An Unpopular Opinion on Ba Na Hills
Ba Na Hills in Vietnam… is simply not worth the time. Spend an extra night in Hoi An if you’ve got one. Before someone starts hurling out words now, hear me out.
If you have got Da Nang on your whole Vietnam itinerary, then there isn’t much choice but to visit it. Apart from the Dragon Bridge, its vast night market, and the shore stretch by the city, it makes Ba Na Hills a ‘must-visit’ here.
Don’t get me wrong, I had fun visiting Ba Na Hills. That iconic Golden Bridge is exactly how it looks on those viral Instagram reels. Hell, I even got a good deal of reactions for it.
Even without all that hype from social media, I would have loved it at first glance. The massive hand structures. The rustic touch — it’s an idea worth visiting.
Still, if I had to visit again, I am confident that I would be hesitant. Some people love it and others don’t bother laying eyes here.
And when I alighted the cable car up there, I could see why.
Ba Na Hills — the Good
“It’s that bridge we see on almost every other Vietnam’s tourism highlights. We’d be fools to miss it!”
And it somehow made sense — socially. When some friends realized I was in Vietnam, it was one of the first things they asked. I would be either stupid or ignorant not to visit it.
So I did. It’s always a good personality trait to mention the ‘good’ in something or someone, isn’t it?
Thus here goes.
Ba Na Hills is almost an hour away from the city and the only way up is via the cable car. The cable car FYI also happens to be the longest non-stop cable car in the world!
While the cabins themselves aren’t fancy, you get a good 20-minute ride. As you rise, you witness Da Nang City resting calmly by its shores in the distance.
The theme was never just a ‘theme’.
Though the humongous theme park is run by Sun World today, the occupation of these peaks for entertainment dates back to the French period.
As I walked the stone pavements and past spires of medieval castle-like buildings, it all hit me in an instant. The French Village theme was never a “theme”.
It was built as a holiday destination by the French itself. The colonial rule actually invested heavily in these “resorts” a century ago.
Today, it is hard to tell which part of it was real and which has been renovated for tourism. Yet not far from the Golden Bridge, one of the few intact pieces is the Debay Wine Cellar.
The tunnel from this doorway runs to the heart of the mountain. With the natural crisp atmosphere, it was constructed to ideally house imported French wines and other cellar-worthy wines.
Ba Na Hills – The Bad
Don’t judge me, but I wasn’t aware it was a theme park even till I could glance at its outline from the cable car. And it somehow felt disappointing.
Most visitors were local families simply seeking a vacation, little kids with curious eyes wide open and ice cream flowing down their little fingers.
The sight was sweet but there was no “exploring” to do. If nothing else, it was nothing but an oversized fun fair. Though still a French Village of sorts, it had been reconstructed to be a vacation destination.
Now drumroll for the biggest part… as iconic as the Golden Bridge appears, it was built just half a decade ago purely with tourism intent.
There is no real story behind it. And no real purpose for that matter. You can either walk the bridge or through the building behind it to get to the other side.
To name a few other againsts – food options are limited and everything is expensive. Oh right, it’s a theme park.
Speaking of a place is very subjective to what a visitor expects. Tourists looking for a change from their 9 to 5s will love Ba Na Hills. Travelers backpacking Vietnam might not.
Though a theme park wasn’t supposed to be on my itinerary, the French colonial architecture with bright tiny windows and pointy spires was solace.
That wine cellar was proof of the holiday destination built by the French.
Cool mist prowling the paved streets was a change from what would otherwise be Vietnam’s typical humid air.
Unless one is looking to get on that Pipe Mountain Coaster (we did too; it was fun), half a day is sufficient to get around.