Updated September 2020
Have you seen her? From the bustling streets or the serene beaches of Da Nang, there is no way you could have missed her! The tall Goddess at the foot of Monkey Mountain, looking over the treacherous ocean like a spiritual lighthouse beckoning the weary home.
She is Lady Buddha! Don’t mistake her for just another tourist trap, built inside the holy Linh Ung Bai Pagoda, she holds great significance for monks and locals alike. This is the ideal place to go if you are a tourist seeking an authentic experience. Go to Lady Buddha if you want to be captivated by stunning views, share a Buddhist prayer or take the selfie that all your followers will envy.
What is Lady Buddha?
At 67 meters, Lady Buddha is the tallest buddha in Vietnam. That is as tall as Christ the Redeemer standing on top of Christ the Redeemer, but only half a Statue of Liberty.
Inside the Lady Buddha are seventeen floors, each with a shrine dedicated to a different Buddha. On the top floor is a flight of stairs that you can take up to her head where you can marvel over the views of the city and the ocean as if you were the Lady Buddha herself, or so I’ve heard. I have never been lucky enough to go when the stairs are actually open, but maybe you are more auspicious than I am, you’ll never know if you don’t go!
Where is Lady Buddha?
Lady Buddha is inside the Linh Ung Bai Pagoda, which is on the southern side of Son Tra peninsula. As she faces the ocean her back is turned to an ancient forest that is home to indigenous Vietnamese birds and animals, the most famous being the endangered Red Shanked Douc! It might be a better idea to travel further up the peninsula towards the Monkey Passage to see them, as they are very shy. Keep an eye out, however, for some naughty macaques while you visit the Pagoda, and be sure to hold on to your belongings when you spot one, they are known for helping themselves to the delicious snacks of the visitors which include your bags and sunglasses!
Linh Ung Bai Pagoda is the largest pagoda in Danang and is made up of the main shrine, an ancestral home, an auditorium, and the Arhat statue garden. The sculptures of spiritual rites that stand in the Arhat statue garden express love, hate, anger and joy. I am not sure how many sculptures are in Linh Ung Bai Pagoda altogether, so be sure to count them on your visit.
The pagoda is approx 14km from the center of Da Nang City and 9km from My Khe Beach. The road up to the pagoda starts in the Man Thai fishing village. It is definitely worth making a quick stop and having a look around. The fisherman supply all the fish to the local restaurants and still use traditional fishing methods. Get there early, around 6am, and watch the fisherman get ready for their day at sea.
When was Lady Buddha built?
The construction of Linh Ung Bai Pagoda, including Lady Buddha, started on the 19th of June 2004 as part of a project to renew some old and almost forgotten temples of Vietnam.
Lady Buddha, together with the Linh Ung Bai Pagoda was built in collaboration with the famous marble artist, Nguyen Viet Minh, who used the marble from Da Nang’s very own marble mountain to sculpt some of the buddha’s inside the pagoda itself! It all took six years to complete and opened to the public on the 30th of July 2010.
Although the pagoda and Lady Buddha look ancient, for the people of Da Nang it is actually a symbol of the city’s modernization, with some elements from the 18th century Nguyen Dynasty (a curved roof with dragons) combined with a modern Vietnamese style. The mixture of styles and materials are meant to represent the diversity of the people that live in modern day Da Nang and serve as a symbol that Da Nang is home to everyone!
The History of Linh Ung Pagoda
Despite Linh Ung Bai Pagoda being quite new and modern, the choice of its location is filled with history and legends.
It is no accident that Lady Buddha looks like the protector of the ocean. Da Nang locals claim that the site once housed an ancient shrine built by the Son Tra inhabitants in the time of Emperor Minh Mang. The legend tells of a mysterious Buddha that would appear on a sandbank that is now the peninsula. The people of Son Tra saw this as an auspicious sign and built the shrine to pray for the safety and prosperity of the local fishermen.
Do you need to book in advance to visit?
You don’t need to book in advance to go and see the Lady Buddha. It is free and open to the public every day of the year. It is a practicing pagoda however, where monks live, pray and go to school and where Buddhists come to worship, so it might be a good idea to check with your hotel or homestay staff to see if the day you are planning on going isn’t a special day of prayer.
What is the best way to see Lady Buddha?
Rent a motorbike! It is very close to the city and the winding road along the peninsula is best traveled slowly to include time to stop and take photos of the beautiful views or those cheeky macaques who might come and say hello. In Vietnam you don’t need a license to ride a 50cc motorbike but don’t forget to wear a helmet. If you are brave enough to face 14 kilometers of steep hills and winding roads, why not ride up with a bicycle? I, however, am not one of those brave souls and book a round trip with a car instead.
What should I wear?
Vietnam isn’t too strict on clothing rules, but be mindful that this is still a place of worship and of great importance to Vietnamese people. It wouldn’t be appropriate to go in beachwear, but shorts and t-shirts are fine. Pack a light scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders when entering the pagoda. Remember to always take your shoes off before going inside any of the buildings.
How much time will I spend there?
It’s worth setting aside two hours to spend with Lady Buddha. This will give you plenty of time to wander around, climb the statue, take in the views and explore the various buildings. There are quite a few day tours of Da Nang City that include Lady Buddha, Marble Mountain and the Dragon Bridge all in one day. These trips are a great idea if you aren’t planning to spend a lot of time in Da Nang but don’t want to miss out on anything.
For me, Lady Buddha was well worth the visit. The sheer magnitude of the statue is breathtaking, not to mention its gorgeous backdrop of ancient forest to one side, and the ever-reaching blue ocean to the other side. Other than the sites, I found my time at Linh Ung Bai But Pagoda to be quite meditative. Being in a place of such holy significance really gives a person some time to re-energize, like a spiritual pit-stop. It seems that Lady Buddha brings peace to not only fishermen, but everyone who needs it. Om!