After spending the morning on a boat going through the beautiful mountains, our guide/driver Scott suggested we go to Mua Cave and climb the 500 steps to see the area from above. Even though the attraction is named “Mua Cave,” the main reason we visited was to take in the view from the top of the mountain! We were hesitant to try hiking after our terrible experience in Tai’an with our four-year-old, but we discussed it with him, and he agreed to try. After all, we had tried to get him to climb 2,500-3,000 steps in China, and this hike was famous for being only 500 stairs. We made a deal that we would get ice cream afterwards, but only if there was NO WHINING on the hike. Our guide dropped us off at the entrance to the area. We ate lunch at the local pop-up restaurant- it wasn’t great but nobody got sick either- and bought some nice cold bottles of water. At this attraction, we ran into lots and lots of foreigners. Scott said it was because the Vietnamese do not like to climb things or exert themselves in the sun, but for some reason, us foreigners love to hike to the top of things, even in very hot weather! Everyone we saw was soaked in sweat!
After lunch, we made our way from the restaurant to the mountain. The ticket office was tucked to the side of the car park, and entry was 100,000 dong/adult. There was quite a walk from the car park to the trail head, and I’m just glad that Landon was distracted by interesting bugs and water buffalo and did not realize how far he was having to walk just to start the hike. We ventured past a pretty pond, and an interesting smaller puddle pond with some characters in it. First off, we came to a small cave. There was a scary tiger sculpture inside, and it was full of water, so we didn’t venture far inside.
Austin forged ahead up the mountain, while I stayed back with Landon. He did great for the entire 500 steps, even though some were uneven and very high for him to reach. He was motivated to get that ice cream! It also seems that he likes to take frequent rest breaks and check out the scenery and surrounding area, so I just let him. I guess our days of hiking as fast as possible to reach the top are over, at least until our kids are older, and then we will be the ones THEY have to wait for…
About halfway up the mountain, there is a fork in the path. The right fork goes up to a secondary little temple/tower. The left fork continues up to the top of the mountain. We opted to not hike the right fork and continue up to the top.
As we continued up the stairs, the steps got further apart until it was almost impossible for Landon to climb them and stay on his feet. For some of the very tall steps, there were mini half steps made out of concrete that he used, but it was difficult! Thankfully, there were landings every so often so that we could rest and drink water. Landon saw the little tower on the top of a rock off the trail and asked if we could climb to it. Nope, not possible!
After one more staircase, we were up to the top! As promised, the views of the surrounding mountains were absolutely incredible. Even Landon realized that his hard work of climbing up the mountain paid off! At the top, there was a small shrine and statue, as well as a big dragon sculpture on the very top of the rocks. There were some intrepid young backpackers hanging out up there, and of course Landon wanted to try to climb it. The rocks were very rough and ridged, which made it easier to climb up, but more difficult to keep our footing when we got up there. Landon was a little freaked out to be so high up with sheer sides, and I was a little freaked out that he was going to topple off the mountain. So, I had him sit down and enjoy the view from there, and Austin, who had Owen sleeping on his back, snapped a picture before I helped Landon down. We were happy to be safely on more solid ground!
There was not much room at the top, and so after a few minutes of taking in the views, we headed back down to find some ice cream. Landon was really excited and proud of himself for making it all the way up, and stopped every landing on the way down to “refuel” with water, since he was pretending to be a car.
Once we got to the bottom, we started our search for ice cream. We asked at the snack stand, but they just had cold drinks and some souvenirs, but no ice cream. The lady working there said she could go get some from down the road and come back, but we weren’t really in the mood to wait. It was really hot, and we had all sweat a lot and were anxious to get back into the air conditioning of our car! However, as we were heading back down the path, a guy came up with a bag of ice creams to give to the shop, and so we were able to buy some from her as we were leaving! Landon was really happy to have earned his ice cream. He didn’t want to enjoy it while walking, so he sat on a bench and savored his treat.
We stopped for a minute to swing on these swings near the car park and the eco lodge’s restaurant. It was a neat idea to have these swings looking out over the landscape. Both kids really enjoyed them, even though we swung very carefully as there is a water lily pond underneath part of the swing!
Mua Cave and 500 steps hike was an awesome way to take in the scenery from a different angle than the boat tour. The hike is short, but fairly strenuous with very tall and uneven steps in areas, so I would recommend this hike for kids 5 & over, or throw littles in a baby backpack! Wear appropriate hiking footwear, wear sunscreen and mosquito repellent, and don’t forget to pack plenty of water! It was cloudy when we visited, and I can only imagine how overheated we would have been had we hiked the whole thing in full sun!