One of the lesser known natural wonders around Da Nang and an easy road trip from Hoi An is Luong Duong Springs, also known as Turtle Springs, a jungle-clad, natural waterfall surrounded by emerald spring pools.
For nature lovers and families, Luong Duong Springs is worthy of a visit if you were to incorporate it into a sightseeing trip of the area — as a one-stop destination, it doesn’t hold one’s interest for long.
The history surrounding Luong Duong Spring is a confused mix of Chinese whispers, but reading between the enormous stone sculptures set across the grounds, springs and falls, they do seem to walk you through the legend of Au Lac, which tells the story of the first Vietnamese ging Lac Long Quan’s short union with Princess Au Co, and their 100 sons. When the king and his princess separated they each took 50 sons. King Lac headed to the northern lowlands where his eldest son Hung Duong took the throne, creating the kingdom of Van Lang, naming his people the Lac Viet. The princess and her 50 sons retreated to the mountains, joining the people there to become the Au Viet. After 18 hereditary kings of the Hung Duong dynasty, Van Lang was invaded by the then leader of Au Viet. He proclaimed himself king, reuniting the Lac Viet and Au Viet by naming his kingdom Au Lac, which many centuries later became what is now known as Vietnam.
Luong Duong Springs are set in the mountains below the Hai Van Pass and are fed by crystal clear water trickling down from the pass all year round. In the rainy season — October through to February — you could almost call it a waterfall, almost. Upon entry you are directed towards a footbridge over the lower springs. Look closely and you’ll notice the rocks have been carved into the shapes of legendary animals and a napping princess — look really closely and you’ll see tiny Lac birds etched into the rock cliff around her, representing her 100 sons.
The carvings were made by the craftsmen of Non Nuoc village, located at the base of Marble Mountains, who have been famously carving stone for more than 200 years. From here, if you turn right there is a small Catholic temple cave with statues representing the nativity scene. Keep walking up through the forest path and you’ll stumble across more spring pools and a few ethnic stilted houses bought down from the mountain tribes of the H’mong and Ca Tu. Here you can buy food and drinks, and there’s a toilet and changing area. The higher you go, the clearer the water, so it’s worth continuing upwards for a cooling dip.
For the really adventurous, this path takes you to the top of a 100-metre high hill which has incredible views out over the Da Nang Bay. It’s a hot and overgrown route, so do take a bottle of water along with you. Luong Duong Springs are the perfect end-in-sight stop on the way back down from the Hai Van Pass or an equally good picnic stop.
It’s worth stopping too at Non Nuoc if your journey takes you in the right direction (located midway between Da Nang and Hoi An on the coastal road) to appreciate the talent and techniques used to form the stone carvings in the springs.
At weekends, during national holidays and on full moon nights the springs can get very busy with Vietnamese tourists and the odd company team building event. During the week, you get the whole thing pretty much to yourself, which is typical of most Hoi An and Vietnamese attractions. Although the hill would be an amazing spot to watch the sun go down, we don’t recommend it as negotiating the overgrown footpath down in the dark is quite hairy.
Although we didn’t do it this time, taking the lead from the Vietnamese tourists, an evening picnic on one of the rocks above the springs during full moon would be magical and seeing as the Vietnamese celebrate their full moon two nights before the moon is at its fullest, chances are you’ll get to enjoy watching the moon reflect in the pools surrounded by the chirrup of insects rather than the cacophony of tourists.
To get to the springs from Da Nang or Hoi An, take the coastal road and head towards Dien Bien Phu Street through the Hue intersection. Head towards Nguyen Luong Bang Street and continue along the road to the Hai Van Pass. As you cross over the bridge at the far end of Red Beach (worthy of a stop) there is a roundabout. Right takes you up the pass, but you need to do a dog leg left and then almost immediately right. Continue three kilometres over a tiny bridge and Luong Duong Springs car park and entrance is on the right.
There doesn’t seem to be a charge for entrance or parking, but be prepared to dig in to your pocket– shouldn’t be more than 30,000 VND.
For the more adventurous, half way up the Hai Van Pass on the left is a steep little footpath that leads you down to one of the most isolated and idyllic sandy bays that up until recently was a leper colony. It’s a very challenging journey down, which can only be taken on foot, so it’s not great for small kids and note that there are no food or drink vendors. The rewards though are having breathtaking squeaky sand beach coves and turquoise seas all to yourself — it’s one of the very few off-the-beaten-path routes left in the area.
By Caroline Mills
Last updated on 29th June, 2015.