Located just an hour’s drive from Da Nang Vietnam, are the jungle-clad Ba Na Hills, which are easily accessible first by bus and then cable cars. I recommend these cool-climate hills as an excellent one-day, or even longer, getaway or as an escape from the heat and humidity of the nearby coast.
To get to the Ba Na Hills, I strongly advise you take one of the many tours that depart from both Hoi An and Da Nang daily. You will need your tour guide to help you negotiate the cable car stations – there is in fact a network of cable cars — and once you have arrived high up in the hills, your guide will lead you to the best spots, and believe me, there’s so much happening up here. It also means you will be following one of those flag-bearing guides – something I have always avoided in my travels. Here, I was simply forced to swallow my pride and follow my flag.
Upon arriving at the main cable car station I was confronted by a huge magnificent military fort-like building with a large welcoming entrance. Before entering I had to walk over a traditional Chinese-style bridge spanning a large pond full of goldfish. Once inside the magnificent cable car station I got the impression I was in a five star hotel as it’s highly decorated with beautiful works of art and exquisite furnishings. I was then ushered by attractively-dressed uniformed ushers towards my awaiting cable car, using a series of escalators.
For a moment I thought I was having one of those near-death or out of body experiences. I entered my cable car in such beautiful and peaceful surrounds and was silently whisked away at high speed towards the mountain tops and a bright light shone directly overhead.
It took about 15 minutes to get to the first stop – The Golden Bridge. This is gobsmacking. This gold-coloured walking bridge is several hundred meters long and is supported by two gigantic hands, all of which is perched precariously over a deep valley hundreds of meters below. Much of the time everything, including the high-altitude valley, is shrouded by swirling mists. The views are magnificent.
The outreaching hands are those of the Mountain Gods willing and welcoming anyone and everyone who cares to visit. It also represents a glimpse of heaven 2,000m above sea level and with everyone in the safe embrace of the Gods whilst eternally united by a Golden Bridge. All are welcome.
I was surprised and happy to see so many people here from all over the world accepting this special invitation from these Gods. This is a true place of pilgrimage in my book.
When I was done with Heaven I caught another cable car and ascended a further 1,000m to the top of the mountain. Here, barely visible most of the time due to the swirling mists, stands a once-fabled and mysteries village — the 19th century French village of Ba Na Hills.
This mist-shrouded French village was constructed by French colonialists around 1920 as their summer retreat from the coastal heat and humidity. Here they constructed luxury hotels, a grand castle, French-styled gardens, villas, cafes, restaurants and shops all in the French style. I spent the afternoon walking its cobbled streets and alleys thinking I was somewhere in the French countryside.
At first I suspected it was all some kind of fake movie set or cheap amusement centre constructed of wood or other synthetic materials. Yet, after diligently tapping many of the buildings and their accoutrements I discovered everything was in fact, constructed of bricks and cement. It is the real deal. I entered many of the hotels, concert halls and more and was delighted to see their 1930s-styled décor and furnishings. There are even old Peugeots, Renaults and other strange-looking French cars of that period parked in the streets.
When the French were finally ousted from Vietnam the village was abandoned and gradually fell into disrepair. It was gradually restored to its former glory in the 1990s. Now, you can even stay overnight in one of the village’s luxury boutique hotels.
As the sun approached the horizon, the mist further intensified and the village again gradually faded from view. The weather began to turn cold and my tour guide, with flag, finally guided me back to my awaiting bus and hotel.