A friend told me that Chua Chan Mountain, aka Gia Lao, used to be a volcano, yet, there was no information about that on the internet. If you have ever taken a bus from Saigon to Phan Thiet, you would have seen or passed by it before as it lies quite close to the road.

 

Located in Dong Nai, Chua Chan Mountain is about 110 km away from Saigon and is 837 metres high. It is also the second-highest peak in the southeastern region of Vietnam after Black Virgin Mountain in Tay Ninh, which is 996 metres high. It was recognised as a national heritage site in 2012.

 

Temples, Shops and the Cableway

 

In Vietnam, wherever there’s a mountain, there are temples or pagodas. Chua Chan has three pagodas — Buu Quang, Lam Son and Linh Son — and several smaller temples. The stone staircase leading to the top is steep and busy with shops. Some vendors might interrupt your progress and ask you to buy some incense and candles as they think you come there to offer prayers for your love life or health.

 

Chua Chan is actually like a small mountain village. They sell not only incense and candles, but also food, drinks, clothes, shoes, souvenirs and other spiritual services including fortune telling cards and palmistry. Just in case, there are also karaoke rooms and hostels.

 

On my visit it didn’t take long for me to realise that two porters and I were the only people walking up to the top. Most visitors prefer to take the cableway to the top then walk down back to the foot of the mountain. This cableway is 1km long and has 72 cabins. It was opened in early 2016 with return tickets priced at VND160,000 for adults and VND90,000 for children under 1.2 metres tall.

 

For Trekking and Camping

 

Chua Chan becomes more interesting if you have more time and a sense of adventure. Khoa, to whom I gave a lift from the welcome gate to his house located at the foot of the mountain, told me that most young people prefer trekking and camping overnight on Chua Chan.

 

“They usually follow the electricity poles. That’s the easiest way,” he said.

 

According to Google, Chua Chan is not a difficult mountain and there are many ways to reach to the top. You can either follow the electricity poles or continue on the path behind Buu Quang Temple. Or simply, you make your own way.

 


 

Getting There

 

Take either Highway 1A or Highway 51 towards Long Khanh. Keep following Highway 1A until you get to TL766. Take TL766 for about 4km until you see the welcome gate of Chua Chan Mountain. Follow the road about 4km and pay VND14,000 for the ticket to reach the foot of the mountain where you park your bike.

 


Photos by Vu Ha Kim Vy

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