On the flat coast between Da Nang and Hoi An, there is an outcropping of 5 craggy mini-mountains that jut up out of nowhere: the Marble Mountains. Each mountain is named for an element: water, wood, fire, metal/gold, and earth. While surrounded by some pretty aggressive sales people peddling marble statues, these mountains were really cool (both in the sense of fun/interesting/neat and temperature). We had to climb some pretty steep steps to get to the top of Thuy Son (the water mountain), but it was worth it to see the sanctuaries that had been carved in its many caves, some dating back to the seventeenth century:
When we reached this level, already huffing, puffing and sweating through our shirts, we thought "Oh, this is nice... I guess." Turns out we were only like halfway up. Maybe less.
Xa Loi Pagoda on the right.
View of China Beach and the Cham Islands from Thuy Son's lookout point, Vong Hai Da.
This is when it started to get interesting- natural caves converted into Hindu (and later, Buddhist) sanctuaries.
I think this is Tang Chon cave below... the map is pretty hard to read and we were so hot and discombobulated that I think we walked in circles occasionally.
At the end of a small cave, up a pile of rocks and through a small hole, we were lead (despite our adamant assurances that we were fine) to this viewpoint (which I mistakenly thought was the top) by a very old woman (pictured with Tim, below) who then insisted on taking our photo. She would not take no for an answer. Then she demanded $5. Sigh. We gave her $2.50, which I'm still pretty sure was highway robbery. Well, nice photos anyway. You can see 3 of the other Marble Mountains, as well as the villages that surround them:
This is the view south towards Hoi An:
Tim and his BFF, enjoying the view and then heading back down ("Watch out... marble slippery!"):
This next cave, Huyen Khong, was the largest and prettiest- very cathedral-like and lit from a hole in the ceiling:
Pretty butterfly we saw on our way to the top:
After another steep climb, we finally reached the actual top of the mountain and had 360 degree views... pretty amazing.
West, towards the mountains:
South, towards Hoi An:
Southeastish (with Cham Islands in the distance):
North (Da Nang):