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Travel Report: Monkey Mountain, Danang.

Visit Monkey Mountain in Danang

Monkey Mountain, Danang, Vietnam.

May 2018.

It was a beautifully sunny afternoon in Danang as I left the hostel in pursuit of another mountain adventure. I had already enjoyed a day taking in The Marble Mountains and was curious to see how Son Tra, aka Monkey Mountain, would compare.

Towering 600 meters above sea level, Monkey Mountain sits on the outskirts of Central Danang overlooking the bay and the vast expanse of The South China Sea. From my hostel, it took me an hour just to reach the main mountain road. That’s through the city streets, over Dragon Bridge and along the coastline, before branching off onto a twisting, steep mountain path.  

Climbing Monkey Mountain Danang Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

I’m not gonna lie, it was really hard work getting up the hill. Moreover, the sun’s intensity had ramped up a couple of notches. Hence I soon found myself reduced to a hot, sweaty panting mess. But hey, the ever-improving views made it all worthwhile.

Son Tra has of course been around for thousands of years. A giant, green screen providing protection to its surrounds from aggressive sea storms and devastating typhoons.

Danang views Monkey Mountain Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

But it wasn’t until the 19th century that the French began developing the land. First came roads and residential compounds for high ranking military officers and government officials. Later, they built a seaport, cemeteries, a lighthouse and a bamboo garden. They called the mountain area Tien Sa (Angel’s Landing), which is now the name of a nearby harbour.

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

South China Sea Views from Monkey Mountain in Danang

Climbing ever higher.

During the Vietnam War the Americans built a US Air Force and Marine base here. Opened in 1962, they established a signals intelligence centre (SIGNT) just south of the main peak in order to intercept North Vietnamese communications. The base also served as a defence point for the mountain and the city of Danang. 

US Air Force and Marine base Monkey Mountain Danang

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

In March 1968 Son Tra was the scene of high drama when a US F-8 Crusader crashed into the mountain. Details of the crash are vague, but it seems the pilot (Lieutenant Jerry Weber) survived, while the plane’s fuselage ended up embedded into the rock.

Consequently, it became an iconic photo spot for all serving soldiers based at Monkey Mountain. Today a few abandoned buildings remain, though much of the area is sealed off from public access.

Plane crash Monkey Mountain Danang March 1968

Monkey Mountain, Danang. March 1968.

That afternoon my sightseeing was much more sedate. I was making my way to Linh Ung Pagoda, a sprawling Buddhist complex unveiled in 2010. The compound stands on the site of an 18th century shrine constructed in the days of Emperor Minh Mang.

Linh Ung Pagoda.

Linh Ung Pagoda Monkey Mountain Danang

Linh Ung Pagoda: Monkey Mountain, Danang.

The legend behind the original shrine is a familiar one for anyone who’s been around the Asian block. They say its inspiration came from a mysterious Buddhist statue that washed up on the beach below one day. In awe, the villagers built the shrine in its honour, believing that it would protect them from harsh weather.

Linh Ung Pagoda on Monkey Mountain in Danang

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

The pagoda’s huge main courtyard is home to potted rocks and gorgeous bonsai trees. There are also statues honouring the Eighteen Arhats, the original followers of Lord Buddha.

The dude pictured below is Khang Mon La Han, supposedly one of the eighteen. But details on him are thin on the ground and his name doesn’t even register among the lists of arhats I found. Furthermore, even a local guide couldn’t help me out. “Mm, not sure” he said, “arhats had many names”. Buddhism be confusing y’all.

Khang Mon La Han one of the 18 arhats of Buddhism

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

It was busy inside the main temple, with dozens of people praying, chanting and burning incense sticks at the main altar. Frankly, the scene was a typical one and kinda blended in with the countless Buddhist altars I’ve seen across Asia.

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

Inside Linh Ung Pagoda Monkey Mountain Danang

Inside Linh Ung Pagoda. 

As a result, I found myself focusing on the giant incense burner at the main doors. And what a fine view you get between its sculpted handles back across the courtyard to the entrance arch. You really get a sense of scale from what is the largest pagoda in central Vietnam.

Incense sticks Linh Ung Pagoda Son Tra Mountain Danang

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

Linh Ung’s undisputed centrepiece is the towering white statue of Lady Buddha, the Goddess of Mercy. This was the 67 metre-tower I’d spied on the other side of the bay from My Khe Beach during my explorations of The Danang Coastline. 

The lady, calmly looking out to sea, is Vietnam’s tallest Buddhist statue. She has 17 floors, each dedicated to a different Buddha. Visitors who make the effort to climb them are rewarded with fine sea views from a balcony at the top. Unfortunately for me, there was no interior access that day. Just my luck.

Lady Buddha Goddess of Mercy Monkey Mountain Danang

Lady Buddha: Monkey Mountain, Danang.

Elsewhere, I marvelled at the impressive Relics Tower, home to over 200 antique Buddha images gathered from around Vietnam. And then I was cursing all over again when I realised that everything above the ground floor was also shut up for the day. It was starting to feel like a conspiracy.

Adventures in Vietnam.

17 floor Relics Tower Linh Ung Pagoda

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

The further you progress the quieter it gets. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about tourists over the years it’s that people are so lazy. They come, look inside the main altar, grab a few shots of Lady Buddha and they’re gone.

At the back of the complex, towards the nature trails that lead further up the mountain, I stumbled upon a perfectly peaceful sculpture park. There were kneeling mothers, waving children and grazing deer. And not a word of explanation anywhere to illuminate any of it.

Sculpture Park Monkey Mountain Danang

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

I would’ve loved to explore more of the mountain. If one has a set of wheels, and indeed the time needed before dark, it’s possible to see the lighthouse that the French built. And the cemetery that contains the graves of French and Spanish soldiers. There are also further viewpoints, including the dramatic views of Ban Co Peak. For more on these delights, check out this excellent blog by

Dragon sculpture Monkey Mountain in Danang

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

Monkey Mountain wasn’t my most glorious afternoon of exploring. In addition to the closed pagoda sights, I failed to see any actual monkeys on the nature trails descending back into the city. “Really mate!?” my old travel buddy Wonderboy later exclaimed. “They were everywhere when I visited!” 

American soldiers gave Son Tra its Monkey Mountain nickname, due to the many monkey breeds living in its dense jungle. Among them lives the magnificent red-shanked douc, a critically endangered species. According to local experts, you’d be very lucky indeed to see one.

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

Red-shanked Douc rare monkey

The elusive red-shanked douc.

Photo courtesy of Art G.

I was still on my way down when I bumped into a group of chattery Chinese women. Instinctively I fired off a few phrases in Mandarin, which had them all oohhing and aaahing in surprise. This soon transformed into all-out delight when I told them that I actually lived in China. Naturally, we had to immortalise the moment with a group shot. A fun end to a decent albeit monkey-less afternoon on Son Tra Mountain.

Chinese tourists Danang Vietnam

Monkey Mountain, Danang.

For more on this amazing Vietnamese city, take a look at my other articles on Danang.

Or maybe look further afield with my many more pieces from across Vietnam.

I‘ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.



    What terrific experiences you had out there Leighton. We are still keeping these articles in storage ready for our hoped-for return.

    November 21, 2021 - 9:08 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks, appreciate that. By this point of the trip I really wasn’t feeling up for hauling myself up another mountain. But I’m glad I didn’t miss out on it, even if I did miss out on the monkeys. Hope you guys have a great Sunday.

      November 21, 2021 - 9:15 am Reply
  • salsaworldtraveler

    That was quite a hike to the top of the mountain from sea level. You got a lot of good exercise even if some of the sights were closed. The photo of the Lady Buddha shimmering in the sunlight is truly amazing though.

    November 21, 2021 - 9:10 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks John. A few people have asked me what “effect” I put on the photo but it really just is, as you suggest, near blinding sunlight. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

      November 21, 2021 - 9:16 am Reply
  • wetanddustyroads

    I was so excited to see the monkeys of Monkey Mountain … but then, I guess you can’t always have everything going your way on a trip, can you? But hey, what a climb and what a view! That statue of Lady Buddha is quite impressive and I love the photo of the bonsai trees. Maybe not your favourite mountain exploration, but you definitely got some pretty pictures (and a heavy workout)!

    November 21, 2021 - 12:12 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re right, it can’ always be plain sailing. I think, had I been a driver, it would’ve been cool to explore the depths of the mountain and find the old lighthouse and cemetery. Thanks, as ever, for your support of my blog!

      November 21, 2021 - 12:34 pm Reply
  • WanderingCanadians

    Love the views from Monkey Mountain. I couldn’t help but laugh at the group photo of you at the end. Everyone looks like they are having a great time except for the girl on the far right.

    November 21, 2021 - 12:25 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha, she does look a bit underwhelmed, I never noticed that. Knowing the Chinese as well as I do, she probably wasn’t happy at having to stand in the sun. She’s certainly nice and wrapped up, lord she must have been hot!

      November 21, 2021 - 12:37 pm Reply
  • kagould17

    Beautiful experiences, scenery, architecture and interactions. I love the ancient architecture in this part of the world. On our trips to Japan, we had to laugh at the ancient fire protection symbolism on the temples. Fish tails were installed on the top, symbolizing that the building was under water and could not burn. Yes, average tourists just want to check an item off their list and move on. They miss so much more, when they do that. Love your photo with the ladies. If you just try to engage with the local people, it can be a more rewarding experience. Thanks for sharing Leighton. Allan

    November 21, 2021 - 3:27 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for your thoughts Allan. I think I’ve seen similar icons in a few Japanese temples.

      November 21, 2021 - 3:44 pm Reply
  • Memo

    Lovely compound and impressive views. Enjoyed the various gardens. Those are always fun to visit. So the Lady Buddha is 17 stories tall and hollow. Kind of like the Statue of Liberty in NY. Too bad it was closed. Was the original mysterious Buddha still part of the compound? I’m so glad you make these difficult excursions. Thanks for the effort. You earned a happy ladies moment at the end.

    November 21, 2021 - 4:42 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      No sign of the original statue sadly Memo. Although, I’m guessing if it were anywhere it would have been in that closed relics tower.

      November 21, 2021 - 8:42 pm Reply
  • Sheree

    Going on the list!

    November 21, 2021 - 5:19 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      You’re going to be busy in Vietnam! 😉

      November 21, 2021 - 8:43 pm Reply
      • Sheree

        I am aren’t I?

        November 21, 2021 - 10:07 pm
  • Rebecca

    Ah, you’re showing off your pearly whites in the group photo– you look happy! Haha, I’m Chinese (albeit Westernized), and I always find it so strange for mainland Chinese folks to take group photos with strangers, especially if they’re not Asian– it’s a curiosity thing, and I get that it’s cultural, but it’s still foreign to me (pun intended). Any case, Monkey Mountain looks to be chockful of beautiful temples, pagodas, and many MANY Buddha statues: the Khang Mon La Han really gave me a pause, as I think I’m seeing what I’m seeing (something phallic, perhaps)?? Your Vietnam posts are giving me all the more reason to head to Vietnam someday, as there’s so much to see in the country!

    November 21, 2021 - 7:56 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Looking again at the shot of Khang Mon La Han and yes, it is a suspect object, shall we say. Hmmm. As for The Chinese groups, I’d become well used to it at that point. And really those girls were way calmer than others I’ve encountered. Thanks for your continued support of this Vietnam series. Still plenty more locations to come before I finally close this blogging chapter.

      November 21, 2021 - 8:41 pm Reply
  • Island Traveler


    November 22, 2021 - 12:35 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading!

      November 22, 2021 - 7:47 am Reply
  • Lyssy In The City

    What an adventurous afternoon with some rewarding views! Lady Buddha doesn’t look 17 stories tall, only 5 stories shorter than the Statue of Liberty

    November 22, 2021 - 2:45 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha! Lady Buddha and Lady Liberty should hang out some time. Glass of wine, see who can spot the most monkeys.

      November 22, 2021 - 8:28 am Reply
      • Lyssy In The City

        Ha! I think my money would be on Lady Buddha 🙂

        November 22, 2021 - 3:02 pm
  • Lookoom

    Another site well developed for tourism, but it is true that for a foreigner the monkeys are a little more appealing than extra Buddha statues.

    November 22, 2021 - 4:04 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Indeed, for many it’s all about the monkeys. I wasn’t too disappointed, as I’ve had plenty such experiences, including the ultimate monkey city, Phetchaburi, in Thailand.

      November 22, 2021 - 8:30 am Reply
  • grandmisadventures

    Another wonderful post from Vietnam! That is the first Ive ever heard of a female Buddha. I did think it was sad you visited Monkey Mountain without seeing monkeys

    November 22, 2021 - 4:57 am Reply
    • Leighton

      It was annoying at the time, but looking back I’ve had some amazing monkey experiences. Thanks for your continued readership Meg.

      November 22, 2021 - 8:32 am Reply
  • Little Miss Traveller

    Enjoyed viewing the elaborate pagodas and the stunning views from the summit. It’s definitely the case that many tourists are lazy and don’t want to venture far when the best views / things to see might be further away. Perhaps they don’t allow enough time or are on coach trips with short stops but at least it makes it better for those of us wishing to view as much as we can. Great post as usual Leighton.

    November 22, 2021 - 11:23 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Thank you Marion. Hope you have a great week ahead. We have just landed back in Belgrade and it’s grey and cold. Better get used to it!

      November 22, 2021 - 1:36 pm Reply
  • ourcrossings

    Wow, what an amazing place. With the stupendous summit views and such beautiful dragon statues, I can easily see why the Monkey Mountain is of Danang’s top attractions – I’d say that the winding road around the mountain makes for a nice and memorable motorbiking experience, but you might need a machine with a powerful motor to reach the top. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

    November 22, 2021 - 11:32 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Yes a solid set of wheels is definitely needed. I don’t often rue being a non-driver, but this was one of those times. Thanks Aiva and have a great week.

      November 22, 2021 - 1:41 pm Reply
  • rkrontheroad

    Another interesting exploration and quite an uphill hike! The pagoda with the blue arches is quite lovely, both close up and in the photo from farther. I also like the photo of the skyline over the water. Many hidden treasures in this area.

    November 22, 2021 - 4:44 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for the catch up Ruth, I hope the fall is treating you well.

      November 22, 2021 - 4:49 pm Reply
      • rkrontheroad

        Life is good. I always enjoy your travels and posts.

        November 22, 2021 - 5:05 pm
  • Nic

    “If there’s one thing I’ve learned about tourists over the years it’s that people are so lazy. They come, look inside the main altar, grab a few shots of Lady Buddha and they’re gone” – this is SO true! I have noticed people don’t even look with their eyes anymore, it’s through the lens of the camera or the screen of their phones. Isn’t it sad?! I do enjoy taking photos, but I can stand for a full 30 minutes just looking at a detail I may find fascinating inside a church….and then I take the picture 🙂 sometimes I even forget to take it 😅 Anywho, beautiful photos, love the group shot… there was once an elderly Korean couple who asked to take a photo with me when in Lithuania (and I do not speak Korean!) Usually I would have declined, but they were such a nice, kind couple, just trying to make conversation. I think they found fascinating to meet a western woman travelling alone and wanted to “adopt me” even if just for a few minutes 😅

    November 22, 2021 - 9:30 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Ha ha, thanks Nic, I’m glad this observation resonated. And just think, that the photo has probably been paraded through their family’s and friend’s houses back in Korea.

      November 22, 2021 - 9:35 pm Reply
  • Jyothi

    What a great sharing, Leighton! Enjoyed it!

    November 29, 2021 - 4:37 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for visiting!

      November 29, 2021 - 5:47 pm Reply
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    November 29, 2021 - 6:30 pm Reply
  • Tony Monii

    I love the photo of the bonsai trees.

    December 2, 2021 - 12:29 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Thanks for reading Tony, and taking the time to leave a comment!

      December 2, 2021 - 12:30 pm Reply

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