I drove out of Hoi An in a random direction and 45 minutes later, Teresa and I were suddenly in Da Nang, surrounded by marble sculptures, rocky formations protruding from the earth called the Marble Mountains with pagodas built into the side and an awe-inspiring multifaceted cave system.
If we’d done the slightest bit of research, we would’ve known all of this was here because hundreds of other travelers apparently did. To us, it was a blissful surprise that occupied our entire day. Having a motorbike in this situation was paramount as we could come and go as we pleased and traverse between the 5 limestone formations all we wanted. After doing some further research, we discovered each mountain is named after earthly “elements”: fire, water, metal, wood, and earth.
To enter the pagodas and caves, we paid a fee equivalent to $5 or something like that (it was roughly 2 years ago so my memory is a bit shaky). Some of these caves were massive, opening up to allow sunbeams to streak in, illuminating the rocky ground. There were probably hundreds of travelers walking through the caves as well, but there was so much room to roam that it never became overwhelming or crowded.
The views from the tops of these mountains are phenomenal. You can see all of Da Nang, and at some points, out towards the South China Sea. That’s one of the things I loved about Vietnam, the fact that the coast was never somewhere new and exciting.
After walking around the caves and checking out all the cool architecture of the pagodas, we descended back down to the ground and reclaimed our parked bike. After, we proceeded to drive around town. The main industry here, it seems, is marble masonry. Every shop surrounding the mountains sells all types of marble carvings, from tiny Buddha’s that you can mount on your dashboard, to massive lions and tigers that are maybe three times bigger than their anatomical counterparts. After talking to some of the locals, we came to realize that there is a huge worldwide market for these carvings and some of the bigger ones go for upwards of $30,000 to $50,000 US dollars. There is some serious money to be made here if you’ve got the drive and the talent. I’m sure contractors are the ones making the big bucks; the actual labourers, I’m not 100% sure of, but they are talented as hell, that’s for sure.
I can’t overemphasize that feeling of freedom I get from having the wind blow through my hair and across my body as I’m ripping it on a motorcycle through a tropical climate. It’s the ultimate combination and a great way to escape the discomfort of the heat (although, be careful, you’re not escaping the heat itself and it’s a good way to get a brutal sunburn if you’re not careful). As I write this, I’m also doing massive amounts of research into motorbiking in the Philippines, a destination I’ll be submerging myself in in 5 weeks’ time. It excites me to no end, to say the least. Hoi An/Da Dang, and honestly, the rest of Vietnam allowed me this privileged freedom. We had a bike every single place we went in this country with the exception of Sapa and Halong Bay, for fairly obvious reasons. Freedom Felt in Vietnam was a real thing for me and it has the potential to be the most revisited place on my list. This surprise visit to Da Nang is a perfect example as to why.
Be sure to Like, Comment, and Share on my Facebook page, linked on the top right of all of my articles. I’ll leave you with a cool photo of some students taking part in a calisthenics routine in Hoi An with an instructor who seemed very strict and disciplined. Enjoy, and next time on the Southeast Asia trip, the beautiful and historically significant Huế!