Cable car ride to Vietnamís largest reclining Buddha

by Binh Nguyen, Saigon Times, June 14, 2006

Saigon, Vietnam -- Tourists and pilgrims from near and far are traveling to Ta Cu (or Takou) Mountain in Binh Thuan Province this summer to explore the picturesque scenery of the mountain’s rainforest and visit the largest statue of a reclining Buddha in Vietnam.

<< The cable car system stretches up Ta Cu Mountain in Binh Thuan Province

The white stone statue of Thich Ca Nhap Niet Ban (Buddha entering Nirvana) lies just below the summit of the almost-700-meter-high mountain, about 28 kilometers southwest of Phan Thiet City and 167 kilometers north of HCMC.

The statue is 49 meters long and 18 meters high. Surrounded by wild vegetation and dark clouds on a rainy afternoon, the Buddha’s silent smile appears perfectly peaceful, touching believers and non-believers alike.

Local lore says the statue was sculptured in 1962 and is part of the complex of Linh Son Truong Tho Tu and Linh Son Long Doan pagodas, built in the late 19th century. A thatched-roof pagoda formerly stood at the place where the two pagodas now are being renovated and reconstructed.

Linh Son Truong Tho Tu Pagoda, close to the mountain top, is surrounded by stone tables and chairs, where visitors can rest to drink tea, talk with the monks and enjoy the view.

The commanding position, greenery and stone monoliths of different shapes give the pagoda an imposing appearance and help draw lots of visitors to the complex, usually home to Buddha statues, tombs and smaller temples.

Pilgrims and tourists often crowd the pagoda complex in the early days of spring and during the full moon, as well as at other times of the year to pray and sightsee.

But getting up the mountain may be as exciting as the Buddha itself. Because the complex is under renovation, visitors are encouraged to each take at least two bricks in a plastic bag from the foot to the top of the mountain.

This not only gives pilgrims absolution but also helps the pagoda construction workers. There are two ways for visitors to reach the top of Ta Cu Mountain, with or without bricks.

You can either hike up through the forest for two to three hours or take the 1.64-kilometer cable car system. Trekking offers walkers a chance to see birds, monkeys, wild flowers and other animals and plants up-close along the trail up to the peak.

Hikers are advised to dress appropriately and leave high-heels at home. It’s also recommendable to take along warm clothing, mosquito repellent, torches and raincoats because it’s the rainy season in the region now.

The moving cable cars offer you a broader overview. High above the forest, you can enjoy the panorama of the flora diversity below you, as well as the scenery of paddy fields, green hills, rivers and the sea in the far distance.

A good idea is to make your way up Ta Cu Mountain in the morning, especially during the summer when rain often pours down in the afternoon and mist obstructs the picturesque views.

Remember it is not safe to trek up Ta Cu Mountain when it rains. The cable car system also stops when it’s rainy and windy so that you could be in for a long wait before you can descend again.

A two-way journey by cable car costs VND55,000 per adult. This also includes a trip by trolley car between the entrance of Ta Cu Tourist Area and the close-by cable car station at the foot of the mountain.  

The tourist area is part of the Ta Cu Mountain Nature Reserve covering almost 12,000 hectares in the central coastal province.

For an organized tour to Ta Cu Mountain and other tourist sites inBinh Thuan Province, contact:

- Ben Thanh Tourist, 86 Ly Tu Trong Street, District 1, HCMC. Tel: (08) 822 2506
- Lua Viet Picnic Co., 677 Tran Hung Dao Street, District 5, HCMC. Tel: (08) 923 2148
- Saigontourist Travel Service, 49 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1, HCMC. Tel: (08) 829 8914
- Vietravel, 190 Pasteur Street, District 3, HCMC. Tel: (08) 822 8898