The first time I backpacked through Vietnam, my mother got robbed. No lies… I wrote about it. (Like to see it, here it goes.) I had crossed the border from China into Vietnam and the plan was to take the Reunification Express (a train route) from northern Vietnam and work our way down to Saigon (HCMC). Well, mom got robbed and everything changed after that – the train was out and planes were in. Needless to say, you miss quite a bit when you’re jumping from city to city by plane. This trip for Griots Republic was my third trip to Vietnam and this time I made it a point to research some of the places I may have missed out on the first time. At the top of that list was Da Nang and Sa Pa.

When planning a trip through Vietnam, whether you’re starting in the south and heading north or vice versa, there are a number of must stop places. Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Hue and Hoi An, as well as Hanoi, are truly the must stop locations for backpackers with a time and/or budget constraint. They are well traveled and accessible and they’re larger cities prepared for the influx of travelers. Yet, if you’ve been traveling for a while and want to step away from the standard, then you know that escaping the city is the very first thing you need to do. My brother, a military man and avid traveler, swears by Da Nang. “Don’t play, Davita! I’d retire there.” So there we went… While some may enjoy the beaches, resorts, and food available in Da Nang, I wanted to head to the mountains and Ba Na Hills sounded right up my alley.


Ba Na Hills is a resort community and amusement park in the hills of Da Nang approximately 45 minutes to an hour outside of the city. At first glance, it’s like riding up to Disney Land. Castles, turrets, and greenery abound, and there are even vendors selling hats and souvenirs just like Disney. From my research, I knew that we were going to see a 90 foot Pagoda, a wax museum, and have a cool cable car ride. What I didn’t expect was that all of that would be presented in a manner and in a location that literally made me squeal. This was Vietnam on crack! “Nooo… We weren’t ready.”

Here’s the backstory… In the early 1900’s the French rolled through this part of the country and decided to build a town to their liking. They built an ancient French village consisting of medieval squares, churches, town halls and roads and after WWI, the French got serious about their endeavors there and turned the area into a resort. However, the August Revolution in 1945 essentially booted the French out, and the area largely became an abandoned natural reserve. It wasn’t until 1998 that the city of Da Nang got serious and decided to turn the area into a full-scale eco-resort.

Today, Ba Na Hills host 1.5 million visitors a year and is equipped with top-rated restaurants and hotels. It also has a funicular, alpine slide, cute retail boutiques, shows and entertainment, and the world’s longest and highest non-stop cable car. “Nooo… We weren’t ready.”

I cannot begin to describe to you what it was like stepping onto that cable car and ascending into the clouds, but I will try. It was magical! I’m typically afraid of heights, but even I could not keep my eyes closed. Watching the massive parking lot disappear into the trees, streams, and flowers below was like watching a painting take shape in front of your eyes. Thankfully, stepping off of the cable car onto the massive amusement park “playground” was even better. I’m told that I kept saying, “I could stay here forever!”

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Aside from the food, shops, and robots running around the amusement park, we enjoyed a day simply acting like kids. If you can imagine going to an arcade as a child and never needing quarters or tokens, then you can imagine what it was like being at Ba Na Hills. We literally stayed at one arcade game for over an hour, competing with one another, and not a single coin was placed in the slots. We jumped on bumper cars. Played laser tag games. Enjoyed 3D and 4D movies and worked ourselves into an old folks stupor. We had some much fun that we forgot to ride the coasters and enter the wax museum. We suck as kids circa 2017, but this just means that we need to go back.

Ba Na Hills needs to go on your must-do list, and you need more than one day. Take your kids. Take your partner. Take yourself… but go and please, be ready!

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