Marble Mountains, Da Nang


The Marble Mountains are a cluster of five limestone and marble outcrops just south of Da Nang. The largest one, from where this photo was taken, is riddled with caves containing Buddhist statues and altars.



Visitors can either climb the stairs or use the lift.


The gardens on the hill are nicely landscaped and there are temples, pagodas and lots of paths to explore. A flight of stairs leads you to the highest point from where you can enjoy a good view of the surrounding area.


During the Vietnam War there was a large American military base near here and off-duty GI’s would take some R&R on the nearby beaches, the most famous of which was called China Beach (now known as My Khe). In fact this stretch of coastline from Da Nang to Hoi An is one continuous 25km long beach, and is rated as one of the world’s best.


A number of smart resort hotels line the beach, including this one, about to be deluged by some heavy rain.

The village at the foot of the hill makes its living from making sculptures, statues and ornaments from marble, onyx and other stones. These stones were originally excavated from the Marble Mountains (hence the many caves) but this practice has now been banned and the raw materials are shipped in from elsewhere.

Your transportation to Marble Mountain will almost certainly park in the forecourt of one of these stone mason shops and you can expect some hard-selling vendors to try and part you from your money once you return to your vehicle.


Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Vietnam

Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Da Nang, Vietnam

Just north of Da Nang, on the Son Tra Peninsula, stands a massive white statue dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Compassion (or Mercy), known as Chùa Linh Ứng in Vietnamese, as Guan Yin in Chinese and as Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit.

Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Da Nang, Vietnam

Completed in 2010 after six years of construction, the statue is 69.7m high (229ft) with 17 storeys inside. This makes it the 4th tallest Guan Yin statue in the world, the taller ones being:

  1. Guan Yin Statue of the South Seas, Sanya, China, 108m
  2. Guan Yin of Weishan, China, 99m
  3. Chi Shan Temple, Hong Kong, 76m

Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Da Nang, Vietnam

According to Buddhist belief, Guan Yin vowed never to rest in heavenly Buddhahood until every human and creature on this earth is free from suffering (I fear she is in for a long wait). She is often depicted with 1000 arms – a thousand helping hands of compassion. For her compassion towards animals she is associated with vegetarianism and her likeness is commonly displayed in Chinese vegetarian restaurants.

Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Da Nang, Vietnam

The grounds surrounding the statue also contain a temple, a monastery and other facilities. Gardens are decorated with bonsai trees, fountains and statues of arhats (enlightened persons).

Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Da Nang, Vietnam

The hills backing onto the complex are known as Monkey Mountain, a name given by American troops during the Vietnam War, or American War as the Vietnamese know it.

Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Da Nang, Vietnam

The statue looks out over the South China Sea and Da Nang, the fifth largest city in Vietnam with a population approaching 1 million.

Son Tra Guan Yin statue is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Entrance is free.

Son Tra Guan Yin Statue, Da Nang, Vietnam

Hội An, Vietnam

Hoi An’s old buildings are well preserved despite being subject to annual flooding.

Air Asia recently resumed direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Da Nang, Vietnam. Since they were offering cheap discounted fares and I had never been to this part of Vietnam before I decided to take my sons for a short trip.

There are a number of temples, clan houses and museums which are open to the public.

We based ourselves in Hoi An, a small historic town around 30km south of Da Nang. Hoi An is every tourist’s idea of what Vietnam should look like with rice paddy fields, colourful markets, temples, locals in conical straw hats and so on. Of course reality is somewhat different but Hoi An old town is remarkably well preserved, in recognition of which it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Once a trading port, the town is now given over entirely to tourism.

Japanese Covered Bridge, originally 17th century but repaired several times since.

Tourists mill around the quaint, traffic-free streets (cars are banned from the old town centre), looking for souvenirs or somewhere to eat. Shopkeepers try to lure you into their tailor shops or sell you a pair of custom-made shoes. My son ordered a pair of Toms style slip-ons. They only took 6 hours to make and were not bad.

There are dozens of good restaurants and cafes to choose from in Hoi An. In this internet age where everyone gets their travel tips from Trip Advisor, there is a tendency for tourists to flock to the same few restaurants but we preferred to spread our custom to some of the less frequented ones and all the meals were excellent (and, importantly, no tummy problems!). The Hoa Vang Yellow River Riverside Restaurant tempted us in with its sign saying G’Day Mate, Tassie Australia, Coldest Beer in Town.

At night the silk and paper lantern stalls add to the atmosphere and old women try to sell candles in paper boats for floating down the river, which are later fished out by kids with nets and re-sold. There is a night market but by 9pm most of the shops have closed their shutters and the streets start to empty. Hoi An old town is not the place for a boisterous night life.

Many of the hotels, including the Ha An hotel where we stayed, provide free bikes for getting around. There are quiet rural lanes to explore close to town.

If you don’t want to pedal yourself you can always hire a cyclo.

Another popular activity is to take a river cruise.

Hoi An has the added advantage of being close to some very fine beaches. The best one we went to was called Hidden Beach, about a 6km bicycle ride (each way) from Hoi An.

Rattan coracles used by fishermen at Hidden Beach, Hoi An

Sunbeds and umbrellas are provided free of charge by the restaurant owners though of course you are expected to buy drinks or food from them.

Spot the rainbow?

We enjoyed our stay in Hoi An and would be happy to go again.

Relaxing Hoi An – It’s that kind of place!