Are you planning a trip to Vietnam? Is Da Nang in your list? If yes, you should definitely read this blog. Why is the Marble Mountains a must-visit place? What would you do here? Let's explore with photos and plan your trip!
Intimidating caves, Lush green ferns covering limestone mountains, breathtaking views of the East Vietnam Sea, Numerous portrait shooting spots for photography, serene pagodas – yes Marble Mountains is the best place to experience each of these!
Why called 'Marble Mountains'?
Well, it's not rocket science here, as the mountain is composed of Limestone, the name is given to this fantastic group of 5 mountains situated seven kilometers from downtown Da Nang. The five karsts (called Ngu Hanh Son in Vietnamese) are named after the five elements: Kim (metal), Thuỷ (water), Mộc (wood), Hoả (fire), and Thổ (earth). Over centuries, Marble Mountains have held special significance for the people of Central Vietnam, since 1825, when emperor Minh Mang made it a tourist spot.
Today Marble Mountains is home to a network of caves, tunnels, towers, and pagodas built by Mahayana Buddhists and the Nguyen Dynasty Kings. While stepping on each rustic stone stair, listening to your heartbeat among the swinging rhythm of the forest, you could still feel the hundred-year-old statues whispering stories of the old days.
Take a Note:
A number of people have asked me about Da Nang. Although DaNang is the hotel capital of Vietnam, to get rid of the bustling city, which is rain-soaked in the majority, I could feel nature the moment I reached the place. The main three things to see are Linh Ung Pagoda, Xa Loi Tower, Huyen Khong and Am Phu Caves, Tam Thai Pagoda, the view of the East China Sea amidst the concrete forest, and most surprisingly, the carvings and decoration of all-natural caves as you explore.
The Marble Mountains are located around 10-15 km away from the city of Da Nang and are easily reachable by a rented scooter (around 500 INR per day) or Grab cabs in Vietnam. The road leads through the majestic Golden Dragon Bridge over Han River, and a few big hotels, and as you drive by the beautiful East Vietnam Sea, the wide city roads will lead you to the entrance of the mountains.
Inside the Limestone Range
Marble Mountain is also home to numerous magical caves. There are half a dozen large caves hidden away and many other small ones that are rarely visited. Most of the caves are cool inside, with the jungle plants and mossy walls creating an exotic atmosphere found nowhere else.
All the caves in Marble Mountains have unique features, and some have fascinating stories of being discovered and used as hideaways over the centuries. If you are planning to see the traditional worship of the gods in the caves, plan your visit on a lunar day and you can bet that the visit will be worth all cost!
As you ascend towards the Linh Ung Pagoda, you can experience huge structures and faces of Buddhist mythical figures, made of limestone. Beside the pagoda, a large statue of meditating Buddha is a wonderful place to get your soul washed with awe. There are many photogenic/Instagramable spots here if you want to have portrait shots. As you go up, next comes the Xa Loi Tower, the tallest one in the mountain which houses 200 statues of Buddha, and offers breathtaking views of the landscape below.
A small hike uphill and from the top you could see the entire Da Nang radius! While descending from the Xa Loi Tower, we could hike up to another cave system called Huyen Khong Cave. The heavenly play of sunlight through the cave roof falling just on the shrine of Buddha made our hearts skip a beat. The level of decoration of the cave entrance spoke of simplicity yet classic. Every fiber of sunlight slightly drops over the gravely gentle face of the huge Buddha statue sculpted naturally into the cliff opposite the gateway. The statue was made recently, in 1960.
Did You Know?
This sacred venue has undergone much change and has been a witness to tumultuous history. More than once, the Marble Mountains have been used as an army station. During the French Colonial War, the cavern was a secret base for the local revolutionary authority. Afterward, since the Vietnam War, the American and the South Vietnam Governments made this cavern a military exercise venue. In 1968, the Viet Minh took control of the place, turning Huyen Khong cave into a surgery and medical spot for the liberation army. Place your hand on the stone of these caves, and you might understand why so many people have used it as a shelter of sorts.
By the way, I could get some amazing portraits of a few strangers in the Marble Mountain which I will surely share in another blog here.
Some Tips & Best Parts of the Trip
Park your scooters in nearby hotels. They offer parking for a can of beer. (You have to buy a beer/cold drinks can and parking gets free. Expense: 20000 VND).
If not an emergency, prefer the stairs rather than the elevator.
Better not to buy souvenirs from Marble Mountain counters. Prices are a bit high.
Plan your trip early in the morning.
Get a good hiking/walking shoe.
Photographers' bliss I can say - The Marble Mountains are enormous, carrying all the natural beauty you need. Ancient touch, historical caves, festivals on lunar day, viewpoints and hiking along the limestone mountains to discover the pagodas, mythological excellence, and beautiful people - everything at one place where you spend half of your day in exploration!!!
Best place around Da Nang city I would say. After you return, grab COCONUT COFFEE (A must-try) at Ut Tich Coffee shop and relax by the shores of Han River looking at the majestic Dragon Bridge and a gorgeous Da Nang Sunset!