Tired after the memorable evening in Hoi An, I slept for most of the ride. It was a short ride lasting for less than an hour. We had managed to book the taxi late the previous night when we went out in search for some beer and got a decent deal with the driver. The taxi driver stopped in front of a store where sculptures and collectibles were all made of marble. All the shops nearby were of local stonemasons displaying their craftsmanship through the marble artifacts. We had arrived at the marble mountains.
I could see rocks towering amidst houses and shops, five in all. According to folklore, a dragon emerged from the sea and laid an egg which hatched after a thousand days. A beautiful lady stepped out from the egg and fragments of the shell were left on the beach, which grew into the Marble Mountains. Each mountains represents an element, namely fire, wood, water, metal and earth.
The Mountain of Water is the biggest one and we proceeded to climb it. There was also the option of an taking the glass elevator to the top but we took the stony stairway. What started as a slight drizzle turned into a downpour, as if it was meant for us to feel the element of the mountain. Fortunately for us, we had the raincoats from My Son which allowed us to just make it to the top and seek shelter in the Vong Giang tower, a beautiful observatory spot with spectacular views of other mountains and the beach in the distance.
We went ahead to explore the mountain as the rains came to a halt. The mountain is dotted with numerous caves and grottoes and most of them are Buddhist shrines and we paid our respects. There were some beautiful rock formations and stalactites along the trails which made for some good pictures. We would have head back to the base but following another group of tourists led to a huge cave with a number of shrines, temple guards and Buddha statues. The cave has a large opening at the top which is said to be caused by the American bombing. The light from the opening passing through the incense filled air makes for an eerie feeling.
The walls of the mountains punched with bullet holes indicated a perturbing past. Being way past the time the taxi driver had allotted for us to spend here, we quickly made our way down the stairs and skipped all the enthusiastic sales pitches of the shop owners and were on the way back to Da Nang.
Phap Lam Pagoda and Da Nang Cathedral
We walked about a mile to find a vegetarian friendly restaurant after checking into our cozy stay in Da Nang. Both the pagoda and the cathedral were at walking distance from the restaurant and we decided to check the pagoda first.
Located in the city centre, we would have easily missed walking passed it if we weren’t looking particularly for this pagoda. The pagoda consists of a 2 storey building and a large courtyard that houses a couple of large Buddha statues and some bonsai trees in the garden. We cooled off for a while in the peaceful area and also away from the midday heat.
A walk of about a kilometer led us to Da Nang Cathedral. Built in the 1930’s by the French, this pink structure caters to the Christian community of Da Nang as the only church in the city. The church was referred to as Rooster church as the imposing bell tower has a rooster at the top of the weather-vane. We found a grotto at the back of the church of Virgin Mary, which is supposedly a replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France.
A taxi got us to the 5th Division Military Museum, but to my disappointment, the place was closed now as the clock had moved past five. We decided to take a stroll towards the famous Dragon Bridge. En-route, another bridge brightly lit up slowly changing colors caught our attention. I know it now as the Tran Thi Ly bridge. There was the Sun Wheel, a colorfully lit giant wheel in the background. We sat there for a while on the banks of the Han river, soaking in the wonderful atmosphere that the city had turned into since nightfall. At a distance along the Han, I could see the Dragon bridge.
We walked along the bank where it seemed like rendezvous point for many a couple. With a cool breeze across the Han, and mesmerizing views of the Dragon Bridge on one side and the Tran Thi Ly bridge on the other, it didn’t seem surprising that love was in the air. The giant dragon seemed to turn from shades of bright yellow through green and finally to a deep blue and reverse. I was let down that we weren’t in Da Nang on a weekend as the huge dragon spits fire and water in a spectacular show for 5 minutes during the weekends.
Our Take: Da Nang is one of the largest cities of Vietnam. Beautiful beaches, history and role of it during the Vietnam War, the splendid Marble Mountains, vibrant display of colors all across the city and close proximity to both Hue, Hoi An and My Son, it is a must visit place in your Vietnam itinerary. Also, make sure to visit in the weekend so as to not miss the stunning show of the Dragon Bridge.