Ta Cu Mountain in Binh Thuan has pagodas and Buddhas to admire and quite a few tales to tell.

By Ngoc Linh on October 17,2017 10:09 AM


photos: Ngọc Linh

Binh Thuan province in south-central Vietnam has been dubbed ‘the Kingdom of Resorts’ over the last couple of decades because of the many starred-resorts along its coastline. It also boasts long beaches with beautiful sand, for visitors to stroll around as they please.

Adventure tourists and others, meanwhile, will find it exciting to head out on religious visits to Ta Cu Mountain in Ham Thuan Nam town, just 30 km southwest of Phan Thiet city.

Adventure up the mountain

Since the mountain summit is at an altitude of about 650 metres, the weather is usually around 18-20oC, and its cool, fresh air and plants, flowers, and spring water make it comfortable and enjoyable for all visitors.

Around Ta Cu Mountain is a natural reserve with a wide variety of plants and animals, including rare species like the grey partridge, the mountain hawk-eagle, and the Indochinese lutung, as well as more than 150 types of plants.

Visitors can reach the peak of the mountain by two ways: on foot or in a cable car. Healthy and adventurous people would certainly choose the first so that they can also take spectacular photos along the way.

It previously took nearly a full day to reach the top, as the path was difficult and hazardous, and visitors had to spend a night on the mountain before making their way down the next morning. Steps now make it much easier and it takes around three hours to reach the top.


Some parts are still difficult, though, because of steep slopes, especially Bang Lang Slope. The spot is called bang lang (banaba tree) because of the numerous banaba trees in the area, giving it a purple tinge when the plants bloom in summer.

Another is the Yen Ngua Slope. There is a huge rock by a spring called Gieng Tien (Fairy Well). It looks like a chess board for fairies to play. After going over carpets of green plants and listening to the sounds of the forest, including bird song, visitors reach the top just as they’re getting tired.

Once at the top, they can see several tiled roofs of pagodas and the solemnity of huge Buddhist statues, some of which stand around ten metres tall and look out to sea. The most amazing is perhaps the reclining Buddha, which was built almost 60 years ago and which held the record as the biggest Reclining Buddha in Southeast Asia at the time, with a length of 49 metres and a height of 11 metres.


More pagodas and statues were then built on the top of the mountain. In those days, it was a quiet place with very few people and was very hard to reach. It was also extremely challenging to carry building materials up the mountain.

Visitors are advised to take the cable car if they don’t have enough time to go by foot. Tickets cost VND250,000 for adults and VND150,000 for children less than 1.4 metres in height. The trip takes just ten minutes, and then a climb of about 100 concrete steps is needed to get to the pagodas and statues.

It seems as if Ta Cu Mountain covers the whole southern part of Ham Thuan Nam. At the foot of the mountain are many large dragonfruit orchards, and in the distance is La Gi, Ke Ga Cape, and Ke Ga Lighthouse. Thien Thai Restaurant awaits visitors at the end of the cable car, where they can rest and breathe fresh air. Vegetarian dishes and fresh fruit juices are available at the pagodas.

Mountain legends

While there are several pagodas on Ta Cu Mountain, the most interesting stories have been passed down by word of mouth about Linh Son Truong Tho (Divine Longevity Mountain), where a statue of the Buddhist monk Huu Duc, who founded the local pagoda nearly 140 years ago, is found.

Legend has it that when Emperor Tu Duc (1829-1883), the fourth emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty(1802-1945), was on the throne, his mother Tu Du once became ill and lost her eyesight. The royal physicians failed to find a cure, and the emperor made an announcement that reached all around the country in the hope of finding someone who could provide proper treatment.


The chief mandarin of Binh Thuan province at the time had heard about Monk Huu Duc, and sent a report to the emperor, who then sent for Monk Huu Duc. The monk, who wished to never go down the mountain again, wrote a prescription of medicinal herbs for the emperor’s mother. The prescription worked and she recovered her eyesight. Emperor Tu Duc wanted to express his gratitude to Monk Huu Duc, so conferred him the title ‘Linh Son Truong Tho’.

When Monk Huu Duc passed away, a white tiger, which was said to accompany and protect him, sat by his tomb, eating nothing until it died soon after. For this reason, a tomb for the white tiger is found next to the monk’s.

Some visitors are now also interested in going into the 100-metre long cave where Monk Huu Duc practised meditation and lived a tranquil life. One end of the cave is on the eastern side of the mountain, right next to the huge reclining Buddha. The cave leads through to the other side of the mountain and is quite narrow and very dark. Some steps require a stride of almost a metre, so at least two people should go together to help each other along.

The opening of the cave is only large enough for one person to get through. The dark, slippery rocks, the chilly air, and even the thought of insects and animals may deter many. Some, though, would be up to the challenge.

There is less and less oxygen as the cave gets deeper, and some find it hard to breathe. There is a large rock in the cave, where the monk is said to have sat and practised meditation. At the other end is an underground stream, making lovely gurgling sounds and which has water clean enough to drink.

Some have even said that people in the old days used to put a grapefruit or coconut in the cave and a few days later would find it in Ke Ga, about a dozen kilometres away. Such legendary stories are still passed down among local people.

Ta Cu Mountain welcomes visitors all year round and at its most crowded on national holidays like Tet, the Hung Kings’ death anniversary on the tenth day of the third lunar month, and Monk Huu Duc’s death anniversary, on the fifth day of the tenth lunar month. ^

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