If you follow any travel-related news sites you’ve probably seen a photo of a bridge held by giant hands in the mountains. This is the Golden Bridge at Ba Na Hills, near Da Nang in Vietnam.
The Golden Bridge opened in June 2018, and it wasn’t long before it starting making the news. The first time I saw it was from this Instagram photo, which might have been the image that made it go viral.
It’s used for fashion shoots for inflight magazines, and do a Google image search and you’ll see it’s a popular place for wedding photos.
This video from a viral news site on Facebook had over 60 million views at the time of this post.
And I’m now seeing more advertising for it around Vietnam. Here is an ad I spotted at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
And VietJet have been promoting Ba Na Hills as a thing to do in Da Nang.
The bridge was designed by TA Corporation in Ho Chi Minh City. I suspect those involved in this project will get a nice Tet bonus next year, as it has put Ba Na Hills on the map. I’ve been getting messages from people outside of Vietnam asking if I’ve been, so on my last trip to Da Nang I figured I should see it for myself.
Before deciding to go I hadn’t actually thought about the logistics of getting there. Ba Na Hills is 25KM west of Da Nang, so I had to arrange transport to get there (details at the bottom of the post).
Another thing I hadn’t considered is that the bridge is inside a theme park resort. I had imagined the bridge to be part of some mountain walkway. Instead it’s part of the Ba Na Hills resort by Sunworld, and the only way to get there is by the cable car in the resort.
An Adult ticket is 700,00 VND ($30 USD), and there is no segmented tickets where you can just go and see the bridge.
Upon entry there are different themed sections, with the first station being named after Hoi An. I was surprised how big the place was, and how many people were already here.
The first segment of the cable car from Hoi An Station to Marseille Station is 5262 metres long. As you reach the top you get the first glimpse of the Golden Bridge.
I was there on a Wednesday and it wasn’t a public holiday in Vietnam (and Golden Week was over in China), but there were still lots of people there. My tour guide said this was a quiet day 😳.
I was there on a cloudy day, with the clouds occasionally parting to reveal the valleys below. The bridge is 1414 metres above sea level, and the temperature is 10-15c cooler than in Da Nang.
Upon closer inspection the moss on the hands are painted on. Maybe real moss will grow on them in time.
I love that hand-painted signs are still a thing in Vietnam.
The obligatory selfie on the Golden Bridge.
And don’t forget to feed the ‘gram. Even my paltry account (which struggles to get over 100 likes) got over 200 likes today! Totally worth the admission price for the endorphin rush of so many likes.
Part of the challenge of visiting the Golden Bridge is to find an angle that crops out the crowds. This would have been the perfect shot if the trees covered the support beams.
Near the Golden Bridge is the Linh Ung Pagoda, where there is a giant Buddha.
There are also a number of landscaped gardens to wander around.
Ba Na Hills was first established as a resort by French colonialists in the early 20th century. It was marketed as the Da Lat of Da Nang (Da Lat being the hill town of southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands). It’s nothing like Da Lat though, so if you are looking a Da Lat experience, just go to Da Lat. I have read that there are only a few old French villas left, and I think I found one. This is by the gardens near the Golden Bridge.
There is a “French Village” here, but if you were expecting something like the French Concession in Shanghai, or old villas like in Hanoi then you are in for a surprise.
From Ga Marseille (where the Golden Bridge is), the next cable takes you to the French Village.
The French Village is not a township of colonial relics. Instead it’s a mock medieval town square with fake old buildings spanning different eras of architectural styles. Even from a distance you can tell the the buildings are made of fibreglass.
The church is a pretty good rendition of a gothic church, though the closer you get the faker it looks.
There is a large Christian community in Vietnam, so I wondered if it was a functioning church or if it was a gift shop or amusement centre. It is indeed a church.
Within the “Old Town” is the Mercure Danang French Village Bana Hills. The hotel is spread out over several buildings, being part of the village.
I had lunch at the buffet, which was included in my tour price. If you are buying separately it’s 205,000 VND. That’s $8.75 USD for an all-you-can-eat lunch.
There is also a sushi/bbq buffet at 295,000 VND.
I rarely eat at buffets as I have no self control switch, and I thus disgraced myself in the overeating department. I didn’t take any photos, as no one should Instagram a mountain of buffet food on a plate. Instead, here is the outdoor area I sat at.
Overall prices here are quite reasonable considering it’s a theme park. This kebab and drink deal was 95,000 VND ($4 USD).
Above the French Village area is the Spiritual Zone, which has a collection of Buddhist monuments.
I thought this was the best area in the whole resort. The buildings are made of stone, marble, and wood, and it feels more real and permanent.
From the Campanile you can look down over the French Village. It started getting misty by now, which was a welcome novelty for this sea-level tropics dweller.
Once again, New Zealand is left off the map, and so is Tasmania.
Go inside one of buildings and there is a theme park inside the mountain.
The wax museum knows why everyone visits.
The arcade games are free, so you can make back your admission price in an afternoon.
The Alpine Coaster looked to be popular.
Also around the park are roving bands of foreign entertainers.
For the most part though, the theme park feels like a big photo opportunity.
At the time of my visit the resort was still being expanded, so there will be more rides and hotels in the future.
Tips for taking photos of the Golden Bridge
While the bridge is crowded when you first arrive, by the end of the day most of the crowd has moved onto the French Village section. On the way back down I had another look at the bridge and it wasn’t as crowded. If you are here to try and get that perfect Instagram or Drone shot it might be worth to stay at the Mercure for the night. That way you can get to the bridge before it opens to the general public.
How to get to Ba Na Hills
The quickest way to get there is via Da Nang. There is no public transport options so you will be at the whim of tour bus companies. The cheapest way to go is if you are riding a motorbike there, but you will still need to pay the resort entrance fee which is the biggest expense of the day.
When I was leaving I saw a bunch of Grab taxi drivers outside the gate, so I checked my app to see the prices. Even if you have a group it will be more economical to get the bus, but at least with this option you can leave when you want.
I ended up taking a tour bus that was organised through my hotel. The price was 1,100,000 VND ($47 USD), which includes the 700,000 VND entrance fee, plus a ticket for the lunch buffet (205,000 VND). If you go on the tour bus they also stop at a giant tourist shopping warehouse on the way, which is a common annoyance in Vietnam.
The price I was quoted was the same at other travel agencies, but I since found another option that works out cheaper. Da Nang Green offer return tickets for 120,000 VND, or you can get a bus + entrance combo for 800,000 VND.
If you are coming from Hoi An there are similar day tours like the one I took from Da Nang. I haven’t found a direct Hoi An to Ba Na Hills bus yet, but I will add it if one becomes known.