I spent the morning before I moved into Loc Phat Hoi An Garden Villa at a coffee shop working on the blog. I was nearly ready to leave when an older Australian guy sat down next to me. He introduced himself as Pinto and started chatting with me. I’m always happy to have a conversation with another English speaker. He said he had seen me riding my bike the day prior and that he remembered me because I was smiling. I thought, well that sounds about right. He was quiet the chatter and went on for a good 20 minutes about all kinds of things. He told me he was going to buy a boat and sail around France, he talked about the homestay he is staying in and the people who work there, what he does with his days, what he likes to eat, how he likes his coffee and why he doesn’t drink alcohol.
The one thing that he spoke about that interested me was the golden bridge. He showed me a photo on his phone and said it was in the nearby city of Da Nang. The photo was gorgeous and I was shocked I hadn’t seen it before. He said he was trying to get some pricing to go see it and that he was hoping to find a backpacker to split the costs with him. I told him I would be happy to ride along and split the costs, so we exchanged numbers and I went on my way.
I had almost forgotten about Pinto and the golden bridge, when a few days later, my dear friend Ashley posted that same picture on my FB page saying how beautiful it was. Isn’t it weird how that works? Or is it creepy? I’m not really sure. Anyways, a day or so later I heard from Pinto and we made a plan to go see the golden bridge on my day off. I hadn’t had any time to research the place because I had been busy with English teaching. All I knew was what I saw in the picture, and that I had to pay for a cable car ride to get there, because Pinto had told me that in his very extensive report about pricing and transportation.
That next Sunday, Pinto picked me up in our taxi that would be taking us there and back, and we headed to Da Nang. The ride was about an hour and Pinto talked the entire time. I checked out for the majority of it for absolute lack of interest. I’m always shocked by people who have so much to talk about that they have a one sided conversation. He might as well just wait until he is alone and just talk to a wall, or mirror or a cat. I’m not actually bothered by this, I don’t typically like to be the one who talks. I’m an excellent listener and because of that I find myself talking less and less to people. It’s almost as if I’ve forgotten how to talk, because I’m always the one listening.
I was glad to get out of the car and have some visual stimulation and I was excited for the adventure. I had no expectations because I hadn’t done one bit of research. We took a little shuttle to the main building, which I was hugely impressed with, due to it’s size. It had Japanese style decorations and gardens. I kept thinking, wow this is a really beautiful building, and if this is just the starting point, what else is there? I was taking ample amounts of photos, which was helping me to avoid Pinto’s constant chatter. The cable cars were massive and very well built. The cars themselves can hold up to 12 people. They are airconditioned and were playing soothing elevator music, which would have put me to sleep, if it wasn’t for Pinto’s on going one person conversation. Is there a different word for conversation if only one person talks? Yes, there is. Monologue.
So, first let me talk about these cable cars. There are four different cable car lines throughout the resort. There are two going top to bottom, one of which is the longest single rope cable car system in the world at 5,800 meters, as well as having the highest elevation from departure to arrival station. The two cable cars at the top of the hill are a much smaller scale and are there simply to get you around from hill top to hill top quickly in comfort. The views from the cable cars are obviously amazing because they are unobstructed. You get a 360 degree view of Vietnam with the ocean, mountains and countryside. The longest cable car, which we rode on the way down, has a breathtaking view of a gorgeous waterfall that you sore over the top of. Talk about incredible.
When we got to the top I was already blown away. The entire place is built to depict a French village, with French names, architecture, castles and decorations. When we got off the first cable car we went up a giant escalator that came out at the first station. In the background on the neighboring hill top I could see giant French style castles. At this point, I’ve had my mind blown, and I was thinking what is that? I didn’t know there were castles in Vietnam and who lives in the castles? Little did I know I would be on my way there shortly. At that current moment, I was completely clueless.
As we found our way out of the masses of people in the first station, we emerged onto the golden bridge. I thought this was all I was coming for and the soul reason for this little adventure. The bridge makes an arc out from the top of the hill and when you’re walking across it, you feel like you’re floating in the clouds. The golden pathway is lined with beautiful purple flowers that make you feel like you’re walking through a garden elevated in the sky. The views were absolutely breathtaking. The giant hands coming out of the hill and holding the bridge were astounding. It was much cooler at the top, due to the elevation, which was a much welcome break from the heat. However, the wind was pretty wild up there. I was wearing a dress and I had several Marilyn Monroe dress scenarios throughout the day. I’m just happy I wasn’t wearing a thong.
At the end of the bridge there is an impressive series of 9 different themed gardens that we completely skipped, not on purpose, but because we didn’t know it was there. Some research would have been helpful at this point. There was actually a lot we didn’t get to do, for lack of knowledge and time. I did all my research the day after and was terribly disappointed at how much I missed out on. Anyways, we missed the gardens and headed to the second cable car that took us all the way to the castles. The cable car literally rides right into the side of a castle and drops you there. At this point, I’m completely flabbergasted. Thank god I didn’t need to do any talking because I was at a loss of words. I felt like I had been transported somewhere else, well to France to be specific. Walking around inside reminded me of being in a themed Vegas casino but on a MUCH larger scale.
After wandering in the castles for a bit we decided to stop and get some lunch. We settled on a buffet serving all kinds of different Vietnamese food. It was the most expensive meal I’ve had on this trip ($10 USD) and I didn’t care at all. I literally took a little bit of everything and felt like a kid in a candy shop. I was in food heaven, which resulted in food coma. I think it’s ludicrous when people go to buffets and eat one plate and are done. What is the matter with you? I won’t be shamed though, I ate three plates of food. Pinto only had one plate, but I still finished before him, because he was doing more talking than eating.
After lunch I was feeling as happy as a clam, but as heavy as an elephant. We headed up into the main square of the French settlement to walk some of it off. In the center of the French Quarter they were playing all kinds of music from around the world with dancers performing dances from each region. They were dressed up traditionally and were all very talented. Throughout the quarter there were different characters of children’s stories and Disney movies dressed up and posing for pictures. There were people on stilts, jugglers and circus performers, girls dressed up like garden vixens and Mardi Gras dancers. It was insane and I walked around with my mouth wide open the entire time. I took over 500 photos and ran out of space on my phone and was kicking myself for not paying that extra dollar a month for additional memory.
We decided to stop for a cup of coffee, which I desperately needed, because I was pretty sluggish from my over indulgence at lunch. Inside the adorable little French style café we met a Canadian woman who teaches English in the North. We started talking about bad coffee, then she didn’t stop talking, she followed us to our table and joined us for coffee. She continued to talk the entire time. You probably think I’m exaggerating about these people talking so much and I wish I was. I kept imagining I was invisible and was practicing the art of mutism (is that even a word?), or being a mute. After we parted ways with chatty Kathy, I almost died choking on my water when Pinto said “man, she sure liked to talk a lot”.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring what we thought to be all that the resort had to offer. We found a beer garden where we had been given tickets for a free beer. I was too full and we were running short on time, so we didn’t go inside. We discovered an underground children’s theme park that we only briefly walked through. It was extremely noisy (duh) and there was an uncomfortable amount of wild children, probably with intense sugar highs, running amuck. This would be any kids dream come true and I couldn’t help but miss my niece and nephews. I kept thinking about how much they would enjoy this. Outside the theme park we found a nap corner, where you can pay to rent a reclining chair and take a nap. I’ve never seen this in the states and I think it’s genius. Of course I took a photo of that!
The last attraction we stumbled upon was a huge Buddhist pagoda. We climbed several stairs up to the top and got some really beautiful pictures. Our time was running out and we needed to make it back to our taxi before our driver left us stranded on Ba Na Hill. We found our way to the cable car that runs down to the bottom and got in line. We must have been there during rush hour because we got held up in line for the first time that day, which was actually quite impressive with the amounts of people there were. Flying over the waterfall on the way down might have been one of my top 3 favorites for the day.
We made it back to the car only a few minutes late and our driver was patiently waiting for us. The entire ride back Pinto talked about how impressed he was with Ba Na Hills and how much he wanted to return for a second visit. He wanted to stay one night in the hotel at the top of the resort, and he hoped I would join him again. When I got back to the homestay I got online and did my research of Ba Na Hills. There actually isn’t a lot of info about this place online, which surprised me. I guess that’s why I had never heard of it. The golden bridge just opened to the public this year in July, so that’s quite recent, and makes sense why I hadn’t seen much photography online for it. Now that I have been there, I see photos of it everywhere.
A few things we completely missed at Ba Na Hills were the 9 themed gardens, wax museum, wine cellar, giant roller coaster, funicular (a train, I think??), a second Buddhist pagoda, and a fourth cable car. I felt cheated when I realized just how much I had missed, but then again, I only thought I was going to see the golden bridge. In the end, I actually got more than I had ever imagined.
I did consider taking a second trip to Ba Na Hill, but wasn’t really wanting to go with Pinto, because he got pretty weird. More about that later.
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