On the way down the Marble Mountain in Danang a couple of tourists we passed by with a GoPro.
“Is there anything to see up ahead?” they asked.
“Yes, there’s lots.” I answered. I remembered wondering the same thing when deciding to “take a peek” down what I thought was the last little path. In fact we had been walking around for a couple of hours since then.
Marble Mountain Expectations Were Low
Our first encounter with Marble Mountain was on our way down to Hoi An a week earlier. It was a strange and out-of-place looking mountain along the coast. As we approached, a local scooted up next to us on our motorbike and started making friendly conversation across the road, which lead into a sales pitch to swing by the mountain before going to Hoi An. We passed it by at the time, but decided to come check it out later.
Ok, What’s the Scam…
We were almost certain it would barely be worth the trip, thinking it would just be a little tourist trap where locals harrass you to buy little trinkets. Indeed, as soon as we pulled up we were shouted at from all angles from shop owners who all wanted us to park at their shop. The parking was free, and the shop owners were overly friendly, and as we started off to buy the tickets we wondered aloud what the scam was going to be and how much it was going to cost us.
The tickets cost 15,000 dong (less than $1) each. Rae was free. We could have spent another dollar and taken the elevator up, but decided to go for the hike. It didn’t seem far. We figured we’d be in the mountain for 20-30 minutes.
Things Start to Get Pretty Good!
The first part of the climb up Marble Mountain was impressive… better than expected. We first passed by a large dragon sculpture that climbed up the side of the mountain. I was still being completed, and we got to watch the artists out there on wooden planks the edge of the mountain building the upper parts. There is a lot of stuff like this just being completed or started here, which I think is really neat to see. Instead of seeing 1000 year old moss covered relics and ruins, I feel like we’re in the past seeing all that stuff being built… which we are I guess!
Then we turned the corner to find a big white buddha sitting up in the rocks. Every time we turned a corner there was some sort of interesting feature. A temple, a marble buddhist scene nestled in the rocks, a tall pagoda, etc.
After about 40 minutes of exploring, we felt pretty satisfied that we had gotten our 2$ worth, and started heading back. That’s when we decided to quickly take a peek up one more trail to see if there was “anything worth seeing up there,” and where we’d meet the next couple heading up the same direction 2 hours later thinking the same thing.
Wait… There’s More!
The trail led upwards, and I must admit I almost turned around and suggested we don’t bother when I saw the stairs kept going upward. But something kept holding my interest for just a few more steps, until eventually we came to an opening in the rocks at the top. On the other side we saw people climbing up into a cave.
“Cool, they have a cave!” I thought, and up we went. It was a pretty cool little cave that had just enough rough climbing to be both fun for Rae and I, and safe enough for Nicole to allow the spelunking.
After spending about 20 minutes admiring the cave and the buddha in there, we headed out and again decided to take one more “quick look” around another corner.
Again there was some climbing, and I almost suggested we turn back. But it wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the peak of the mountain (at least one of them). Rae and I climbed up the last little steep part to reach the very top, where we found ourselves with a full 360 view of the beach and city. Even though we were pretty high up, we could hear the waves crashing below us almost as clearly as they were on the beach itself. The sun was just starting to set behind us. Rae played on the rocks for a while, and I just sat back and admired the incredible view.
We headed back down the path, and back to the cave. It was possible to go even further, but did we dare? I couldn’t help but just quickly walk down another path just to make sure it was a dead-end.
Another, much bigger cave! We started in, and around the corner we saw it went down into the earth where there was a giant room with a buddha carved into the wall and what seemed like monks chattering quietly. It seemed like a scene out of Indiana Jones… so much so in fact that we didn’t even know if we should go in. Like most other attractions here, there weren’t very many other tourists, and at this cave there was no one else who’s lead we could follow. So we just lingered at the entrance of the room, peaking in and hoping we didn’t get noticed. We could hear bats squeaking, and occasionally see one flutter by. We chickened out and turned back.
Ok, We Need To Come Back!
As we made our way back, we saw several other trails heading out in various directions. I started down one, but as the sun was going down and we had other plans for the evening, this time we decided to turn back and maybe come back another day.
When we got back to what we now know was the “start” of the hike, I took a closer look at the map. I figure we saw about 2/3 of it. The big cave looks like it is even bigger once you work up the courage to go into the big room that we saw. We also had only visited the 2nd highest peak.
The hike wasn’t that hard, but it was good excercise. On my way back down the mountain I fantasized about moving to Danang and hiking the Marble Mountain regularly as a fun way to get in shape.
Now for the Catch
Oh, and as for the parking scam… the shop owners put your bike off in their garage and make you go shop for marble trinkets before letting you go. We figured this would be the case, but since other shops were offering 3 brackets for a dollar, we figured we’d just pick something small and be done with it. Nicole chose a little marble, which I think was actually a normal glass marble that wasn’t even for sale. The shop owner decided she wanted to charge 200,000 dong for it, which of course we didn’t pay. We got the motorbike anyway, and gave her 20,000 dong for watching the bike for us.