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Full Circle

Day 83: Da Nang

Michael Palin - Full CircleThe Vietnamese, however, have a very strong concept of order in the natural world. A few miles south of Da Nang are the Marble Mountains, which rise short, sharp and sheer from the flat, flooded fields around them. Each one, they believe, represents a different element - Wood, Fire, Metal, Earth and Water.

'You are now on Water,' says Miss Tanh, a bright sixteen-year-old guide who climbs one of the peaks with me. 'The Gateway to Heaven is up there.' She points out a scruffy scrub-covered hill nearby, but doesn't volunteer to accompany me. I can't really go back without at least trying to get to heaven, so Nigel, Fraser and I start off up a steep rubble-strewn path. Halfway up, the path peters out and we have to scramble the last hundred feet through cactus-filled gullies, grabbing what holds we can on rock that is fissured and fluted as if giant nails had been drawn down the face of it.

The view from the Gateway to Heaven is almost worth the effort. Away to the north the waves are breaking on the golden sands of China Beach where American troops used to come for R & R (rest and relaxation) during the war. Nearer to us is the deserted, blackening bulk of their huge arsenal at Da Nang, hangers still intact, the long lines of revetments in which hundreds of helicopters were hidden now overgrown and empty.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 83
  • Country/sea: Vietnam
  • Place: Da Nang
  • Book page no: 121

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