by Khieu Thanh Ha
Do you want to enjoy all four Vietnamese seasons in one day? Do you want to indulge yourself at one of the biggest indoor parks in the region?
For those who answer “yes”, let me introduce the Ba Na Hills in central Da Nang City.
The city is one of my favourite holiday destinations due to its beautiful beaches and close lying Hoi An.
Although I have heard a lot about Ba Na, situated around 40km west of Da Nang, I only recently decided to visit the area.
The thing that first enchanted me was the double Guinness World record breaking cable car, honoured as both the longest and highest non-stop system in operation.
The 5,042m high cable car ride takes about 20 minutes, reaching a vertical rise of about 1,500m above sea level.
Sitting in the cabin, looking down upon the endless line of forests below, I witnessed breathtaking views of lush jungles, waterfalls, streams and wide vistas across Da Nang to the sea alongside the big white Buddha that first drew my attention to the hills.
The 27m high statue, visible for kilometres around, sits on a 6m lotus shaped support and is said to be the biggest in Viet Nam.
The Buddha is the symbol of the holy Linh Ung Pagoda which was built in 2004 and has a special pine tree with three different kinds of leaves in its courtyard.
Alternatively, you can scale the hills via a steep mountain by either car or foot.
As you climb the winding road to the beautiful Ba Na, the temperature and humidity drops away. When it is over 30oC on the coast, it is more likely to be between 15oC-26oC on the mountain.
Rain often falls between 700m and 1,200m above sea level, but around the hill station itself, the sky is usually clear, the view truly spectacular, and the air fresh and cool.
Mountain tracks lead to a variety of viewpoints that would make you weary of taking photos.
On the mountain it is spring in the morning, summer at noon; autumn comes in the afternoon, and cold winter at night.
I was surprised with the weather that was, in my opinion, better than that of famous Da Lat because of the lack of rain.
The site was first discovered by the French in the 1920s, who escaped the summer heat for its cool, refreshing air.
Local people were mobilised to build a road to the mountain peak and wooden bridges across the streams. One of them, the Debay Bridge, still exists.
The first villa was built in May 1919, followed by the first hotel in Ba Na, the Morin. Brick and wooden houses were also built to replace the low, thatch roofede houses. Modern facilities were installed, including electricity, water, a bakery, telegraph centres and a medical station.
After a brief heyday in the 1930s, the resort was abandoned and soon fell victim to the ravages of war and the encroaching jungle.
By the late 1940s, Ba Na resort had more than 200 private villas and lots of public works.
At present, when visiting the Tinh Tam Garden, you will have a chance to see the vestiges of the villas.
The war also left a wine cellar unscathed where you can taste many kinds of wines during your time here.
At the hotel, receptionists are helpful in showing you different trekking routes around the area, which is home to over a hundred species of flora and fauna.
The Fantasy Park in turn offers games for both adults and children. The park, according to its managers, is the biggest of its kind in Viet Nam.
Games including the Drop Twist Tower, Spin and Kiss and Spider Wall are organised here for free.
Night comes quickly on the mountain and you should not miss a campfire BBQ party that not only lures tourists, but also friendly and naughty monkeys who sometimes try and steal your food and drinks. — VNS
Commanding view: Perched 1,500m up a mountain 40km west of Da Nang, Ba Na Hills provide a welcome change from the coast.
Quick changes: Visitors will enjoy weather of four seasons of the year in one day spending in Ba Na. — VNS Photos Khieu Thanh Ha
Back to the jungle: Tourists can see vestiges of hundreds of old French-style villas left from colonial days.