Climbing Yen Tu Mountain in Vietnam

The Hotel Legacy Yen Tu and Yen Tu Mountain are places that you must see to fully appreciate. No photo will do it justice and there is no substitute for the serenity that can be felt here.

The mountain is a lush landscape of tall trees, carefully crafted stone steps and Zen pagodas.

The Hotel Legacy Yen Tu is a five minute cart ride to the base of Yen Tu Mountain. The hotel and the mountain sightseeing are a perfectly integrated experience.

The Hotel

The Hotel Legacy Yen Tu is a work of art. Everywhere I looked was a curated antique statue or bespoke designed furniture piece. A blend of medieval and modern design.

The wall textures are made with brown rice husk on an an aged yellow paint. The materials are timeless but their use is innovative and fresh. The gardens contain perfectly manicured large bonsais and flowers in purple and pink. It was conceived by Star Architect Bill Benseley as a 13th-century Zen Buddhist temple. There is art in every detail of the hotel.

The rooms are beautifully designed with large open air windows on an ancient pulley rope system. The sinks are carved marble lotus. The beds are fluffy and comfortable, the WiFi works well and the bathtub is very nice. Everything brings a nice calm Zen feeling. The medieval Zen architecture still maintains modern amenities.

I had a really nice Agarwood meditation in the hotel’s Yoga meditation room. The instructor, Miss Rosie, was an excellent guide. It was very relaxing and a good introduction to Truc Lam Zen Buddhism. I still smelled the Agarwood long after the meditation!

The food, however, was lackluster . I am vegetarian and yes there were vegetarian options but nothing spectacular. The best thing I ate was the banana flower salad with exotic fruits. The service at the restaurant was shockingly subpar. On two different occasions I had to send back a dish because it was not what I ordered.

The pool closed before I was able to enjoy it. I wish it was open later. I think I tried to go in at 9:30 pm.

The staff was very helpful in getting to Yen Tu mountain. They provide a free ride to the sky car which only takes five minutes.

I definitely recommend the Yen Tu Mountain hike. It was very beautiful.

All in all probably the best hotel experience I have had in Vietnam and I have been here for 2 years!

The Mountain

I am now climbing Yen Tu Mountain. I am with my wife, my son, his nanny and his nanny’s Mom. It may sound like an unusual travel company but I assure you it is one of love and pilgrimage. This trip marks the last adventure in Vietnam ending the 2 years time we called this country home.

I am proud that my family is making the journey with me. It is a large mountain, especially when you have little feet. My son is 3 years old. He is so excited. The mountain is so beautiful. The wild forest blends harmoniously with the steps, stupas and pagodas that are lovingly carved into the mountain. They do not over power the nature but pay reverence to it.

From the base of the mountain we boarded a sky car and rode a cable over the sea of trees. Every inch of the ground was covered in rich green. I like the cable cars. It breaks up the monotony of the climb and gives a birds eye view of how immense the mountain is.

We reached the giant buddha. It was the size of 5 full grown elephants stacked on top of each other. Impressive to say the least. He was sitting in meditation gazing beyond the mountain’s foot we just ascended from.

This Buddha is Vietnam’s own Buddha, probably not a Buddha you are familiar with unless you are Vietnamese and Buddhist yourself. He is a symbol of what the Vietnamese culture has to offer to the great religion which spans the East. This Buddha was a king of Vietnam King Tran Nhan Tong. After his conquests in war over the Mongolian invaders he gave up his throne to practice Buddhism and achieve Enlightenment. He came across Yen Tu and felt its natural auspicious power (I felt it too, hopefully you will as well.) He established his own school of Zen Buddhism, Truc Lam Zen, here and many great temples of meditation were built.

My favorite story of the mountain is about the Ghost Temple. The story goes…after the King renounced his kingly life and came to Yen Tu to practice meditation, his hundreds of concubines came to the mountain to beg him to the royal palace. and their warm embrace. He refused. In their grief at having failed in their long journey and life’s work they drowned themselves in the river there. The King erected a temple in their memory to pray for their souls and a bridge for travelers to cross the river safely.

This mountain is a very special place in the hearts of the Vietnamese people and an important part of their heritage. Not exactly their Mecca but something similar in nature.

It was a beautiful way to end our life in Vietnam. I will have fond memories and deep respect for the craftsmanship that shaped a Zen pilgrim’s path to the top of the Vietnamese world.