At this point, you probably have to have been in a bunker or a cult (or both) not to have seen the much-lauded golden bridge in the mountains behind Danang, Vietnam. It’s Instagram worthy image is everywhere in the travel inspiration/bucket list world. The problem with that is that it’s become one of, if not THE most popular tourist attraction in Vietnam. Read any real article on the place and they tell you that it’s heaving and the only way to get a second of time on the bridge is to make sure you’re on the first cable car of the day (7.30 am) which means getting up hours before to get up there from your accommodation. After that, it is, unlike in all the lovely pictures – covered with hundreds of people all day every day.

I am not an early morning person. To be honest I’m not even a mid-morning person so I decided in order to best experience the bridge we should cough up and pay the extortionate prices to stay for a couple of nights – that way you can get to it before those not staying on the mountain. I normally lose interest in things that are that popular or trouble-some but I have to confess I really wanted to see that bridge.

The trip up to Bana Hills is in itself an experience, going up the mountain for maybe 20 minutes in the worlds longest cable car. I hadn’t realised that and that itself was one of the most incredible experiences of my life (and not for the faint hearted!).

Turns out I needn’t have bothered staying on-site, as with Chinese and many Korean tourists not allowed into the country and tourism in general shrinking by the minute – the place was running at minimum capacity. During my 2 day stay, I pretty much could have gone down to the bridge and not had it to myself but not far off.

The bridge is a let down to some extent. It’s way smaller than you think and it’s not really a bridge and it doesn’t really bridge anything. But it is still frankly cool and unique and the backdrop of the bizarre fake French village although overpriced and weird – is certainly an experience. It was made even odder for us as the majority of the eating establishments and shops were closed, nobody told you anything about anything and we were stuck a REALLY long way up a mountain with corona nipping at our heels and I was rather paranoid that we would get quarantined up there.

Beside the bridge, or maybe more than the bridge, the toboggan in the in- house, or rather in-faux-village small amusement park was an utter highlight. Not adrenalin-inducing, but whizzing down the calm mountainside was a bit of a treat – the adrenalin-inducing bit is the final pully back up to the end where you realise if anything snaps you plummet to your death. But what a location and way to go!! There’s such a contrast of twisting and turning through the countryside, to the mostly indoor amusement park area – full-on neon colours, bright lights and whacky noises purvey.

The faux French village is both well done in odd ways, as someone who lives in Europe, but bonkers in others, and frankly just creepy at night when no-one is there. There are odd little touches all over the place – from the piggy characters outside restaurants to some of the restaurants styled to be like an expensive, elegant European bistro but which are actually offering quite basic and often even buffet food. They also play extraordinarily loud music most of the day.

In the area around the bridge, there are lots of unexplained body parts and flowers planted in ‘face’ pots and in general, there’s some interesting planting all around the place and you often walk past a flower bed which smells divine.

There’s a Christmas square which as it’s properly sign-posted, I can only assume is there full time, is an interesting one. There was the odd bride, dressed like a princess, having their photos taken about the place and Christmas square in March is an interesting one. I also ADORED the fact that behind the boardings around Christmas square, if you looked from above, there is all these out of use abandoned, giant props. Check out the giant hands – almost as impressive as the bridge.

Bana Hills is unquestionably a bizarre experience, probably more so for Europeans for which ancient villages and castles and quite commonplace. But it’s certainly a unique one. I can imagine when it’s crowded it’s probably hard work, but where else are you going to glide up a mountain, see cartoon characters outside castles and a golden bridge clasped by giant hands – apart from perhaps in a fairytale.

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