The Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh Son) lie between Da Nang and Hoi An. Dubbed Hon Non Nuoc, meaning Mountain and Water in Vietnamese, there are actually five marble outcrops topped with pagodas. Each is said to represent one of the natural elements: Tho Son (Earth), Moc Son (Wood), Kim Son (Metal/Gold), Thuy Son (Water) and Hoa Son (Fire).
Thuy Son (Mountain of Water) is the largest and most famous of the five marble mountains and contains a number of caves in which Hindu, Buddhist and Cham deities are worshipped. The most impressive of these is the Huyen Khong Cave. Cathedral-like, with natural light entering through a small skyward opening, this large cave houses a large Cham Buddha, Buddhist and Confucian shrines along with various inscriptions carved into the walls.
Huyen Khong was also used as a VC Hospital and base during the Vietnam War – quite incredible given its proximity to the US Airbase at Danang. A small plaque inside the cave commemorates the Women’s Artillery Group’s destruction of 19 US aircraft from that Airbase.
Another worthwhile walk is through Van Thong cave. Behind the Buddha statue is a narrow ‘path’ to the peak, known as the “Road to Heaven”. Be aware that this is more of a climb than a walk, but the views from the top make it worthwhile.
The Marble Mountains are famous for their traditional stone engraving activities. In Dong Hai, a village close to Thuy Son, families create intricate statues, jewellery and art works. The entrance to the mountains is a well-known tourist trap and countless vendors compete for custom. Don’t be afraid to bargain, in fact if you don’t, you will be be paying far too much. Always be polite and bargain politely as losing face is an absolute no no. Please also note that rock extraction from the Marble Mountains is prohibited, so all souvenirs are now made from materials transported from quarries in northern provinces like Thanh Hoa.
Getting up the Marble Mountains is now even easier thanks to the installation of a space-age lift, although many tourists still tend to opt for the steps, a more traditional and equally picturesque route, allowing time whilst climbing to enjoy the views out over China Beach.
To reach the Marble Mountain from Da Nang or Hoi An, you can join a tour group, take a taxi or back seat on bike. The number 1 (yellow) bus from Danang to Hoi An stops right in front of the marble mountains. You can catch this from the bus station in Danang (Dien Bien Phu nº 33, close to the train station) or from Hoi An bus station (Le Hong Phong Street junction with Nguyen Tat Thanh). The price is around 20,000 VND per person each way. My partner and I hired a scooter for the day and made our own way from Hoi An giving us as much time as we liked at the Marble Mountains to explore.
I wouldn’t say that the views from the top are particularly spectacular, however the Huyen Khong Cave is. Inside the calm, incense-filled interior, a dimly-lit Cham Buddha along with various other shrines create a special atmosphere, making this a must for any visitor to Da Nang or Hoi An.
Opening Hours : 7am – 5pm Daily
Admission: Price depends route taken via stairs or the lift –
Via the Stairs: 15,000 VND Per Person
Via the lift: 30,000 VND Per Person
Do take a look at our guide to eating out in Hoi An
We stayed at the Hai Au hotel in Hoi An – please click here for the review