Review: Bà Nà Hills Amusement Park (in Da Nang, Vietnam) is Worth Your Time
In the misty, forested hills outside of a Da Nang, Vietnam, an old French resort from the early 20th century has been turned into a modern-day amusement park. And it’s quite an amusement park, with four massive gondolas, dozens of restaurants, two mountain roller coasters, gardens, decorative bridges, and an amusement arcade that sinks three levels down into the mountain.
Should you go?
If you’re only in Da Nang or neighboring Hoi An for a week, maybe not; there are more “authentic” things to see. But if you’re here for longer than that — or if you love amusement parks! — you should totally see it. It’s pretty damned unique.
The original resort was built a hundred years ago by French colonialists looking for some relief from central Vietnam’s heat and humidity. At an elevation of nearly 1500 meters, the cool mountain resort provided that. And after a few decades of colonial imperialism, the Vietnamese kicked the French out of their country. Over time, the original resort fell into a state of decay.
Then about ten years ago, some Vietnamese developers had the ambitious vision to turn it into something kind of remarkable and crazy. In addition to the original hotel, they added:
Four cable cars to whisk visitors up to the top, setting several world records, including the longest gap in the world—more than five thousand meters.
A Swiss-style funicular
The Golden Bridge, the instantly iconic and Instagrammable bridge partially held up by two giant, ancient-looking hands.
An entire French village.
Linh Phong Stupa, a nine-story tower surrounded by marble figurines of Sakyamuni Buddha.
A three-level kids amusement park, much of it underground.
Two European-style alpine roller-coasters.
A wax museum.
A 27 meter tall white Buddha statute.
The beautiful Linh Ung Japanese Pagoda.
Le Jardin D’Amour, a French garden that includes a maze.
Enough restaurants to feed an army.
Remember, all of this is on a mountain top surrounded by thick, green jungle.
The cost of admission is 750,000 VND, which works out to $32 USD or 28 €. But other than food and, weirdly, the wax museum, the price includes everything, including the cable cars and all of the rides, shows, and events.
And it’s totally worth it. By Western standards, it feels like a bargain. Now keep in mind, a lot of it is kitschy: the drop tower in the amusement arcade is inspired by Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth: it drops down “into” the Earth. And the daily stage extravaganza — a salute to France, beer, snow, and, well, lots of other stuff — is decidedly campy (and weirdly performed by mostly Caucasian actors).
But the cable car rides and the funicular are almost worth the price alone. And the Golden Bridge, which opened in 2018, was made for Instagram, and has already gone viral on YouTube and appeared on Jack Whitehall’s Travels with my Father. (It’s even more impressive in real life.)
There’s easily more than enough here to fill up a day, though beware of crowds. We went on a weekday, so it was busy, but manageable. On the weekends, it’s apparently a different story.
When Brent and I decided to live in Hoi An, Vietnam, for a couple of months, the last thing we expected was to be spending a lot of time in amusement parks. But we visited this water/amusement park twice, and next week we’re also going to another amusement park in Da Nang.
Normally, we try to do things in a country that are a little more culturally authentic. But (a) Brent loves amusement parks and (b) they are incredibly affordable here in Vietnam (by US standards), and (c) the crowds are light.
Besides, who is to say these amusement parks aren’t an authentic part of modern Vietnam? This is an economically vibrant, dynamic country, and many Vietnamese are proud of how they are modernizing (though there’s also some understandable push-back).
If nothing else, it will get you out of the heat!