BA NA HILLS - How to have the best experience
Ba Na hills was founded in 1919 by French Colonists as a station and attraction for French Visitors in Vietnam, with the cable car reaching to the top holding multiple Guinness World Records, one of which being that it is the longest non-stop single cable car in the world. It’s effectively a weird theme park on a hill, which you could view as either as an amazing feat of human construction or just utterly ridiculous…
Recently I’ve seen a lot of negativity from both bloggers and Instagrammers about the quirky destination -Ba Na Hills; but in particular their attentions focus on one of the main attractions that is found there, ‘The Golden (Hand) Bridge’ and how it's underwhelming. Personally, I don’t think this could be further from the truth, with consideration of a few different factors of course (in the following section). I’d like to give a completely honest breakdown of my experience at ‘Sun World Ba-Na Hills’ and how I believe, with a little bit of planning and an open-mind, you can receive a great experience from a trip there too : )
THINGS TO KNOW:
The price is right – The ticket into the park is actually really reasonably priced. Head over to Klook to get the cheapest deal of 730,000VND (approx £24) per person, which includes the return trip cable car, The Golden Bridge and access to all the park attractions (I’ll get onto these later….) It allows a direct scan at the gate, avoiding ticket collection queues as well.
Rain or shine – Check the weather in the lead up to your trip. If the weather is looking horrendous then most of the rides will be closed and there won’t be much of a view from either the cable car or The Golden Bridge. Prepare yourselves for this; consider the best weather forecast possible and go on the day that looks the sunniest. Either way, the park is in the mountains so bring a jumper as it’s inevitably going to be cooler than down below.
Fast and Furious – You’ll get the best experience on The Golden Bridge if you get a wriggle on and get to the park early. The park opens at 7am and the Bridge at 8am. If you can get yourself to the park on a bike or in a car, rather than on a bus or tour, you’ll be less likely of having to endure large crowds.
Managing Expectations – This is a major tourist attraction, and the biggest theme park in Vietnam. You probably won’t be alone on the bridge getting that ‘to die for’ Instagram picture nor will you be racing onto rides in under 5 minutes, the weather might be rubbish and you might not see things you had hoped. It’s a good idea to be aware of all possibilities before buying a ticket to manage your own expectations.
Babe, I’m Hungry – Cast your memory back to that time you bought a meal at a festival or some chips at Thorpe Park or a Hot Dog at Winter Wonderland. That’s how much food will cost you up at Ba Na Hills. It’s a theme park and if you’re hungry, unfortunately there’s no escaping the high prices. The best idea is to bring snacks to keep yourself going and get a proper meal once you’re back in Da Nang or pick up the cheapest snack (a hotdog, for 100,000VND/£3.30). The park offers multiple buffet options for $10-$20, which personally wouldn’t be a feasible option for myself, but could be the cheapest way to fill your boots as much as possible before carrying on with your day.
Things start to get a little weird the minute you enter the French Village area of Ba Na Hills. It’s literally a replicated French town on the top of a mountain in Vietnam with the architecture resonating something from a Fairytale and honestly, I was waiting for Donkey and Shrek to appear at any moment searching for Princess Fiona. The original French structures were replaced and if you knock hard enough on a few of the walls, you’ll find that they’re hollow (particularly in their church!) and could be easily knocked down.
Fantasy park is an indoor amusement park with rides and games. There’s only a couple of ‘high thrill’ rides and the rest are pretty tame but fun nonetheless if you’re feeling positive and adolescent. We went on one of those ridiculous rides where you shoot a laser gun at targets in a little wagon, which Callum won (obviously, I’m sure my laser didn’t work), and furthermore, there are a couple 3D-4D experiences. Fantasy Park also houses an entirely free arcade (which I had never seen mentioned on any reviews of the place that I had read). Now I can’t tell you the amount of times I’d hit up Crawley’s Hollywood Bowl as a kid but would never have pocket money for the arcade. Well Ba Na Hills has the lot. The likes of Pacman, Temple Run, Dance Mats, Racing Games, VR Simulators to name but a few.
This amount of games would have cost me a small fortune as a kid, so to have them included in the ticket price was pretty great and a lot of fun. I would go as far to say that the arcade was one of the most satisfying parts of the day, alongside the beautiful panoramic views of the Vietnamese highlands of course.
Outside the Fantasy Park you’ll also find two Alpine Coasters (pictured above) where you can zoom around at your own speed for about 3 minutes of your life. Pretty fun but try and get on as soon as you enter the park as you could be queuing a while!
The Golden Hand Bridge
I know I sound like a broken record but it’s time to stop striving for the perfect Instagram photo and start living in the here and now (cringe.) I can imagine this bridge isn’t what a lot of people may have expected, it’s pretty busy and it’s easy to get distracted from its magnificence. I expected it to be underwhelming but in reality, it’s really quite badass. Two giant (and clearly magic) hands holding a bridge 1414 meters above sea level??
If you're expecting to visit and get the most perfect Instagram square without a single other soul on the bridge, i'm sorry but you're expecting too much. HOWEVER, if you're determined, then where there's a will, there's a way. We actually saw a girl who was still on the bridge after we'd sat down for over an hour; still desperately trying to get her perfect shot and I'm genuinely surprised that after that long, her mate hadn't tried to push her off.
The best tip I have is to go up and onto the bridge immediately when the park opens, this way you won't be stuck in crowds or be pushed around by people trying to get photos. It's always going to be busy but it's the least busy first thing in the morning. The sun should also still be peeping out if it's a clear day as the clouds usually roll in sometime after 9am so you should be able to see wonderful views of the mountains below. There's actually a fair few Sky Bridges scattered around South East Asia and truthfully, this is the most impressive.
SO, to clarify... Weather and time of day are pretty important, as is the idea of managing your own expectations. If clouds make you feel rubbish and you're due to visit Ba Na Hills on a cloudy day then I guess you have to decide whether a few hours in an arcade is worth 24 quid. If you're a weather chaser like me, choose the best day and get up as early as possible to make the drive over, keeping an eye on the clouds as you go...
This park is really quite unique and bizzare and every weird French hollow building we entered was another 'wtf' moment. It's strange, slightly cold, full of tourists and more expensive than usual activities but I would highly recommend a visit. If your choices for that day are to hang around in Da Nang not really doing much or going up to Ba Na Hills for the day, I think it's a no brainer.
But i'll let you see for yourselves...
For more of my travel photographs and stories come over to Instagram:
Any questions or advice, drop me a message :)