Marble Mountains, Da Nang, Vietnam – February 10, 2015
We almost missed it. We planned to go when we were in Da Nang, but time had slipped away. Now while in Hoi An we had a second chance. We weren’t going to miss it again. We decided to book the tour to the Marble Mountains through our guesthouse host’s tour company. So glad we did. Marble Mountains is situated between Da Nang and Hoi An. The Marble Mountains are comprised of 5 marble and limestone mountains. The five ‘mountains’ are named after the five elements: metal, water, wood, fire and earth.
Our guide picked us up at the hotel, and drove 15 minutes or so before dropping us off at the doors of a marble sculpture/ gem jewellery shop. A woman from the shop took us on a quick tour of the area, where many people were working on various sculptures and statues. We admired the beautiful marble sculptures (some finished and some only partially finished). It was amazing to see how the entire area and so many people are dedicated to the art of stone carving and the associated industry. When we returned back to the shop (like many tours!!) the pressure was put on us to purchase something, but we did not buy anything. We were probably bringing bad luck to the shop that day (Locals believe that the first customer of the day to purchase something can bring good fortune to them for the rest of the day and if by not purchasing something the customer can bring bad luck.).
A short while later our guide met up with us again and we began our tour by climbing up 100 plus steep marble stairs carved into the mountain. We could have taken a glass elevator to the top, but that would have been way too easy. At the top of the stairs, we were greeted with a beautiful temple. We stayed just long enough to catch our breath and make it through the touts lined up alongside the path (with more souvenirs to sell) before we were off to explore the Buddhist and Hindu grottoes/caves, including Huyen Khong and Tang Chong. In one of the caves, our very happy and lively guide, (who insisted we call him, “Turtle”, his nickname, which represents a long healthy life) told us that during the “American War” that a few hundred Vietcong soldiers lived and hid from the American soldiers who were stationed just a few kilometres away at Da Nang. Da Nang was a location used by the USA for R & R during the Vietnam War. The ceiling of the cave was open with sunshine coming through, our guide explained that the roof of the cave was destroyed by bombing by American Forces during the war and that the cave doubled as a hospital and recovery centre for the Vietcong.
We went further on and stopped at the pagoda Tam Thai, Tu Tam and Linh Ung and of course Len and Noah climbed up to the tower of Pho Dong. On our ascent up the mountain we went up paths, stairs, through a cave, up through nooks and crannies, up and over big rocks and trail before reaching the summit of Thuy Son (earth). As we made our way up the mountain our guide kept referring to our hike up Thuy Son as a way up to heaven and told us that a previous emperor use to climb the same route in his own representative journey to Heaven. The reward at the end of the climb was the most amazing panoramic view of the surrounding area and the other marble mountains. The climb down was just as exciting, with steep, uneven stairs.
Marble Mountains exceeded our expectations. It is a beautiful and majestic place. So glad we had the second chance to visit this amazing piece of Vietnam.