When I first saw a picture of the newly built gold bridge suspended by two gigantic stone hands it was immediately added to my visit list. Thing is, it was in Vietnam and if you have been over to my post on abandoned theme parks you’ll know that I didn’t really think I’d ever be back in Vietnam any time soon. The bridge was opened in June 2018, the same month I started travelling full time. Fast forward to February 2020 and I found myself back in Vietnam! Now whilst I am a lover of abandoned places and more off the beaten track places I’m still a sucker for an over priced tourist attraction. It doesn’t happen too often so I let it slide now and then and sometimes it all depends on the way you market it to yourself.
I knew I wanted to get there first thing, beat the crowds and tourist buses. It opened at 7am, it’s a 40 minute drive from My Khe Beach where I was staying. Reception staff at my hotel said they could arrange a taxi for me which was marginally cheaper than having to get a Grab but still a colossal £20 return (600,000 dong), also I wasn’t sure what the availability of Grab’s would be coming back as we were far from Da Nang so I agreed. Just come down 15 minutes before you want to leave they said… I am sure I mentioned this would be at 6am but it turns out reception isn’t even manned till 7am. So I had to get a Grab. I was quite annoyed with myself that I hadn’t actually pre-booked the taxi with reception and now had to pay 675,000 dong for a Grab (return). Ok, so 75,000 dong is only £2.57. It’s not making a significant dent in my bank account and it’s a minimal amount compared to life in London but it’s more the mindset when you adapt to local currency that get’s me sometimes – it was the equivalent to a hearty dinner or 3.5 lunches of bánh mì!
You can also get to Ba Na Hills by Grab scooter which is about half the price but I don’t scoot, especially not for that amount of time or you can go on an organised tour but they turn up at the same time as the other tour buses. Unfortunately at present there is no public transport you can get out to the hill base.
The Golden Bridge lives in the already existing Ba Na Hills Resort. It’s an amusement park built amongst a (fake) French Village on top of a mountain reached by one of the longest cable car’s in the world. Keeping it’s original theme of when the hill station was a resort for French tourists back in the Colonial days. It’s a hugely popular destination for families – a Medieval castle, cobblestone paths, a Neo-Classical cathedral, manicured gardens and (for the parents) a beer garden. There’s a wax museum, an “Alpine Coaster” ride, an underground amusement park with rides and shows, countless restaurants and food stalls. With the addition of the giant stone hands holding up a Golden Bridge tourism has peaked here. I had come for the bridge but it wouldn’t hurt to have a gander round the rest of the park. Apparently in the decade since the park opened there has been a 463% growth in tourism in Da Nang! Since the opening of the bridge in 2018 two out of three International tourists who visit Da Nang will visit Ba Na Hills. Whilst I am now a statistic I can still say proudly I have never watched any of the Harry Potter films or more than half an episode of Game of Thrones. Just saying.
Needless to say by getting a Grab at 6am I was nice and early, almost 20 minutes early for opening time. There wasn’t a single other person around that I could see. No cars or buses in the car park. A man suddenly appeared from one of the buildings and asked me if I needed a ticket. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve had to put my trust and intuition into a situation and hope that the ticket I was about to buy from him was genuine and I wasn’t an early bird that was about to get ripped off. I mean there was literally no-one else around except for me and him. He led me to a ‘ticket booth’ which was just a table in a large room. I had wondered how they normally issue tickets considering the amount of visitors they must get every day. Anyway I dutifully handed over 750,000 dong (£25! today was killing my budget) and tried to find my way to the cable car entrance. Luckily I got there early as I hadn’t realised just how big the complex is on the ground. It’s all well and good getting there before the crowds but at least you can always follow the crowd to find your way.
There are THREE cable cars. Each one taking you to different levels, all working on a different schedule. To get to the Golden Bridge first follow the signs to the Hoi An station. It’s worth noting here that the Hoi An cable car only runs between 7am-12pm & 3pm-6pm Monday to Saturday but 7am-6pm on a Sunday.
I was first in line! The queues started to form but mainly with staff heading up to the resort for the start of their shift. Once 7am arrived the cable car fired up and the staff started letting us through. Now it was obvious that us tourists had got there early so we could get to the Golden Bridge to get our photos of the bridge without the crowds but I could have done without the group of friends that despite being way further back in the queue thought it was appropriate to run past us all up the escalator, I find that terribly anxiety inducing. Or maybe it was from the thought of boarding a cable car for a 17 minute journey. I’m not sure why I did, but instead of waiting for my own cable car I joined a couple in theirs. I didn’t think anything of it, but looking back, they must have thought I was really weird joining them, it’s not as if it was peak visitor time and we had to share cars. Anyway, they were super lovely and glad we struck up conversations. Despite my first week in Da Nang being glorious sunshine this week had been cloudy and constant rain. Today it wasn’t pouring just a light drizzle, but let’s just say my visit wasn’t anything like the brochure! Whilst the cable car makes it’s ascent up the mountain you are supposed to have views across to My Khe Beach – 20kms away.
This was my view.
Whilst I was looking through photos of the hands online, the ones that stood out to me were the ones appearing through the clouds, it looked more magical and mysterious to me. I guess I got what I asked for…
After an hour I decided to give up on the cloud dispersing to show me any sort of view down the mountain so I decided to go up and visit the French Village and grab myself a little breakfast. Nothing opens till 8.30am! It was so bloody cold I was desperate to warm up and the only place I could find with it’s doors open (not literally) was Starbucks. At least you can always get wifi, a seat, plug point and a decent drink if over priced.
I had a wander round the grounds, but with the cloud so low it was hard to see where I was heading too, and at times way to cold to be even getting the camera out.
I finally found an entrance to what is the underground amusement park – warmth! It was still early and most people go to the bridge first so there were minimal people here, which is great for my ever increasing dislike to crowds but also meant the area lacked any sort of atmosphere. There are several floors of family friendly rides and amusement machines to use. This is the Drop Zone with a climbing wall behind it. As you will.
I wanted to waste a bit more time in the warmth waiting for the weather to hopefully get better as the morning wore on. There’s the wax museum – I do love a good wax museum, they are often a source of amusement but there was an additional cost to go in. I didn’t need to be that amused. Instead I found a row of those massage chairs that you normally find at the airports and decided to just park myself in one of those for a little while, sort through my photos, maybe have a kip… I did end up popping a 10,000 dong note into the machine and awkwardly sat through one of the massages. Anyway, enough time wasted and I decided to just chance it and head back to the bridge to see if it was any better. Nope. Worse. Covered not only in more cloud but hundreds of people! A word to the wise or maybe not so wise, if you visit here, come prepared! It might be over 30c when you leave your accommodation, but you’re heading up 4,921 feet. The weather is unpredictable. I repeat. Unpredictable. Being typically British I had a rain jacket and umbrella with me and whilst I was in my traditional uniform of jeans, t shirt and walking trainers I had even underestimated just how cold it would be up there. On the way back down the amount of people I saw in vest tops, shorts and sandals, oh how they were in for a shock, and possibly hypothermia. At least I got this view on the way back down.
So, was it worth it though? TOTALLY. As a side note – if I was to do it all again, I’d definitely splash out and stay at the Mercure Hotel at the resort. It looks so magical at night!