Getting lost in Ngu Hanh Son
Update: May 29, 2009
Visitors to Danang City are often drawn to Ngu Hanh Son (five mountains representing the five basic elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth), a fairy land with dreamlike scenery, pagodas, and grottoes. On my own journeys to the central coastal city over the last 15 years I have always found time to spend at those five mysterious mountains.

Around seven kilometers from the center of Danang City, Ngu Hanh Son rises up in the shape of five fingers. The five mountains are Kim Son (Metal Mountain), Moc Son (Wood Mountain), Thuy Son (Water Mountain) and Hoa Son (Fire Mountain). King Minh Mang named them in the nineteenth century.

I have often stood on the peak of the mountains and watched the mountains changing in the colors of the sunlight, like a beautiful woman reflecting the windy East Sea.

Most tourists heading to Ngu Hanh Son visit Thuy Son, the highest and most impressive mountain. Every day visitors, pilgrims and incense sellers trek up thousands of stone steps under the shade of trees although they don’t know how many steps there are to the top of the mountain. They are most likely distracted from their fatigue by the fresh air and stunning landscapes. To the surprise of many passers-by, many of the tour guides here are not professional escorts but rather children and elderly people selling incense and souvenirs. They can tell hundreds of stories about the history and landscapes of the mountains.

There are a number of old pagodas and mysterious grottos on Thuy Son, most notably Tam Thai Pagoda, where pilgrims worship Mytrerya Buddha and 18 Arhats, as well as Linh Nham Grotto, Van Thong Grotto, Tang Chon Grotto and Huyen Khong Grotto. Huyen Khong Grotto was the base for Vietnamese revolutionaries during wartime.

Thuy Son, covering 15 hectares, was discovered in the fifteenth century by King Le Thanh Tong under the Post-Le Dynasty. Monk Hue Dao Minh, the first person to live a religious life on the mountain, built a stele in Van Thong Grotto in 1460. The mountain is endowed with many trees with medicinal qualities and colorful wild flowers.

According to a legend of the Cham people, a golden turtle laid five eggs and when they hatched their covers turned into five mountains. The names given to the Ngu Hanh Son Mountains reflect the colors of their marble stones, which are pink in Thuy Son, white in Moc Son, red in Hoa Son, azure in Kim Son and brown in Tho Son.

After wandering on Thuy Son, tourists can stop at the Non Nuoc fine arts souvenir shops. Many of the items are made from rocks into statues of Buddha, lions and tiny bracelets and necklaces.