Experience the Grueling Wonders of Mui Ne's Ta Cu Mountain
Not too long ago, the hard-working souls of City Pass Guide banded together to enjoy a colourful, blissful weekend at Pandanus Resort in Mui Ne. On that Saturday, the individuals who weren’t suffering from the rum-soaked festivities of the night before drove out to Ta Cu Mountain to hike, to see, and to photograph.
This is our story.
A Divisive Start (Or, Alternative Team Building)
From our resort on the sandy edge of Mui Ne, the first thing to say is: getting to Ta Cu Mountain will be an event in and of itself. The road was long, dusty and filled with honking trucks barrelling down the roads.
Another thing I and my nine other City Pass team members noticed on the way to the mountain was 1) we would get to the entrance at about 1 p.m., and 2) that happened to be the hottest time on an already hot day in Phan Thiet.
The obligatory cable-car-versus-hiking debate began early.
In the end, our team split. Four individuals (won’t say who!) took the cable car (a relatively new addition to the mountain experience that will cost a person VND 120,000 for a round trip ticket or VND 80,000 for a one-way ticket) while six took their chances on the wild, untamed mountain range that is the path to Ta Cu Mountain’s illustrious peak.
Into Thin Air (But Way Less Polluted than Saigon’s)
I, for one, was extremely excited by the prospect of going on a proper hike. Hiking and, further, exercising outdoors is something that I always took for granted before I moved to Saigon. It wasn’t until I was faced with the opportunity to go on a hike that I realised how much I missed it in the first place.
My colleagues, not so much.
However, they agreed, and by the time things really got rough (about a third of the way up) there was no opportunity to turn back. In the end, we all made it through without any tears or scrapes, and we were all the better for having done it.
To be fair, it was a more challenging hike than I had anticipated. Had I known how difficult the hike would be, I think I would have opted for the cable car as well. The terrain was a mix of large boulders, dirt paths, and dilapidated stone stairs that sometimes had to be climbed up, such was their verticality. In one or two places, I had to use the trees flanking the path to pull myself up a small, untended hill.
The best thing about the hike? The views. And these aren’t the views that you’re thinking about. Look around when you’re hiking up Ta Cu, and you’ll see trees all around you. You’ll hear the deafening roar of cicadas from all directions. You’ll see wildlife, like brightly coloured lizards, insects and monkeys – if you’re lucky – doing their thing and paying you no mind. This was jungle nature at its best.
Which is why the pollution all along the trail made me even more sad. Plastic bottles littered the pathway and were thrown in literal heaps at the several rest points along the way up. So please, if and when you tackle this beautiful hike, store your empty water bottle till the top!
The Reclining Buddha and Other Marvels
Having finally hauled ourselves to the top of the mountain, we met up with the others, had a nice lunch at a large mountaintop restaurant, and switched roles. Now it was our turn to explore what Ta Cu Mountain had to offer.
The pagoda consisted of a few buildings, not incredibly well maintained, and a lengthy staircase to get to them. My legs being completely numb at this point, I was able to hobble to the top with relative ease.
Compared to other pagodas I’ve been to in Vietnam, this one seemed a little less maintained (perhaps due to the inconvenient building place). However, it’s apparent that the beauty of the pagoda itself isn’t important alongside the view, the mountain and the monks themselves. There was a peaceful vibe there that I can’t deny.
It’s impossible to write a proper blog article about Ta Cu Mountain and not mention the magnificent reclining buddha nestled in the forest. Said to be the largest reclining buddha statue in Vietnam, this beautiful work of art is around 49 metres long and made out of concrete and painted sparkling white.
To see that stark white against the dark green background was, simply, breathtaking.
Here’s a little-known fact for you. If you’re facing the reclining buddha, look to your right. You should see some large stones with spray painted arrows on them. If you’re relatively nimble and you don’t mind climbing over some boulders, follow these arrows.
Within a few minutes, you should come to a small opening in the rocks on your left-hand side. This small opening is actually a cave. For those intrepid enough to go inside, you’ll find a small shrine to commemorating a monk who meditated there. Be warned, though: many insects and snakes have since made the cave their residence, so if you do feel up to visiting the cave, be sure to just explore the opening cavern.