Marble Mountains, Danang - review by Rusty Compass
Hoi An | see and do guide

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Marble Mountains, Danang

| 26 Apr 2013
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Marble Mountains, Danang
Coast road between Danang and Hoi An

Our rating
26 Apr 2013

Marble Mountains are a cluster of five mountains around 20kms north of Hoi An steeped in legend with great views across the nearby coastline to Danang.

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Marble Mountains are a small cluster of marble outcrops on Vietnam's central coast between Hoi An and Danang. Each of the outcrops is said to represent one of five elements - earth, water, fire, metal and wood.

Travellers visit Thuy Son mountain which is dotted with caves, several of which have Buddhist pagodas. It's also infested with some fairly persistent touts.

Marble Mountains are of spiritual significance to Vietnamese and can be very busy on weekends and during Buddhist festivals and holidays.

In addition to their spiritual significance, Marble Mountains were a base for Viet Cong fighters during the Vietnam War. One of the largest caves was said to be the site of a VC hospital. The opening in the roof is described by some tour guides as having been caused by US bombing. Others dispute this. As is often the case when travelling in Vietnam, it's very hard to know for sure.

A plaque in Vietnamese references a celebrated VC fighter, Phan Hanh Son, operating from here in 1968, as well as a team of 22 female gunners who shot down 19 US planes from the mountain in 1972.

A large US base was close by on the road to Danang.The reinforced concrete semi circular aircraft hangars are still visible as you travel the coast road from Danang to the Marble Mountains.

The caves and views across the Danang coastline and hinterland are interesting but this needn't be a major priority during your Vietnam travels. It's worth including during some general bicycle or motorcycle exploration but unless you have a strong interest in marble or the war, your Vietnam travels won't be much diminished if you miss Marble Mountains. Much of the atmosphere has been lost because excessive recent building on the mountain and the overzealous touts.

In the past, marble extracted from the mountains formed the foundation of a flourishing marble carving industry. We're assured that marble is now brought in from other parts of Vietnam and China and the sacred mountains are no longer mined.

Most of the marble carvings sold in the shops at the base of the mountains are high Asian kitsch targeted at Vietnam and China's new rich. Think huge lions, Buddha statues and other animals. It's worth a look though, you might find something more discreet. Like the touts on the mountains, the sellers in the marble shops tend to be pretty heavy handed.

Travel tips
20kms north of Hoi An, 9kms south of Danang.
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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