Vietnam: Ba Na Hills

You’re going to hear the name Ba Na Hills a lot from restaurant owners, taxi drivers and hotel staff if you ever find yourself in Da Nang or Hoi An. Sun World's Bà Nà Hills is a Vietnamese theme park, up in the mountains, which has had over 1 trillion Vietnamese dong invested into it recently – it's a piece of Vietnam that everyone is pushing at the moment.

Located around a thirty-minute drive from Da Nang, set your alarm early if you're planning a visit because it gets BUSY. Actually, busy is a slight understatement – it gets absolutely rammed, and we were there in October which is classed as off peak. Don't delay – aim to arrive between 7 and 8am. Why? Because the big pull to Ba Na Hills is something that we'd seen all over social media in summer – it went viral, so you might have seen it too. I'm talking about the ridiculous, almost unreal looking pair of hands which are holding up a golden bridge in the clouds. Look familiar?

Before I tell you more though, you need to know how to get to Ba Na Hills. The likelihood is you won't be hiring a car whilst you're in Da Nang, though you might rent a motorbike (brave if you do!) – we certainly didn't. Instead, we used Grab, which cost us 335,000 dong to get there (£11) and 289,000 dong to get back (£9.50). Your driver will likely try and get you to stop off at their friend's place to buy tickets, but it's better to buy tickets once you're there or beforehand online. And despite what Google told me, you can buy tickets with your credit card. Adult entry will set you back 700,000 dong (£23ish).

For Vietnam, this might seem expensive. And, believe me, we balked at the price since the only thing we wanted to see was the bridge. Remove your Vietnamese hat though and put your UK one on – there, £23 seems more reasonable, right? But, to get to said bridge, you'll need to take a cable car, and it's not just any cable car. Ba Na Hills's cable cars hold not one, but four Guinness World Records. And, yes, you do have to take a cable car – there's no other way to Ba Na Hills – so start mentally preparing yourself if you don't like heights.

Again, Google seemed to suggest that the cable car only works at weird times, but the one at the entrance starts running from 7am and, when we were there, park information seemed to suggest it runs until closing. (Some of the smaller cable cars once you get up the mountain do have, however, reduced running times but you are still able to navigate the park even if they are closed.) Luckily the first stop is Cầu Vàng, the Golden Hand Bridge, and we stepped off the cable car to gorgeous blue skies. See above.

If it's early enough, Cau Vang is a delight. Sure, there are people up there – brides and grooms having wedding pictures, mainly, but you can take some nice pictures. Skip to 10.30am, however, when we were leaving the park. That gorgeous blue sky? See above. GONE. The clouds were swooping around like dementors, and the bridge was RAMMED – everyone jostling for an Instagram-worthy picture but failing since the crowd-level is elbows out Tube level when half the lines are suspended. Oh, and it's rush hour. Heed my advice. If you want that snap, and not to be too severely irritated with the crowd-levels, SET THAT ALARM.

Once you've had your fill of the bridge, there are other things you can do – though don't confuse Ba Na Hills with Alton Towers or Disneyland. Turns out a Vietnamese theme park is quite different and you’re not going to be screaming your way around the park experiencing ride after thrilling ride. So, what can you do and see? Well, there’s a weird fake French village – weird if you’ve actually been to France – some gardens, an Alpine coaster, a free arcade and… well, that’s about it really.

It's a weird place; if it wasn't for the bridge, I'd say not to bother – but the bridge is cool, and you'll only be asked constantly by the locals if you've been. I highly implore that you get there as soon as the park opens though – that way you'll be back at your hotel by lunchtime, you won't have to explore the park at a snail's pace and, more importantly, you won't have photos full of tourists. I mean, just take another look at that final bridge photo above. You have been duly warned.

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