Home » Ba Na Hills: A Blend of Historical Heritage, Amusement Park and Weird Attractions in Vietnam

Ba Na Hills: A Blend of Historical Heritage, Amusement Park and Weird Attractions in Vietnam

by Paola Bertoni
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During my visit to Vietnam, I decided to check out Ba Na Hills because my guidebook described it as a serene mountain resort, a gift from the French on the hillside. However, my experience was quite different from what the guidebook promised. In reality, Ba Na Hills is one of the most over-the-top and ridiculous Vietnam destinations I have ever encountered.

Ba Na Hills: a French village surrounded by Asian kitsch

The Vietnamese people’s approach to revitalising historical sites for tourism is quite distinct from that of Europeans. Consider a charming, well-preserved French resort from the early 1900s accessible only by cable car. To make it more appealing to domestic tourists, they built a quirky Disneyland-style imitation castle and a kitsch amusement park around it. That’s already pretty weird, but after that, they also built a massive bridge to make the location more appealing for Instagram.

The colonial history of Ba Na

During the colonial period in the early 1900s, the French government funded the construction of various resorts in the hills of Vietnam so French officials could escape the scorching summer heat.

As a result, today, various small towns throughout Vietnam resemble those of a village in Brittany. Bana is one such town located in the hills near Da Nang. In the past, the French used sedan chairs to climb the steep paths. Now, visitors can travel easily to the top of the hill in a cable car.

Despite the changes, the French Village in Ba Na has remained unchanged from its appearance in the last century, except for the amusement park, the mock castle and the big fancy bridge. If you can ignore these constructions around, the restaurants in the village have a charming brasserie look, and there is even a wine cellar carved out of the mountain.

Tourist signs in the main square of Ba Na Hills
Tourist signs in the main square of Ba Na Hills

What to see in Ba Na Hills

If you’re willing to see a unique historical site dominated by a tacky amusement park, then Bana has a few interesting things to offer. The Sun World Ba Ha Hills theme park is the main attraction for local tourists. Still, the addition of the super Instagram-worthy Golden Bridge has made it essential for aspiring influencers as well.

You can visit Bana on a day trip like I did, or stay in a hotel to experience the atmosphere of the French Village and enjoy the peace at the foot of the massive Buddha statue without the rush of tourists. Ba Na Hills has two levels: on the higher level, there are the French Village and the amusement park, while on the lower level, the Golden Bridge, gardens, the entrance to the cable car, and the winery.

The Golden Bridge

One of the newest attractions at Ba Na Hills is the Golden Bridge, a 150-meter pedestrian bridge built on the mountainside. The bridge boasts breathtaking views and impressive architecture, featuring giant hands that support the structure.

If you’re hoping to snap a photo of the bridge with the scenic backdrop, you should arrive before sunrise or do some heavy editing in Photoshop. The Golden Bridge is a popular destination for selfies and wedding photoshoots. Reality is sadly very different from the pictures you can spot online.

Ba Na Hills Golden Bridge
Ba Na Hills Golden Bridge

Ba Na Hills Cable Car

In Ba Na Hills, there is more than one cable car line. It is a whole transportation network. CNN listed it as one of the world’s ten most impressive cable car infrastructure systems.

Before 2010, the Ba Na Hills cable car held the Guinness World Record as the longest cable car in the world, stretching 5,042 meters and reaching a height of 1,291 meters above sea level, with a journey time of 15 minutes.

The view from the cable car is breathtaking and offers excellent opportunities to capture beautiful photos. If you plan to stay in Ba Na Hills for over a day, you should consider taking all five cable cars.

Ba Na Hill as seen from its cable car
Ba Na Hill as seen from its cable car

The funicular

Located near the Golden Bridge is a funicular railway station. Some may consider it useless as it connects two funicular stations only a five-minute walk apart. However, if you enjoy riding funicular railways and there is no long queue, you can take the 90-second ride between these stations for a unique experience.

Sun World Amusement Park

At the top of the hill, you can find the Sun World amusement park, well-known for its large indoor arcade called Fantasy Park. The arcade offers shooters, driving, and classic games like Pac-Man. Additionally, there are exciting rides like a tower where you climb up and get thrown down and bumper cars. 

If you plan to visit Sun World, I recommend arriving early, before 7 am, and avoiding public holidays and weekends. This place is very popular among Vietnamese people who tend to ignore the French Village, so it can get crowded with thousands of visitors.

The French Village

At the summit of Ba Na Hill, it can be challenging to distinguish between the Sun World amusement park and the French Village as they share the same square. The Cathedral, surrounded by French-style cafes and cobbled streets, is the most iconic feature of the village. Managing to avoid the tourists taking selfies, you might still experience the old-world charm of this French colonial resort.

The Giant Buddha and Linh Ung Pagoda

If you take one of the paths uphill, you can get to the Linh Ung Pagoda, a few kilometres away. The main attraction of the Pagoda is the Buddha statue that stands an impressive twenty-four meters tall.

Ba Na Hills Wax Museum

Other attractions in Bana Hill include the local Wax Museum. The museum features international characters with eerie expressions. You will see Maria Sharapova with a robot-like face, looking angry and members of the British royal family who appear to have just been in a terrible car accident. Despite being hideous and kitschy, it is still worth visiting for a good laugh.

Practical information for visiting Ba Na Hills in Vietnam

Ba Na Hills has been undergoing constant expansion in recent years. As I write this, there is already a new cable car line. I recommend visiting this place before it loses forever its old French charm. However, Ba Na Hills is usually crowded with tourists. Hence, it’s better to arrive early or stay overnight to explore the area before or after the arrival of organized tours.

Getting to Ba Na Hills

During my visit to Ba Na Hills, I was fortunate enough to have Vietnamese friends who offered to drive me there. It was a convenient option as I didn’t have to worry about transportation.

However, the downside was that I had to spend more time at the amusement park and less time at the French Village than I would have preferred. Vietnamese people really love the new addition to the town!

If you want to balance convenience and flexibility, consider hiring a private car. Although it may cost slightly more than an organized trip, it will allow you to explore Ba Na Hills at your own pace and visit the attractions that interest you the most. Alternatively, you can take the cheaper shuttle bus from Hoi An.

Where to sleep in Ba Na Hills

To experience a French atmosphere, book a stay at Mercure Danang French Village Bana Hills, a four-star hotel in the heart of the French Village. The hotel features a swimming pool and spa.

Why visit Ba Na Hills

Ba Na Hills is a destination that stands out due to its absurd and kitschy nature. It is worth a visit to experience this unique atmosphere. The French Village, with its European architecture from the turn of the century, is a must-see, and the sight of the colonial buildings still standing is impressive.

You can even imagine French officials arriving in sedan chairs. However, the modern attractions of Ba Na Hills, such as the Golden Bridge and Sun World amusement park, have become more popular with tourists. You will see locals taking selfies everywhere you look. Share your thoughts in the comments if you have visited Ba Na Hill and had the same impressions as me or if you feel like visiting after reading this article.

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