Not being the kind of people to spend our whole holiday lying on a beach, Andy and I set off on a mission to find some sort of adventure we could do whilst in Hoi An. We came across “Go Vietnam” a tour company who offered tours with a bit of adventure and excitement. We both really wanted to see Marble Mountain and found a tour which not only allowed us to see Marble Mountain but actually abseil and rappel down into the mountains many caves!
We booked the night before and the next morning we were picked up from our hotel bright and early. The tour was only 1,050,000₫ ($50/£30) At first I was unsure about the tour as we were picked up in a car with Andy and I being the only participants. However this actually ended up being a great thing as we were able to get more abseiling in as we did not have to wait around for other people to complete the abseils!
Marble mountain is one of the famous sites to see from Da Nang or Hoi An, the mountain is beautiful and is home to many caves and Buddha statues which tourists can walk through and hike their way through. It also, as the name suggests, is full of marble! It is quite scenic and the view from the top is beautiful with Da Nang in one direction and Hoi An in the other direction.
We started at the bottom (Obviously!) and started the many (STEEP!) stairs up the mountain, didn’t seem too bad until you took into account the almost 40 degree heat and the 95%+ humidity! Andy and I were soaked through by the time we reached the top and shattered already! To start we were given a quick introduction as to how to abseil. It was actually really funny as we did an abseil which was about 2 meters off the ground from a tree just so we could grasp the basics, and the Vietnamese tourists around us though it was fabulous stopping to watch Andy and I “abseil” 2 meters even stopping to take pictures of us both!
We started to climb higher into the mountain and were given a wee break while the
tour guides set up for the first abseil. We would be starting with the “heaven” cave and working our down to “hell”. The first abseil was only around 27 meters however you had to start through a hole surrounded by cactus and abseil into a black hole where you could not even see the bottom of the cave!! Andy and I were both quite nervous at first as we stepped over the safety barrier. Going down was quite easy and although we were nervous we picked it up quick quickly and gave a bit of a shock to some of the tourists who were passing through the cave as we came down from “Heaven”. As there were only two of us our guide told us to come back up and we could try again meaning we got a few shots each of each section. This was great except it meant climbing back up to the top of the mountain about 5 times… not so much fun in the heat and humidity, as you can see from the pictures I was drenched in sweat-lovely!!!
The second abseil was slightly smaller at only 25 meters however instead of going down into a cave you went right down the side of a cliff with a vertical drop making it seem much higher than it actually was. Although this one was slightly smaller it was actually more nerve-wracking that the previous. Not to mention that we ended up with quite an audience as the cliff faced one of the main walk ways of the mountain. Our guide explained that many of the Vietnamese tourists have never seen people abseiling before as it is a relatively new sport here in Vietnam so they were all asking to take our pictures and all found it fascinating with many oooooh’s and Ahhhhh’s! A few of the Western tourists we passed were asking us all about the trip and saying that they wished they had booked on it as well as it was a bit of a different tour than your normal ones.
As with the first abseil, we were able to have 2 turns once again and it really was such a rush. It wasn’t that hard however if you pushed off too hard with one foot you would start to twist, frantically trying to get yourself back into the correct position before your body slammed into the cliff face! At one point Andy looked as though he was doing some sort of weird jig mid-air as he tried his best to swing back into position.
We stopped for lunch just below the second abseil where we had time to eat and go off and explore Marble Mountain like what we would have done if we had come on the normal site seeing tour. We saw the big Buddha and the sheer cliff faces which made up for a very beautiful scene.
Finally, we reached the climax of the trip and the biggest recline that we would be abseiling. This one would be the scariest as it was 67 meters long and into one of the darkest caves meaning you were unable to see the bottom of where you would land. The cave is nicknamed “hell” cave and it is only once you are inside that you truly understand why, the cave is filled of devil statues and gruesome scenes made out of stones. We were also told that we were to be careful as there may be snakes lurking in the dark corners… which Andy and I both laughed at thinking “Yeah right!” and thought the tour guide was just trying to add to the suspense of the recline.
Famous last words!
Andy went down first and seemed to be going down for AGES before he reached the bottom! When he reached the bottom his voice echoed up just showing how far down the cave below was. Once Andy was safely down it was my turn, I climbed over the rocks with the safety harness on and got hooked up to the recline ropes. Not being able to see the bottom made this cave all the more nerve-wracking! I started to go down, the deeper I went the darker my surroundings became. A light started to shine from the bottom of the cave and I realized that I was abseiling right down behind a massive Buddha shrine!
The same sense of rush I had got from the previous two were there however this one was more intense. Just as I was starting to feel comfortable and knew the bottom was not far off I noticed a bright green object.
As I jumped off the wall and slid down my feet were due to jump right on top of the green object. At the last-minute it moved and my heart went into over drive…. It was a snake!!!!
I quickly spread my legs so they landed either side of it and gave the snake a bit of a fright!! Just as I pushed off the wall the snake raised up it’s head clearly thinking that it was in danger!! I managed to jump out its way my heart still pounding. Luckily I was a few jumps from the bottom and jumped out-of-the-way, telling my guide of what I saw. Andy getting excited, jumped up on the rock to see if he could get a glimpse of the snake, not realizing that when the guide at the top threw the ropes down the hole it had hit the snake and pulled it from its perch. At the same time the guide in the cave and I noticed the snake RIGHT under Andy’s feet looking angry and ready to strike! Luckily Andy heard us shouting and jumped out the way just in time as the snake lunged forward!! You could say it was a bit of an adrenaline rush…. That was before the guide saw the snake and identified it as being poisonous!!! Eeeek!!
I was beginning to understand why they called it hell cave!! The cave itself at first looked like the other caves with small shrines and lights however this one was much grander with the noise of bats above. The guide gestured us down a dark corner of the cave and as we started to make our way down the narrow steps figures emerged from the dark. There were statues all around the area of people being tortured by devil like figures, men women and children…. No one was spared the torture of the creatures from hell. Sculpted into the walls and roofs of this area of the cave there were devil faces all around and the whole area was quite creepy!!
We spent about 20 minutes in the pits of hell and unlike the other caves we were the only people here despite it being the biggest of all the ones we had been in!! There was also a castle like building inside the cave and a plaque in the cave to commemorate soldiers from the war who used this cave as shelter and a hide out during the war.
The entrance to the caves had hands coming out of the pond, like the hands from hell at the White Temple, Chiang Rai and had all the zodiac sculptures which almost acted like guards to the entrance to the cave.
The whole day was brilliant and once of the most enjoyable experiences I have had here while in Vietnam! It allowed us to see the famous Marble Mountain in all its glory but from a different perspective than most people who visited.
The tour is available from “Go Vietnam” you can find the counter inside the sports bar on 61 Phan Chau Trinh St.