We came to Danang last time around and really liked the place, although there was very little really to do here. Well, that has changed considerably since our last visit. In 2017 the golden bridge was built and has quickly become one of the most visited and photographed things in all of Vietnam. I saw the images and decided that this was something that I really wanted to see.
Being up in the hills, and incredibly popular I have been warned that the bridge may well be shrouded in clouds or packed with people. Anyway, that is why we are here, more about the bridge a bit later on and we will see which version of the bridge we will get to encounter.
The other thing that we saw when we were here last time was the dragon bridge. This was a bridge that had its curves painted and styled to resemble a dragon. It didn’t particularly do anything but was an interesting enough oddity.
Well, this too has changed, the bridge has had a heap of lights added to it and of an evening it cycles through a range of colours, however, I still think that the original yellow is the most striking.
Oh yes, they added a couple of other features. Every Friday and Saturday night, to coincide with the riverside night market, at 9pm they put on a fire and water show.
The dragon literally spits fire…
and water, while thousands watch on with awe.
All in all, it is an excellent way to bring people to the city and have them in a central location. From here you have the markets with tons of fresh seafood on offer, along with the usual tourist fare of trinkets. The area is full of restaurants, vendors and performers. All in all it is an excellent evening and is highly recommended.
After this we organised a day trip out to the Cham Islands which is a 15 square-kilometer island cluster consisting of 1 main island and 8 surrounding small islands. It is about 20km from Hoi An and 45 from Danang. We actually tried to go the day before but strong winds meant that the government banned the tourism operators from taking people out.
As we got our tour pulled we decided to walk down to the beach and check that out.
Having gone out the next day, which was dramatically calmer, we were glad they stopped the trip. The seas were brutal. You are in a high powered speed boat, that holds about 30 people, and you belt across the straights at full tilt being bashed and bounced every inch of the journey. And that was on a calm day. Having arrived, the main island was pretty stunning as was the seafood lunch on offer.
Unfortunately, most Vietnamese people cannot swim. This means that they get loaded up in life vests and floatation rings, with goggles on, and tramp all over the reef and coral. So that which is left has been and continues to be pummelled.
And now on to the reason we came to Danang again, the Golden Bridge, situated in the Ba Na hills. On our way to the mountain, the guide told us that there had only been 4 good days of viewing over the last 30, so our expectations were suitably low.
The Ba Na hills area was once a mountain retreat for French emigres, back in colonial times, but had been long since forgotten due to limited road access. The solution to this was to join with European engineers and build the world’s biggest cable car at 5,801 meters in length. Additionally, this cable line has the largest height difference between the upper and lower stations in the world.
This was the introduction that you have, as you ride the almost 6 km cable car up to the French Village and La Jardin D’Amour Gardens. I had only ever seen the images of the bridge online. I did not realise that it was actually part of some massive, artificial amusement park akin to a Vietnamese version of Disneyland, known as Sunworld.
The bridge itself is 150m long, 12.8m wide and is made up of 8 arches and obviously has the two main supports sculpted to look like two giant stone hands.
While it is all fake, it is still very impressive to see and is nonetheless impressive.
As for the type of day we got…not a blue sky in sight. It was cloudy and wet and cold, considerably colder than I had counted on. In fact, I think it was around 10-15 degrees colder up the mountain than it was on the flat of Danang.
At the first stop you have the bridge and a French Village, which has been designed to look like an old fashioned France lined with recognizable classical landmarks such as the square, church, town, old village and inns.
From the bridge and gardens, you get on another cable car that takes you up to Sunworld proper. This is the blingiest fantasy theme park around…but I’m not sure that it means to be. I think that the attempts to re-create European cityscapes and plazas were genuine. There are castles, fountains, cathedrals, you name it…they are incredibly kitsch and tacky looking but fun nonetheless.
Fantasy Park is the largest indoor game zone of Vietnam that includes countless games, recreations and sports for families. The Jurassic Park is a must-visit for fans of movie with animatronic dinosaurs around every corner.
Besides, this complex also puts on offer the first wax museum of Vietnam, in which lifelike figurines are modeled after prominent figures worldwide. A personal favourite of ours was the incredibly blingy Helios Waterfall. This was some type of reimagining of the Spanish steps in Rome, the fountains of Versailles and who knows what else. The blurb tells you to “Admire the collection of classic god statues such as Helios, Apollo, Bacchus, Venus, Athena, and 15 other gods”. All of the statues were painted golden and glistened in the sunlight, oh and the photo with blue skies is Jill’s Camera doing tricks, there was no blue sky in sight.
The one thing that must be said is that the landscaping was incredible. The amount of effort and expense that must have gone into it was phenomenal and it was by far the standout for me. This goes for the entre place. There are obviously feature gardens that are lovely but even just walking around, each path is meticulously done and maintained.
And of course there was the usual amount of funpark randomness to be seen as you wended your way through the place.
As fake and tacky as some of this was, it was still a really good day. The buffet lunch that was included was incredible, the bridge was exactly what it seemed like and if you were willing to fight with the thousands of instagrammers you could get some nice photos. The earlier you arrive the better your chances.
And as a non-gardener…they really need to be commended…they even managed to impress me.