Ho Chi Minh City in the south.

Her trains faithfully creek, groan and rattle their way up and down this beautiful country every day, wooing her passengers with spectacular views along the way.

Views of verdant rice paddies, lush jungles and sublime coastal scenes. Not to mention the hair-raising acts of squeezing through tiny towns with practiced precision.

Main stops include Hue (the last imperial capital of Vietnam), Da Nang (tech and beach haven), Nha Trang (Cancun of Vietnam) and Mui Ne (desert meets beach). A stop for every adventure!

We spent three months living in Da Nang and enjoyed a spectacular few days in Hue. We highly recommend these destinations.

Why is it called the Reunification Express?

Jean Marie de Lanessan commissioned the line as part of his vision for the future of Vietnam.

He wanted to create a train line from Hanoi to Sai Gon, calling it the ‘backbone of Indochina’. A trunk line from which other routes would spread. Construction started in 1899 and finished in 1938.

But it wasn’t all roses and sunshine. Sabotage, bombings and destruction inflicted some nasty scars over the years. Scars that were inflicted from World War II through to the end of the Vietnam war, leaving the line in ruins.

All was not lost though. At the end of 1975, Hanoi made efforts towards making the line operational again. At the end of 1976 she was back in business. Reunifying north with south and thereafter known as the Reunification Express.

Sadly, today she displays the signs of poor infrastructure, planning and maintenance. For such an integral part of the country’s transport infrastructure it’s surprising.

Yet through it all, she still performs her duties to the best of her abilities.

What makes the Reunification Express so special?

Simple. It runs along some of the most amazing scenes you will find in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. Not to mention, she’s on the list of top ten train rides in the world, and for good reason.

We took the opportunity to ride Reunification Express line between the coastal city of Da Nang and the last imperial capital, Hue.

If you’ve never seen images of the Reunification Express, then picture lush, dense jungle covered peaks on one side with a vibrant blue ocean on the other, sprinkled with colorful rural villages in between.

It’s a feast on the eyes and you get to experience the best parts of Vietnam’s 3,260-kilometer coast line. Yup, it is an epic coastline and we can’t wait to experience more of it!

Sold? Want to know how to get in on the action?

TRAIN SCHEDULE

The Reunification Express schedule is on the Vietnam Railways website. It doesn’t just cover north to south and visa versa either.

The overall rail system can get you to most places in Vietnam and you’ll find al the schedules on that website.

Travel Tip!: The Vietnam Railway website DOES NOT accept payment from international credit cards (only Vietnamese issued credit cards). If you want to book with an international card, head on over to Baolau . And another head’s up, they do charge extra for the convenience so check your transactions before you hit OK.

Alternatively, you can buy your tickets directly from the train station (or hit up the link below for more options). We purchased our first round the night before and it pays to take you passport with you as they will ask for it. If you chose to buy your ticket on the day, get to the station well before you want to depart. The ques are long and the crowds vast.

Not sure where to start looking for train tickets, time tables and the like?

No problem, we've got you covered. Hit search to find  your travel solutions

Affiliate disclosure: The information in this posts contains affiliate links for our travel partnerships.  You don’t get charged extra for using these links and we may earn a small commission from them which goes towards finding and managing all the awesome content on our site.  You are under no obligation to use them but if you do, we want to salute and thank you for your support, we appreciate it!

There are four trains running between north and south daily, two in morning and two in the evening. Each full trip can take anywhere from 30 – 35 hours plus. And plan on delays. We’ve done the Reunification Express twice now on two different trips and got delayed twice by an hour plus. Nothing out of the norm for here though.

Our advice is to check for your preferred arrival time rather than departure time (if that’s an option). No point getting to your destination at 04:45 and you can’t check in until 14:00.

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No choice in departure time?

There are storage lockers available at a cost in Hanoi. Head through the main doors and towards the waiting rooms. Walk all the way until the last room, the lockers are in there. We haven’t used this service personally.  Last account we could find of costs were VND 50,000 (~USD 2.00 / ~AUD 3.00) for 5 hours or VND 100,000 (~USD 4.00 / ~AUD 6.00) for 8 hours.

Ho Chi Minh City offers lockers too, but we are unable to confirm the costs or location at this time sorry.

If you have some updated info on the locker situation, feel free to hit us up in the comments with the new info. Thanks, we appreciate it!

There were no storage facilities we could see in Da Nang either but most hotels in Vietnam will store your back until it’s time to check in or you’re ready to leave.

ALL ABOARD!

Now that you know what it is, where it goes and how to book it, you probably want to know how much a ticket on the Reunification Express costs. Costs and seats go hand in hand.

TAKE YOUR SEAT PLEASE

On the two trains departing in the morning you have the choice between two options of seats and two options of berths and sleepers.

The prices listed below are for adults as at July 2018.  Children under 2 are free and if they are between 2 and 5 years (and shorter than 1.3 m) they are 75% of the adult fare. They have this strange measuring system for kids here too, we’re not sure what that’s about.

Well, let’s get to it then.

The cheapest option is the hard seats at USD 53.00 (~VND 1,222,000 / ~AUD 78.00) and they are as their name suggests, a hard wood bench seat.

The more comfortable soft seat varies between USD 67.00 and USD 68.00 (~VND 1,545,000 / ~AUD 99.00 and ~ VND 1,568,000 / ~AUD 100.00), they are nice leatherette seat that recline and come with a bit of personal space. The latter is gold when travelling in Vietnam, take it from us lol.

When we booked our last trip, the only seats left were forward facing seats, where you share a table with the seats directly opposite you. What we didn’t expect was ‘ol mate in the seat opposite us using the table it as his personal footrest. Bare feet and all lol! We were trying so hard not to laugh and wake him up.

He turned out to be a sweet old man, accompanying a younger family member all the way from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. It was fun talking to them.

Also, there are NO HARD SEAT options available on the evening trains. Only soft seats and the two sleeper options.

Speaking of which.

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PREFER TO CATCH UP ON SOME ZZZ’s INSTEAD?

All four trains offer a choice of four (soft sleepers only) or six (hard sleepers only) berths.

The hard-sleeper will set you back between USD 89.00 and USD 91.00 (~VND 2,052,000 / ~AUD 131.00 and ~VND 2,098,000 / ~AUD134.00) and we wouldn’t recommend this one for the whole 35-hour journey, but it’s your call.

The soft-sleeper comes with better linen and much softer padding and costs around USD 93.00 to USD 95.00 (~VND 2,145,000 / ~AUD 137.00 to ~VND 2,191,000 / ~AUD 140.00), depending on what time you depart.

LUGGAGE ALLOWANCE

Believe it or not, there is a luggage allowance on the train. Although, we never saw anybody try and enforce it lol.

You’re allowed one cabin bag and one piece of luggage up to 20KG. If your sitting in a seat, be it hard or soft, you will need to fight for overhead compartment space. Most backpacks will fit up there or you can squeeze them in under your seat.

The hard seats are first choice for local travelers and you will have to fight for a bit of space to store your bags, but it’s all part of the adventure, ‘wink’.

Hard luggage, especially big suitcases are a bit of a pain in this situation. We had to jam one of ours in under out feet and then watch the other passengers commandeer it as a footrest lol.

The other one was sitting the half in the walk way. This meant we had to hold onto it for the whole trip and move it out of people’s way. Not ideal.

Other things luggage related

Oh, and you don’t board from a tradition platform in Da Nang. You have to climb up into the train then heft your bags up from the ground too. If you’re short like Tash lol, you’ll need help getting up there.

We have since moved to backpacks due to a change in plans. We’re hoping this will work in our favor as we are considering the sleeper option later in our travels.

Talking to others who have done the overnight trip, they say it’s best to try and grab the bottom bunks. That way you can put your bags under them.

If you’re on the top, your luggage goes up there with you so, something to think about. Anything of high value should stay as close as possible to you.

(If you’re considering this option and wondering how to secure your valuables, then head on over to this post.  There we tell you how we keep our valuables secure. It’s well worth the read.)

TRAVEL SUPPLIES TO PACK

The first thing we always say is to take is water. We make sure to fill up out trusty 1L water bottles for short trips and take extra on longer trips. You can also buy water and other beverages on board.

Not one for Vietnamese cuisine or dubious about where your meal comes from? Then you’re safer option would be to pack your own snacks for the journey. Not saying the food is dodgy, just that the selections cater more towards local travelers and there is minimal English available on board. For our first journey two years ago, we departed at 02:30 and we had some collapsible food containers with snacks in them.  This time round it was a much shorter journey so we didn’t bother to pack snacks.

If you have had the pleasure of dining on the Reunification Express, please share your experience in the comments. We’re super curious to find out if it’s worth it or not. And we will update this post once we have experienced the things we missed out on.

Is the Reunification Express worth the trip?

Riding along the Reunification Express reminds you of why it used to be so much fun riding the train. Sure, it’s not the cheapest option but there are three very good reasons to consider this train line.

One, flights are cheaper but domestic flights are prone to constant delays, cancellations and disruptions. If you’re short on time then flying is your go-to but you miss out on so much scenery by just flying over it.

Two, buses and sleeper buses  are a popular option too. But if you’ve been in Vietnam for an extended period of time, or like us, travel on the roads yourself you would know why this is a terrifying prospect. If you want examples, head on over to our travel updates page.

Apart from safety there are many scams and perils to consider when travelling by bus. Do your homework is all we’re saying.

Three, if you have time up your sleeve for slow travel, try at least one part of it, if not all. The sights will not disappoint and you’ll end up wanting to do either more or all of it next time. Not to mention, slow travel is sooo much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Leon and Tash Vlog

Riding one of the top train rides in the world and our introduction to Hue!

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Visas for Vietnam and what you need to know

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You’ve seen the amazing pictures and heard the tales of spectacular Vietnam. Now you’ve decided to come have a look for yourself. First question we get asked is, ‘Do we need visas?’. Short answer, yes you do.

Types of visas

If you are planning a short and sweet visit of less than 15 days you may be exempt from needing a visa. Vietnam currently offers visa free entry to a lucky few. This list changes often though, so make sure you check if your passport qualifies. To see if you do, check this list.

If you are not covered for the above, fear not. There are three other common types to choose from. They are;

  • E-Visas (electronic visas)
  • Tourist visas
  • Business visas

 

E-Visas (electronic visas)

Vietnam is fast catching up with technology and how the world uses it. E-visas are still relatively new in Vietnam but they are available to 46 countries as listed here.

This option is valid for stays of 30 days max and single entry only. (Single entry is where you come in once, you stay here and you leave once). This is a simple do-it-yourself online application on the official Vietnamese government website.  This is a one-off fee application too.

This visa is valid for all points of entry, i.e. airports, seaports and land crossings. We recommend you research your point of arrival as e-visas are not accepted at all ports. Check to see if you point of entry is on the list.

If you’d like to read more about e-visas in general, try this site.

 

Tourist visas

You can apply for a one or three-month tourist visa and each has the option of both a single or multiple entry. (Multiple entries mean you can come and go from Vietnam as often as you want within the validity of the visa.)

 

Business visas

You can apply for a one or three-month visa and have the option of single or multiple entry. If you are planning on staying longer, you have the option of six or twelve-month visas with multiple entry. This option is mainly for business purpose but you can consider it if you want to stay longer than three months and want to try and avoid visa runs.

Another thing to consider. If you are going to translate your driver’s license into a Vietnamese license, great. But remember that the Vietnamese license is only valid for as long as your visa.

 

How do I get a visa?

The second question we get is, ‘How do I get a visa?’. Again, here you have options.

We covered e-visa above. It’s a do it yourself, online process through the official government website with a one off fee. If you want to know more about them, have a look here.

If you are flying into one of Vietnam’s four international airports (Hanoi, Da Nang, Na Tranh, Ho Chi Minh), then you have the option of a visa on arrival (VOA). This means the visa is granted at the airport on landing and before you go through border control.

This process might sound complicated, but it’s pretty straight forward and easy.

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Application requirements

The first thing you need to do is apply for a Letter of Approval (LOA). This is an official letter from the Vietnamese Immigration Department. It grants you permission to come into the country and obtain a visa at the airport.

To get this letter you will need to use an online agent.

There are plenty out there so do your research and be careful about who you use too (as with anything online). They will ask you for a copy of your passport, your arrival and departure dates, and the airport you flying into.

As we’ve mentioned in the vlog, used an agency called Sun Viet to help us with our visas. Again, use it as a point of reference for your own research.

Note that the fee for the LOA will vary between agents and the type of visa you are applying for. There will be additional, for example the agent’s fee and the stamp fee.

Your agent will forward the LOA to you once it’s been granted. It will most likely have two pages. The first granting you permission to enter the country, and the second will contain your details. Don’t be surprised if there are other people’s details on there too. It’s common for agencies to group applications together. You can request your own Letter of Approval but it will cost you more.

Arriving at the airport

The on arrival process is straight forward and simple with a bit of pre planning.

 
Before you leave
  • Download the 01 Application Form and complete 2 copies (1 as back up),
  • Have two passport photos ready with the application (take spares regardless, you never know when you’ll need them), and
  • A copy of the letter of approval (both pages)
  • Make sure these documents are in your carry on and within easy reach. Some airlines may ask to see them before you board your plane.
 
Visa on landing counter – Window 1

Once you have landed in Vietnam, head to the visa on landing counter. It’s usually located just before you see the border control counters.

In Ho Chi Minh for example there are two windows. You need to go to the first window and handover your paperwork (completed visa application form, both pages of the LOA, the two passport photos and your passport.)

This is where having all your paperwork completed and ready to go, comes in handy. So many people get to the airport not even knowing what the process is and it can get chaotic quick. Especially when several arrivals descend on the area all at once.

Grab a seat and wait to be processed.

 
Visa on landing counter – Window 2

When you hear your name called, head over to window two where they will give you your passport. Check all the details on your visa first (your name, passport number, entry/exit dates and entry option. If anything is incorrect, sort it there and then. Having any changes done after you have gone through border control is very unlikely.

UPDATE:  Even though we say above to check your exit day, we never did and I (Tash), learnt a valuable lesson. It wasn’t until after we applied (and received visas to enter China), that our visa agency made us aware of the fact that the exit stamp in my passport was dated for March 2018 and we were now in late 2018.  They told us that we may have an issue at border control but given the fact that we have multiple entry visa, it shouldn’t be an issue.  Lucky for us it wasn’t!  The immigration officer did scratch his head but said nothing and stamped me out.  However, it could have turned into a headache we didn’t need.  So peeps, check your dates thoroughly before you hit border control!

If everything is correct and you’re happy, then this is when you will need to pay the stamp fee. The amount will depend on the type of visa and entry option you’ve chosen but your agent should be able to tell you what it is or you can look up fees on this site.

We recommend you pay in US dollar (US$) and that you have the exact amount when the time comes. You can pay with local currency but it could be at an inflated exchange rate, meaning you pay more. Also, we saw a couple of people running around looking for an ATM. We couldn’t see any and there are no electronic payment options that we could see either.

 
Border Control

Once you have your passport complete with visa, you can proceed to the immigration line.

This process is the same regardless of whether you’re applying for a tourist or business visa.

 

Already in  southeast Asia?  Then you’ll need an Embassy issued visa

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Already in Southeast Asia and wanting to do a land crossing? Or are you entering Vietnam anywhere other than the four international airports? Then you will need an Embassy issued visa.

You can do this yourself if you have access to a Vietnamese embassy in the place you are living or travelling from.

Alternatively, there are agents that will do this for a fee. Research is key and remember, you will need to hand over your passport for this option, so be careful. Copies won’t cut it as the visa is a sticker and has to be in the actual passport to be valid.

Important to note

Also remember that you have to have this visa in your passport before you depart. You might get asked for it at the airport and you will need it to get through border control in Vietnam. A visa on arrival will not be an option once you land.

When you receive your passport back from the embassy/agent, double check all the details on the visa before you leave. Again, if anything is incorrect you need to sort it there and then.

That’s pretty much visas in a nutshell. Only other piece of advice we can give you is to be patient during the visa and immigration process. It’s easy to lose your cool when you’re tired and just want to get to your hotel. But these guys are going to do it their way whether you like it or not. If you start getting vocal or pack a tantrum it will take longer or they could end up ignoring you completely.

If you’re head is spinning right now, we don’t blame you, there is a lot to take in.  BUT to help you with your planning process, we created this simple and quick Visa Checklist to download and use. Let us know if it’s useful or not. (Cheers)

If you have any questions or want to add something, please leave us a comment and we will answer as best we can or you can go check out our Vietnam Visa Vlog.

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Linh Ung Pagoda – Son Tra Peninsula

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Visiting the most famous Lady in Da Nang at the Linh Ung Pagoda in Son Tra

Is it worth trekking out to the Linh Ung Pagoda when you’re in Da Nang? Lets find out.

Where the Linh Ung Pagoda?

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.

Linh Ung Pagoda Entry Fee

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!

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Looking for a place with an electric vibe that is perfect for any traveler at any time? Come find out why you should add Da Nang to you must see list for Vietnam!

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

Why is there a place of worship in a random, semi remote spot?

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.

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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.

How to get to Linh Ung Pagoda

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.

What is there to see?

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.

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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.

Leon and Tash Vlog

A half day visit to the Linh Ung Pagoda in Da Nang

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.

Wondering what else there is to do in 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…

Helmet buying in Vietnam and what to consider before spending money

How to buy helmets in Vietnam
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Do you need to wear a helmet in Vietnam?

Short answer – Yes you have to wear a helmet.

Long answer – legally in Vietnam you have to wear a helmet when riding a scooter/motorbike. If caught riding without one, you are liable for a fine of ~VND 100,000 – 200,000 / USD 4.40 – 8.80. Or jail depending on the circumstances. That may sound like a small price to pay for those outside of southeast Asia, but we assure you, it’s not worth the hassle.

 

Don’t run

Running when the red light is swinging at you, could be tempting but in reality, it’s a bad idea. They will take chase. As a result, you can cop a hefty fine and they will impound the bike. Probably not worth it.

Fun fact – traffic police are by law obligated to salute you when they stop you. Found that bit of info on the RentabikeVN website. Great reads on their blog, go check it out.

 

Fines and bribes

Going back for a minute to fines (or bribes for that matter). You’ve most likely heard or read plenty about pretending to be stupid so you don’t have to pay the fine or get off. That may have worked in the past, but things are changing and not in the favour of stupid.

Thai traffic police for instance, have learnt how to read English international licenses. They now understand how the classes/restrictions should apply to foreign licenses.No more pretending your home license allows you to ride a scooter lol.

We learnt this from a man who completed an advanced motorcycle training course with us last year. He’d been to Thailand many times, riding a 110cc scooter on his Australian car license without incident.

Not to say that it will happen in Vietnam, but in reality, what’s to stop it from happening here in the future?

(FYI you can only ride a 50cc scooter on your car license in Australia and NZ. Anything bigger and you need a proper motorcycle license. Same goes for Vietnam.)

That all changed once he got wind of the new methods adopted by the local police force. He weighed up his options and figured it wasn’t worth the drama of getting caught. Hence why he opted for the course of getting a proper motorcycle license.

 

Speaking of valid licenses

Vietnam will only accept an international license issued by a competent authority of a member state of Convention on Road Traffic 1968. Do your research on that before you come to Vietnam, because most countries in the world won’t comply with that little requirement. And no, you can’t just roll around on your normal license, it doesn’t work that way lol.

But back to the topic at hand. We wouldn’t advise negotiating or engaging in bribery. Avoid if you can, it’s not worth it.

Ensure you have the correct paperwork on you at all times. That includes a valid license, vehicle registration, insurance and passport. It’s not fail safe but those are the minimum requirements as set out by official government law.

 

Also consider

Another thing to think about is Vietnam has southeast Asia’s second highest fatality rate. You don’t hear or see much of it on international news but it’s a stark reality once you’re here and experience the chaos for yourself.

In all fairness, they have improved vastly in the last decade but have yet to introduce a minimum safety standard for motorcycle helmets. That basically means you can wear anything on your head that resembles a helmet and it’s fine. Hell, we’ve seen cats here on 1,000cc street bikes wearing what looked like bicycle helmets.

There is a silver lining to that dark cloud. Since introducing the compulsory helmet law, 15,000 individuals can thank their lids for saving their lives. Progress, not perfection. But it is a good reason to cover your head, yeah?

 

Which helmet is best

We can’t tell you which helmet is best for you, but what we can do is give you the info you need to start your own research.

 

Types of helmets

Vietnam offers a plethora of helmet options including;

  • Half helmets – covers the top of the head only and most popular in Vietnam
  • Open faced helmet – covers three quarters of the head and second most popular option.
  • Full faced helmet – covers the whole head plus chin (least favorable option).

So, let’s see what the types of helmets are about.

 

Half Helmets

Half helmets or brain buckets, are the most popular option in Vietnam. Not because they are safe, but rather they are a cheap option to avoid copping a fine from traffic police.

A run of the mill brain bucket will set you back anywhere from USD2.00 to USD6.00 and at that price you can imagine the level of safety on offer. Oh, yes safety standards. There are none for this type of helmet.

By all mean if you have a $10 brain, buy a $10 helmet.

** UPDATE **: Something I didn’t consider when I first wrote this article was the integrity of used helmets.  As frequent travelers to Vietnam well know, motorbikes are bought and sold at an astronomical rate in Vietnam and most of them are second hand.  If are are buying a secondhand bike and the deal comes with a brain bucket (half helmet) we highly recommend you toss it and buy a brand new one!

One, they are cheap and readily available and it is totally worth it.  Two, you have no idea what kinds of knocks and hits that helmet has already had and have no idea of its integrity.   Would you rather have an inherited helmet and cracked head or a new helmet and a better chance at surviving?

At the end of the day it’s your choice, we just you to make an informed one.

 

Open faced helmets

Awareness of safety is filtering through to Vietnamese motorcycle riders. Offering more protection than a brain bucket, the open faced helmet is becoming more popular. To be fair, they do offer more protection than the brain bucket.

While they are a better option, they are not ideal as the chin is still exposed to injury. Sounds minor I know, but all you have to do is look at online pictures of these injuries to know how painful that experience is going to be (shudder).

Good news is, a few big brands make this type of helmet but it comes at a price. It’s still a better option as you now have peace of mind with minimum safety standards. Do your research first before you rush out and buy one. (We’ll cover those standards soon.)

 

Full faced helmets

If you want protection for your whole head, then you’ll want to consider a full faced helmet.

Do be careful as full face doesn’t automatically equate to safe. We found full faced helmets at Lottemart (Vietnamese version of Target) for USD 20.00 and they were nothing but a shell with some Styrofoam looking lining. Not saying it won’t do the job, but again a $10 brain = a $10 helmet.

 

Safety Standards

If you definitely want a helmet you can depend on then look into the following safety standards.

 

Snell

This is the king of helmet safety testing. Snell standards pertain mainly to the racing industry and for this reason considered the king of helmet testing standards. The testing process is both vigorous and detailed and the reason top manufacturers line up for Snell’s accreditation.

This however, is not a money-making racket either. The Snell Memorial Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation focusing their testing on high level safety standards.
You can read more about them and their work here.

 

DOT

DOT is the American crash helmet safety standard and stands for Department of Transport FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) No. 218. This standard applies to helmets sold and used in the U.S. only.

The test covers a few things, but most notable is their testing for high speed and multiple angle impacts. The high speed is self-explanatory. What makes the multiple angle impact interesting is that there is no way to predict the direction and force of an impact on a helmet in an accident. So, these guys test the sides, top and back of the helmet to gain clearer insights. And that’s great!

Now while your helmet may have a DOT sticker on it, doesn’t mean the model was actually tested. Here’s the deal.

Manufacturers don’t DOT test all their models. They will get approval for some but not all. If they get audited and hit one that hasn’t gone through testing, well, we’re not sure what the penalty is for that.

Something to think about and you can read more on that here.

 

ECE 22-05

This is the European minimum safety standard. Also known as the Economic Commission of Europe Regulation No. 22 (05 is a specific amendment number).

ECE testing includes low speed and angle impacts as well as subjecting the helmets to environmental conditions, high and low heat, solvents, ultraviolet, humidity and moisture. It’s a comprehensive level of testing and why it’s popular worldwide.

Unlike DOT, if a manufacturer wants an ECE accreditation then testing must be across the entire range. So when you see an ECE sticker, you know the model has the appropriate level of protection for its specifications.

Knowledge is power right?

 

SHARP

SHARP is an online tool that takes ECE one step further. Here you’ll find the safety data from ECE complimented by test results for comfort and proper fit. at your fingertips for direct comparisons.

Basically, they have all the info you need on most helmets in one place so you can compare say, a Shoei to an LS2 and see which one offers what you’re looking for. When it comes to picking helmets, SHARP is your friend.

 

Where can I find a helmet in Vietnam?

Simple answer, almost anywhere.

Long answer, research is your friend. If you know what type of helmet you want and what level of safety you need, then a simple online search can point you in the right direction.

Vietnam has a big motorcycle culture and there are many shops that will have what you want.

Our advice is, always try before you buy! Just because it looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Find a shop that knows what they are talking about. Ask them about the safety features. If they can’t tell you the basics (which you already know), then keep going until you find one that takes your safety as serious as you do.

Plus, it’s a good way to meet like minded riders.

 

How much does a helmet cost?

Again, this will depend on your chosen options, but think about the following;

  • How often and how long will you be wearing the helmet for?
  • Type of conditions you expect to ride in?
  • Have a budget and make sure it covers at least your minimum requirements for safety and comfort.

At the end of the day, it’s your brain and your life. What’s it worth to you?

 

Summary

We went through this experience here in Da Nang not so long ago, hence why we’re sharing what we’ve learnt with you.

Back home it’s easy, you rock up to a bike shop and you know you’re getting the right advice and the right product.

We’ll be honest and say the no minimum safety requirement for a helmet here in Vietnam threw us. Motorbikes make up over 90% of registered vehicles on the road and accidents happen. You can’t have that many vehicles on the road and expect it to be all honky dory.

We knew we wanted full faced helmets. Apart from being a smart choice, it’s also the only choice back home.

We knew about the different safety standards and decided on a make and model that complies with the ECE standard. (Nothing wrong with the others, this one is just our preference).

 

What we wanted

We were happy to find a motorcycle accessory shop in Da Nang that stocked what we wanted and they delivered a great service. In fact, X135 went above and beyond to help us out and for that we thank them. If you are looking for riding gear or motorcycle accessories, they are the peeps to contact. You can find them on their website or Facebook.

(This is in no way a paid or beneficial piece, we really think these guys are genuine and great to deal with and we’re happy to recommend them.)

The only option available within our minimum criteria was the LS2 Stream EVO helmet .  It has the ECE standard, is rated 3/5 for comfort and fit on SHARP and it’s in our budget at VND 2,300,000 (USD100 give or take).  That is not much by western standards but here in Vietnam that is considered and expensive helmet.  Still we’re happy with our purchase as it delivers what we want.

We had a more important reason for spending dollars on full faced helmets, but more on that in coming weeks, hehe.

Sources

We also did a fair bit of reading on Billy’s Crash Helmets for info on EU standards. They have some great reads to, go check it out.

We hope this helps you find your perfect lid but if you have a question, feel free to leave a comment and we’ll help where we can.

Here is a link to a fun little vlog we made on buying our helmets and you get to see X135 in action if you are curious.

If this is your first visit to our site, then welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

Don’t forget to subscribe and join our Tribe!  You’ll find us on TwitterFacebook , Insta  and YouTube too!

Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Marble Mountain Da Nang Vietnam

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The legend of Marble Mountain Da Nang

Marble Mountain. Sounds majestic doesn’t it?

There is a legend that surrounds this outcrop of hills and it dates back thousands of years. It speaks of a great mystical dragon rising out of the ocean, making it’s way onto the shore of Bãi tắm non nước (Non Nuoc Beach). There it buried and egg before mysteriously returning to ocean.

The egg laid dormant for one thousand days and one thousand nights. On the thousandth night, it hatched and out came a beautiful girl. The shell broke into five pieces. They named after Hoa Son ( the element of fire), Tho Are (earth), Thuy Son (water), Kim Son (metal) and Moc Son (wood).

Those five pieces are what we know today as Marble Mountain. What happens to the girl in this story is unclear. In another tale she is a fairy that hatches from the egg and rises to heaven to marry the Turtle God. Those are snippets of some of the folktales we’ve read about and there are many of them.

What is constant throughout all the stories is the creation of the five hills. Their history is pretty interesting too. There are several accounts of it purpose throughout the years. Some describe it as pilgrimage site, others the marble carving site it is famous for today. There are even the stories of it being a spy spot during the American/Vietnam war. It was a way to keep an eye on the troops who inhabited My Khe beach at the time. Or so it goes.

Getting there

Like most places in Da Nang, it’s an easy spot to get to and only a 20-minute drive from Da Nang city.

There are plenty of tour operators with a multitude of options.  Or if you’d rather wing it on your own, you can hire a scooter and shoot out there or hop on the local bus that runs between Da Nang and Hoi An. This option might be tricky due to the language barrier and ticket purchasing not being the easiest to obtain. We had a friend who took this bus recently and said the funniest thing for her was that she could get on easily but getting off was near impossible lol. Turns out the bus doesn’t have a stop signal and it doesn’t stop unless requested.  Sounds like fun lol. In addition to that, ticket prices are hard to nail down.  We’ve found a lot of variances but can’t tell why that is.

We opted for our usual share ride, Grab and the ride only cost us VND 47,000 (USD 2.07).

Carving masterpieces

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Marble carving is still a big part of the area and the creations are breathtaking. The marble in these hills have long gone. Today the artists rely on supplies from other regions of Vietnam or in some instances China. Irrespective of where the stone comes from, it is all beautifully crafted.

Yeah, even the copies of other statues are impressive. Hey, it’s south east Asia, it’s almost expected lol.

We’ve seen some interesting items hewn from the stone. There are the Buddha statues that are 12 feet high and almost as wide. Plenty of lions and shi shi’s, even small items of jewelry. While the carvings are impressive, it’s Marble Mountain herself that delivers the wow-factor.

And yes, it’s true, there is an elevator. In its defense though, the stairs can be tricky, but more on that later.

First impressions of Marble Mountain

Arriving at Thuy Son (Marble Mountain’s Vietnamese name) can be a bit underwhelming to be honest. She is smallish looking but still impressive.
The thing is, you have to run the gauntlet of merchants trying to sell you their wares first. The merchants we were aware of thanks to a tip from a friendly local the night before. Thanks Tam!

Then you have to fight your way through the never-ending line of tour buses. That and their hordes of passengers. They all disembarking in the same spot. This one was a bit of a surprise at 8 AM as we’d read that the tour buses don’t start arriving until the 9 AM mark. Lesson learnt. To be fair, there weren’t as many tourists at that stage as there was by 10 AM. That was when it got real busy.

And before you run off, give it a minute, she gets better…

This way to the elevator

By 8 AM it was already sweltering too and we decided to take the elevator.

Yup, your eyes are not deceiving you. To allow everybody access to of the mountain, they installed two elevators. The stairs from the ground level are tall and super slippery, a tricky combo, even for the seriously fit and able.

The elevator only eliminates the first section of steps, so don’t too excited lol. You have another two thousand or so steps to look forward to from that point on.

It’s a good bum work out or in my case a good excuse to ditch the morning workout for a sleep in lol. The upside is that you don’t have to be super fit. If you haven’t done a day’s exercise in your life, you might be sore the next day but anything over that and you’ll be fine.

Marble Mountain entry fee

There is a cost to using the lift and accessing the mountain. If you choose to use the lift it will cost you VND 15,000 (approx. USD 0.66) one way, per person. Access to Marble Mountain will cost you VND 40,000 (approx. USD 1.75) per person. For the two of us it came to a total of VND 115,000.

The total confused us a bit because there was an extra VND 15,000 that we weren’t sure what it was for. We tried asking about it but the ladies at the register didn’t speak of word of English. Either we were getting duped or the price had gone up since the day before lol. In the end we let it slide as it was a small amount. It was a little annoying not knowing what it was for is all.

Also, there is another cave mouth at the entrance of Marble Mountain. When we tried to go up to it, we couldn’t go in as it’s not included in the ticket we had and we had to pay another entry fee. We opted not to in the end. If you have been and want to give some insight, please drop us a comment. Thank you.

Buying tickets

The ticket office sits to the right of the elevators and down the hill. Don’t go too far down the hill as you’ll have to run another merchant gauntlet lol.

Our first impression was good. The gardens surrounding the foot of the mountain were beautiful. Lots of ponds and lotus blossoms everywhere and plenty of shaded seating. It has a pleasant and welcoming feel to it. It was surprisingly clean too which was a nice change from the norm. But we were not there to see the entrance. We had a whole mountain to go and explore, so, we set off to do that.

Travel Tips!: 

Take plenty of water. You can buy drinks, fresh coconuts and ice cream but the selections are limiting. It can get pricey too if you’re there for a longer visit. You’ll need a fair bit of fluids on hot days too. In addition, we took some electrolyte tablets with us and that helped too.

If you have one of those cooling towels, that could be a good option too. Ours came in handy inside the smaller spaces filled with lots of people. It can get hot quick.

Comfortable clothing and shoes. There are a lot of stairs and on hot days you’ll be sweating a lot so dress to your comfort levels. Make sure you have comfortable shoes! (High heels work from what we saw but we wouldn’t recommend it as it may limit where you can go). It doesn’t have to be expensive gear either, good grip and support is all you need.

While we didn’t buy anything from the merchants, the advice we got was to haggle hard with these guys. They super inflate the prices and you’re probably not getting the bargain you’re looking for. Work out what you want to spend in your own currency, convert it and stick to your guns!

Meet the mountain

The elevator ride was brief. At the top we soaked in that spectacular view. We watched the shoreline stretching all the way to the south on our right. To our left the four other outcrops completing Marble Mountain. Between the hills are hundreds of older style Vietnamese homes, carved up by the maize of roads. It almost feels like you’ve darted back in time as the whole scene has an old worldly feel to it.

The first stop was the Xa Loi Tower. We didn’t stay long as the area got crowded quick. There were some great photo opportunities of the tower and its gardens, as well as the view out over the ocean.

We found our first set of real marble steps on the way to the Linh Ung Pagoda. These things were as tall as my knee is to my ankle lol. I’m only 5”4’ so it seemed huge!

Again, this pagoda was bustling with bodies and hawkers were not shy to grab you and try and sell you stuff. We side stepped the madness and made our way to the Lady of Mercy statue sitting to the right of the temple.

 

Hidden walkways

What was cool about this spot was the decorative dragons. Each one adorning the six concrete pillars supporting the pagoda roof.

Made of broken glass and pottery pieces, they were beautiful and almost seemed alive.

The whole area felt welcoming and peaceful. Lush greenery framing a pond and moat with a quaint bridge to the pagoda. It was here, taking photos that we realized there was a discreet walkway to the right and behind the big temple.

Tucked away in a cool, dim corner was this epic 10’ carving of mythical creatures. The detail was amazing. You could see the love and care that went into its creation.

But it didn’t hold our attention for long.

It was the lead in to a brick walkway with a genuine hole in the rock! Slipping through that, we were face to face with our first cave.

The Caves

Thang Chon Cave

Turns out we’d discovered Marble Mountain’s third largest cave, Tang Chon. Inside the space was a cool blissful reprieve from the searing heat outside.

Once our eyes adjusted to the dim light we could see a massive Buddha in front of us. Sitting silently in its alcove observing the crowd. To the right sat a temple. Bathed in light from holes in the ceiling above it looked so peaceful and beautiful.

The Buddha and temple weren’t the only inhabitants of the cave. After exploring the space some more, we found another Buddha. Tucked away in a dark, eyes closed looking serene. This one was smaller and made of metal. The hole in the roof above it had a bright beam of light shining down it, making it look ethereal.

Going up the stairs past the smaller Buddha, we found a neat little surprise. Up the stairs and looking back, we found a great angle of the big Buddha through a hole cut out of rock face. We had to be patient with the crowd to get the right shot, but thought it was worth it.

Lots to explore

More exploring lead to yet another Buddha statue in a smaller cave leading off Tang Chon. This one was about 15 feet high and carved from the rock formation surrounding its base.

What made it so spectacular? It was the way the natural light came streaming through the holes in the rock illuminated the space. Almost like the main focus is to light up the statue only. There were small bats flying around everywhere, giving you a feel for being inside a real cave.

Thinking that was the best part of Marble Mountain we set off looking for more places to explore.

Van Thong Cave

Our next stop was at the top of a decent staircase, designed to test your fitness levels, lol. On the other side was this weird little hole into the side of the mountain. Getting to it proved tricky too as it was slippery with minimal proper stairs to rely on. (I was totally amazed by the women climbing this thing in high heels!)

Navigating the route wasn’t too hard but once inside we realized it was the wrong move. The space was small and filling with people fast. Chunks of smoothed marble was all over the floor, making it hard to walk or stand on.

We didn’t see anything enjoyable about this space so decided to get out. That’s when we hit a snag, the crowd coming up into the space was starting to block both ways in and out.

Let’s get out of here!

We had the choice of standing in line to climb up this tiny space to who knows where or turn around and go back the way we came. We chose to go back the way we came and ended up being stuck there for ten minutes trying to get out.

Finally, we made it out, drenched in sweat and a little frustrated. In the end we had to fight our way past the people who kept coming in a never-ending stream. Why was this a problem? Once you start your climb outside you have no idea what lies ahead. The route twists and turns out of sight and it’s not until you hit the jam that you know about it. But that was the only unpleasant experience of the day.

Heaven’s Gate

Giving up on Van Thong cave, we found this ornate gate with some stairs to the side of it. We walked past a sign pointing to something called Heaven’s Gate. Then followed the stone carved path, eager to found it what it was about.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it? It was but first we had to survive the stairs from hell lol. Tall and slippery going on and on. At one point we were starting wonder if we were actually climbing to heaven lol.

Arriving at the top, we were almost pushed back down the stairs with a wave of bodies descending from above. We had no idea where these people were coming from but there were a lot of them. Turns out it was from a very small hole at the top of this outcrop.

That’s when it dawned on us. This was the hole out of Van Thong cave, the one we thought we managed to avoid. It seems Van Thong had the last laugh. Lol.

Is the schlep up there worth it?

Fighting the crowd was not fun, but we sat on an outcrop of marble taking in the view. What a view it was too! We could see all the way from Da Nang to Hoi An (almost lol). We were up there for a good fifteen minutes. The breeze was refreshing and the amazing view rejuvenated us. With a lull in the crowd, we took the opportunity to climb back down to the ground to see what else we could find.

Heaven’s Gate is the second highest peak on Marble Mountain. Be warned though, it is slippery! The path, smoothed down from years of use and exposure to the elements can get nasty. Thing is, we didn’t find much of this in reviews or from talking to others, which surprised us. We were just glad we were wearing good shoes.

That was the second hardest part of the day.

Hoa Ngiem Cave

We found another ornate gateway and followed the simple pathway to a very tall statue of the Lady of Mercy. (She looked like a replica of the Lady Buddha in Son Tra.)

Further to her left we made our way to tunnel leading to this massive space. Bathed in the same light, pouring from holes in the rock formation turning it ethereal too. Descending down big carved steps, we passed four warrior statues sporting fierce reactions. Painted in bright colors, there were very lively looking.

This experience was amazing. Surrounded by a serene and peaceful vibe as soon as our feet hit the ground, we stood there, absorbing it all. Every person there seemed to be under its spell too. This was the one spot where the crowd seemed happy to respect the energy. It was an absolute pleasure to experience and one of my favorite parts of the day.

We got some awesome shots from this spot too. It was almost like we were there at the perfect time. The light, the vibe, everything just felt right in that moment.

Tam Thai Pagoda

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in Da Nang, tourist attraction Vietnam, places to visit in vietnam, places to visit in Da Nang, arble Mountain, Da Nang, Vietnam

Leon and Tash Vlog

Come explore this legendary Da Nang attraction as we explore all it's nooks and crannies.

At this stage of the day it was getting pretty hot so we took some shelter. We found this massive rotunda with a gorgeous thatched roof, all to ourselves. Sitting away from the crowds it was a great spot to catch our breath. There were smaller picnic tables scattered around it and buffered with lush greenery.

Seated away from the main flow of the crowd made it the perfect breather spot as nobody else came up there. To the side we watched a couple of ladies selling fresh coconuts and some chilled drinks. We decided to buy a drink each and got a couple of free wet wipes with it which was a nice little bonus.

While we were going over a few things and reloading batteries in the cameras, we made a discovery. The explanation for the extra VND 15,000 (~USD 0.65 / ~AUD 0.90) from the entry fee earlier in the day became clear. The map we had contained a set of postcards with photos from Marble Mountain. In the fine print we spotted the additional charge for the postcards (An not much of a deal either, which made it disappointing because we would have been happy about it if we could actually use them.). A clever, but sneaky tactic used by the office staff to up sell we guessed.

Leon did question the extra charge at the time, and we had to deal with the whole ‘no English’ thing and now we know why lol. So, if you’re not interested in buying postcards, double check your tickets before you pay.

After our break we set off to the biggest cave in the mountain.

 

Last stop

There was one more stop on the map before we called it a day on Marble Mountain. This spot housed two more temples. Both with gorgeous courtyards and tropical gardens overlooking the valley below. The wind was toying with some wind chimes in one corner giving off a pleasant spiritual vibe.

At this point we’d been there for four hours and thought the temples were the last stop (according to the map). But there was more. After that, we found two more outlook pagodas. Both had awesome views over the ocean and back towards Hoi An.

We found plenty more stairs we thought was the way out. It wasn’t! We had to climb them all back up to where we came from and find the right way out lol.

Luckily for us the way out wasn’t too far from where we made our wrong move.

Overall impression of Marble Mountain

I’ll be honest and say that we weren’t sure how the day was going to go. We read a lot of reviews saying either we wouldn’t be there long or we could spend a few hours there. For us personally though, we had a blast. How many people can say they climbed all over a place of mystic folklore or connected to a real historic connection?

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on Marble Mountain. Taking in the sights, learning all we could and coming away with an awesome video and some kick ass photos. It is whatever you make of it at the end of the day.

Update:  We have since learnt that we missed a fair bit of Marble Mountain.  We opted not to trek out to the caves in the other hills because we didn’t want to get there and then be told we have to pay extra.  While, we thought the ticket we brought covered all of Marble Mountain, we can safely say that was not the case for us.  Whether they try it on with unsuspecting tourists or not we’re not sure either but it sure seems that way.  Consequently, it wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to avoid the hustle. I guess it’s just disappointing having to deal with it especially when you have a genuine interest in supporting their cause.

Would we recommend Marble Mountain?

Yes, if you have three days to a week or so, definitely. Depending on what you find interesting on your travels you might also be able to squeeze it into a short visit too. Either way it’s a good day out.

It’s not just the mountain that is the attraction. The plants and creatures are great too. Loads of flowers (plenty of orchid species) and Leon even saw a scorpion on one of the less crowded peaks. (I didn’t even know there were scorpions here lol). Oh, and heads up, watch where you sit too.

The thing we loved (and in one instance disliked), was that you could go anywhere and touch most things.

With the exception of the temples and some Buddha statues. Keep an eye out for those as you will need to take your shoes off to get closer to them.

Other than that, we could climb in, over and onto pretty much everything as there wasn’t anybody to shoo you away or yell at you. It was that hands on encounter that made it so much fun for us!

What did you think of Marble Mountain?

Well that the story of our visit to Marble Mountain. If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting this unique place and want to share them, chuck us a comment. Likewise, if you have any questions.

And if this is your first visit to our site, welcome!  Head on over to our Things to do in Vietnam Page where we tell you about more things you should add to your Vietnam itinerary.

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Thanks for reading guys and we’ll see you in the next post…

Things to do in Vietnam, things to do in Da Nang, tourist attraction Vietnam, places to visit in vietnam, places to visit in Da Nang, arble Mountain, Da Nang, Vietnam

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