Before heading to Hoi An later in the day, we had to take the notoriously scammy #1 bus to the Marble Mountains. The #1 goes between Danang and Hoi An, and is infamous for ripping people off. We hopped on, and the grumpy bus attendant waved a fifty thousand dong bill in our faces. Laughing her off, we offered twenty thousand. We still ended up paying too much for a short bus ride at 30,000 dong, but you’re kind of at the mercy of the attendant to make sure the bus stops in the right place for you. It’s an annoying experience.
Hopping off the bus and cursing the attendant under our breath, we caught our first glimpse of the mountains. The Marble Mountains look entirely out of place, towering above flat ground covered in houses and buildings.
They were quarried for years for their marble, and there are tons of shops selling marble statues and trinkets lining the streets. We could barely move without somebody new yelling at us to “buy something? Buy something? You buy something later, okay. See you later”.
We’d read that the entrance fee was 15,000 dong – when we got to the gates, the sign said 40,000. Inflation seems to work on an accelerated timescale here; I can’t even count how many times we’ve read recent reviews telling us one price, just to arrive and see it’s just been increased. I guess we’re just unlucky?
Even though they look impressive relative to the flat area surrounding them, the Marble Mountains are pretty small (especially for a British Columbian!). Definitely a blessing when it feels like 40+ degrees and you have to climb to the top!
The view from above was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it – mountains just popping up seemingly out of nowhere! It was really something else.
At the top of the Marble Mountain, there are a few temples and caves (with temples inside). The caves are cool, but the air is thick with the smell of incense. People burn the red sticks of incense at the countless statues peeking out of every nook and cranny of the cave, causing clouds of smoke to waft up through the openings at the top of the caves.
The temples were similar in style to the Long Son Pagoda and the Ling Ung Pagoda that we’ve already seen, but were quite charming anyways. Again, there were lots of marble statues (we are on Marble Mountain, after all!) and bonsai trees.
We didn’t explore too much because of the incredible heat – I was pretty tempted to join this dog in his cool shady spot.
My favourite part was an adventurous climb through this cave to get to a viewpoint. I don’t have any pictures, because my hands were fully occupied climbing through the tight tunnel to the top. The view was really beautiful, but there was no shade at all. We admired the panorama views for as long as we could before being completely melted, before heading back down.
Back at the bottom of the mountain, we went to the second attraction – An Phu, the hell cave. The entrance was spooky and wonderful; a bridge with spiderweb patterns and marble Zodiac animals led the way into the cave.
Inside, gaudy red and green LED lights lit up crazy-eyed statues of demons and crocodiles eating people. It reminded me of low budget Halloween decorations, but I liked it!
Once we’d seen enough of the grimacing faces and gruesome torture scenes lining the cave walls, we headed back out to the daylight. We took the same bus back to our guesthouse in Danang (and endured another battle with the con woman attendant) before collecting our things and making our way to Hoi An!