For all those who have been following the Vietnam Diaries, welcome back 🙂
While the Vietnam holiday was an amazing one and I have enjoyed writing every moment about the holiday…until now, last week, I wanted to fast forward and jump straight to the last leg of the journey. That’s when I called my friend up, the one I travelled with and she gently yet firmly pulled the reins and asked me to write about the second and middle leg of the trip. So, here I am, doing it but I’ll make it quick- not because it was boring but because patience is a virtue that I do not possess and please don’t get it wrong – I am not proud of it. The pictures may not be too clear because of the rains but trust me, the place is breathtakingly beautiful and royal.
Ba Na Hills
The day after Hoi An we went to Ba Na Hills (named after Banana Plantations on the hills). Ba Na Hills is 1487 m above sea level and to go to the top, one must go 5 km by cable car over forested mountains (not so scary as going over the sea as in Hong Kong. Even if you fall, you might just be able to hang on to a tree- well, that’s the way I think). As the cable car makes a steep journey upward, you can see streams, rivulets tumbling over rocks, gathering speed as they fall over the forests below.
A tropical depression around the same time brought rains to Danang on the 27/12/16. Going from the middle east which is rain-starved, a good shower was perfect. It seemed like Nature was with us in providing us an experience of all 4 seasons in Vietnam. It began with a drizzle in the morning which was beautiful and that’s when I penned the poem “Nature Heals” Nature, heals all!. However, the rains seemed to continue unabated. It wasn’t a show-stopper and fortunately for the rain-coats that we had packed, we could continue our trip. However, we did not explore Ba Na Hills as much as we would have had there been no rains.
Note: If you are going with a tour operator, they do provide you with a very basic rain-coat, something that you can just drop over your head and it covers you. But it’s a good thing to wear warm clothes because the rain and the wind at that altitude (1487m), can make it chill.
Since I hadn’t done my homework well, I wasn’t too sure of going by cable car. However, one look at the facility and a quick reference to google told me that the Ba Na Hills cable car is one of the ten best in the world. So safety wasn’t an issue. It became obvious that we had underestimated the little country.
A journey by cable car, then a short journey to the top by the Funicular (mountain train ) and we were at the romantic flower garden. There’s also a wine cellar built by the French in which is about 100m long and the Linh Ung Pagoda. To be honest, the wind was bitingly cold so we decided to forego the pagoda, ventured out a little bit to see the garden and then got into the comfort of the wine cellar. Lunch was at a Vietnamese restaurant on the top. While it’s incredible that they are able to transport all those ingredients to the top and make a meal equal to anywhere else in Vietnam, the food itself tends to be cold (because the cold wind rushes in every time someone opens and shuts the door to the restaurant). I would have so preferred a hot pizza at a Pizzeria close by but the tour had booked the Vietnamese restaurant and so Vietnamese lunch it was.
After lunch we walked over to Ba Na Hills Fantasy Park which is an indoor entertainment park (thank God it was indoors!). Anything to get away from the cold wind was more than welcome. We spent the rest of the day there, sipped hot Vietnamese coffee (which one needs to acquire a taste for; it wasn’t something I particularly relished) and then played indoor games like kids! The children had a blast on the 29 m Tower drop ride, climbing a 21 m high wall, horror room, crystal maze- the rides and games are part of the ticket to Ba Na Hills which is really nothing compared to other similar places in the world. There’s no extra charge. So you can play all you want.
We left the place at around 4.00 p.m. and reached the foot of the hill at around 5.20 p.m. It was dark and still raining. On the way, we stopped over to see the Lady Buddha by the sea. In the dark night, She towered over Danang looking peaceful and strong. The Vietnamese believe that there is a Lady Buddha because the world can be balanced only if the female version exists with the male.
Content with all that we had seen and experienced, we hoped that it wouldn’t rain as much the next day because we were to go on a walking tour of the Imperial Citadel.
Note: It’s better to wear comfortable shoes in Vietnam because there’s a lot of walking to do and if you are not comfortable, you’re not going enjoy it.
The next day, it was still raining all the way to Hue, 3 hours away. Thankfully, the rains took a breather while we made our first stop which was the royal tomb of King Minh Mang. The Mausoleum is housed in 44 acre area filled with trees, a lake, a temple and a forest. Thanks to the rains, the temperatures had dropped. The ground was still wet. A little drizzle continued. As we climbed the stairs to where the King of Vietnam once resided, you could hear the sounds of the forest except for the animals (thankfully!)- the rain, the trees, the birds, the green lake- a serenity and tranquility fit for a king. The stone monuments, the forest, the lake are in perfect harmony.
As we walked through the grounds, taking in the cool, pure air, drops of rain fell from the leaves and made circles in the otherwise still green waters of the lake. For a moment, you would want time to stand still so you can soak in the peace- just enough of it to take back with you to your chaotic world of alarm clocks, ringing phones and traffic.
Lunch was at Vietnamese restaurant in Hue where the restaurant manager was kind enough to give us personal attention and gave us clear instructions on how the various items on the menu had to be consumed making the experience particularly delightful.
Post Lunch, we went by boat along the Perfume river by dragon boat (once called by this name because of the Champa flowers that grew along the river giving it a beautiful fragrance. Now it was only a name) and then went to Hue Citadel to see the nine cannons, nine dynastic urns (represent the reigns of successive Nguyen Emperors) and the palace. The walk through the palace gardens, though long isn’t tiring because of the cool clime, green and the peace and quiet.
Tomorrow we fly to Hanoi , the capital of Vietnam and then to Halong Bay. Stay with me for the last leg of our holiday which was the perfect way to end a near-perfect holiday.