PHOTO ESSAY: Son Tra Peninsula, Vietnam

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SON TRA PENINSUALA lies just 8 kilometers by motorbike east of Da Nang on Vietnam’s central coast but feels like a different world than the buzzing small city nearby. It’s truly a refreshing break from the city’s noise.

A bike trip into the interior of Son Tra is an adventure into a green wonderland with distinct flora and fauna that has earned the whole peninsula the designation of a nature reserve.

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South end, Son Tra Peninsula. Image by Benjamin J Spencer

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Near the Great Ficus, Son Tra. Image by Benjamin J Spencer

The small peninsula also boasts pristine beaches, twisty motorbike paths clinging to sheer cliffs, forest hikes, and sprawling temples.

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Son Tra Peninsula rises to the east of Da Nang. Image by Stacy Libokmeto

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We recommend a motorbike with at least 125 cc . Here’s Beej on his Yamaha Nuovo. Image by Stacy Libokmeto

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Coastal road to Son Tra. Image by Stacy Libokmeto

The highest point on the peninsula is Son Tra Mountain (also known as Monkey Mountain to American soldiers stationed nearby during the American War),  a rocky 850 foot rise with panoramic views.  It’s a relatively short walk to the top on a concrete path – or if you’re in for a driving challenge, a transmission-busting slog up a crazily steep and narrow motorbike route.

Another highlight of the trip is Linh Ung Pagoda, with its colorful Buddhist statuary and its unique 67-meter-tall Lady Buddha statue.

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Linh Unh Pagoda, only completed in 2010. Image by Benjamin J Spencer

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The 67-meter Lady Buddha is one of the largest of its kind in existence. Photo by Stacy Libokmeto

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A glimpse of the pagoda with the Lady Buddha in the foreground and the Arhat statuary surrounding. Photo by Benjamin J Spencer

Our favorite feature of Linh Unh Pagoda has to be the Arhat statues that surround the main plaza. Arhat are figures in Buddhism who have attained enlightenment through meditation and deed. The sculptor, Nguyen Viet Minh, carved whimsical expressions on the enlightened figures along with their mythical animal companions.

 

Son Tra Peninsula is definitely worth a day trip. If you’re comfortable riding a motorbike and can handle lots of curves and hills, we would recommend renting your own transportation. If not, there are tons of tours leaving from Da Nang that capture all the major sights.

We will definitely head back someday to catch all the things we invariably missed. Until then, onward up the coast.

Up next: Hoi An and Hanoi!