A day trip from Hoi An to the Marble Mountains, a full day of exploration
During my visit in Hoi An, I decided to take a full day trip to the Marble Mountains, and I am glad I did it as I had an amazing time! The Marble Mountains are one of the most popular day trips and it is situated just 45 km (28 miles) from Hoi An.
The Marble Mountains are a group of such a unique five limestone and marble hills in Ngu Hanh Son District. The mountains’ sheer, porous limestone is punctuated by caves and tunnels, which are fitted with spectacular Buddhist and Hindu shrines.
The Marble Mountains dominate the plain-like landscape along the coast road between Hoi An and Danang. If you happen to land in Danang airport, you can’t help but notice them looming in the distance and jutting up dramatically. Their intrigue continues as you get closer and see the scores of magnificent marble carvings of lions, Buddha, Jesus, elephants...you name it, and they can carve pretty much anything from marble.
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Where is the Marble Mountains and how can I get there
Danang is located 45 km (28 miles) from Hoi An, it takes approx.. 1 hour by motorbike or a little quicker by car ride from Hoi An.
Marble Mountains is located about 7km from the center of Danang city. It is next to the Non Nuoc tourist area and situated in Hoa Hai ward, Ngu Hanh Son district.
I rented a motorbike while I was in Hoi An and rode it from Hoi An to Danang. The traffic was light and the roads are in great condition. The only bad part is that I caught in very heavy rain on my way and I had to park the bike on the side of the road and have a hot coffee while I waited for the rain to stop. I am very thankful for dry-fit clothes and by the time I got to Danang, I was already dry.
Danang is located on the ocean, but because of the rain, I just visited the beach quickly. I was not able to take any good photos or to enjoy more time there. On a beautiful day you have the option to enjoy the beach.
Read more: Hoi An, TOP things to do and explore
Best way to explore the Marble Mountains
Transportation Options and Cost: You can rent a motorbike as cheap as US$5 per day plus you pay for parking 10,000 VND (.40c USD) or take an Uber drive from US$10-15 each way. You also can hire a tour group, but this will be the most expense option, and it is pretty easy to explore Marble Mountains on your own.
Entry Fee: There are two entrances to Marble Mountains. Gate one and Gate two. Both entrances cost 40,000 VND (1.70 USD) per person to enter. Although the second, further entrance has an easier climb and is less-frequented. The elevator costs an additional 15,000 VND (.65c USD) per person, each way. The 156 step climb at the main entrance is not particularly difficult and offers some interesting views of shrines and stone-carved friezes on your way up.
Tour Time: There are a variety of tours you can do. It takes roughly 1-1/2 hour to view the sights at Mt. Thuy. My full tour took approx. 4 hours and I visited the 5 mountains and spend time taking pictures.
Best Time to visit: Marble Mountains is open year-round from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The best months to visit are during the summer season, even though the heat can be stifling. During the rainy season (September to November), heavy rains can come up suddenly and their torrents will slick the marble stairs. I have been during a raining day and it was very slippery and dangerous. Best time to visit is in the morning, before 8:30 AM as the tour buses start to arrive around 9:15 AM.
What to wear: First of all, I recommend to wear comfy and sturdy shoes if you are planning to visit all the sites and climb up to the top. Comfortable clothes - gym attire can be a good choice! I saw a lot of girls wearing dresses and high heels - they look cute, but they didn't seem to be having too much fun trying to climb up the marble steps and path on a rainy day. All for a good Instagram picture, right 😉
What to expect: There is a lot to see in Marble Mountains, such as is a religious temples, pagodas, caves, amazing stone carvings, and local marble carving shops
How to explore: When visiting the Marble Mountains, visitors often come to the big mountain Thuy Son, Tam Thai Pagoda, the Huyen Khong Cave, the Linh Nham cave, the Van Thong cave, the Lang Hu cave and the Van Nguyet cave. Each of the mountains have a variety of sights to see and experience. It was great as many of the caves and pagodas where not overcrowded with tourists and I could enjoy the serenity of this magic place. The best option to avoid the crowd is to arrive earlier, around 8:00 AM.
Consider some fitness level: There are a lot of stairs involved and some steps are high and uneven and not too easy if you have short legs, but the view from the top is outstanding. Many areas are accessible through narrow steps in the rock and on a rainy day the steps can be slippery. You have the option to pay to take the elevator up also.
The history of Marble Mountains
The cluster of limestone outcrops that make up the Marble Mountains were initially sacred sites workshipped by the Cham peoples of Central and Southern Vietnam. However, the mountains are not massive in comparison to some of Vietnam’s northern ranges. But they are impressive in relation to the flat central floodplains of the surrounding countryside. So it is easy to see why they cast an attractive spell on the Cham. They also contain a myriad of cave networks and tunnels that the Cham recognised as holy places.
In 1825, centuries after the decline of the Cham Empire, the Vietnamese King Minh Mang, named the mountains “Ngu Hanh Son”—The Five Element Mountains. Each mountain is named after one of the five essential elements in Eastern Philosophical thought: Kim (metal), Tho (earth), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire), and Thuy (water). Together, the mountains were a spiritual destination for both the Vietnamese aristocracy and Mahayana Buddhists. So over the years, Buddhist followers constructed the sanctuaries that you see today.
However, during the French colonial period, French geologists realized the mountains were comprised of marble and re-named them the “Marble Mountains.” The French name stuck, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the centuries since the Champa Empire, Buddhist followers have built shrines and temples at the summits of the mountains and in the caves below them. Therefore the Marble Mountains and their shrines within, continue to lure visitors to this day to enjoy their expansive views, wander their intricate caves and be swept up in their history.
Visit the carving shops area
After spending 4 hours exploring the Marble Mountains, I visited the marble carving stores at the foot of Non Nuoc, a crowed shopping area made up of dozens of stone carving shops and lots of artistic sculptures that are carved by hard-working local craftsmen.
The marble you will see here comes from different parts of Vietnam, and if you decide to buy something, keep in mind that it won't be a souvenir from Mt. Thuy. The red, white, and green marble used by local carvers for tombstones, statues, and touristy knick-knacks sold in Da Nang and the surrounding beaches came from the large rock deposits in the mountains themselves. Sadly the limitless consumption of stone from their reserves would reduce the towering hills to rubble. So, in order to maintain the mountains as a destination worth visiting, quarrying has recently stopped, ensuring the mountains’ longevity.
You can also watch the artisans work, sculpting and sawing huge slabs or marble. Check out these places and find out how much a 20 foot lady Buddha statue costs. You can negotiate pricing and shipping cost for them to arrange to deliver to your house.
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