The name “Mua Cave Viewpoint” is a little misleading. As the name suggests, you can visit a cave called “Mua Cave” (also known as Tiger Cave) but the main attraction is the viewpoint from the top of the mountain above the cave. The Mua Cave Viewpoint is located about 60 miles from Hanoi near the city of Ninh Binh in northern Vietnam.
The entrance to the viewpoint and cave is very well decorated with potted flowers and hanging baskets. Once passing the entrance, there are two choice. Either go to Tiger Cave or hike up to Mua Cave Viewpoint (AKA Lying Dragon Mounrtain). I was there to see the view point so I skipped the cave.
A colorful dragon marks the beginning of the climb to the top Lying Dragon Mountain where there is an actual stone lying dragon that marks the summit of the mountain. The hike to the summit is on a steep stone stairs with a total of about 500 steps.
The warning sight at the beginning of the hike is not to be ignored. The hike is strenuous and most people on the trail stopped more than once to catch their breath. Luckily there are a couple of natural places to stop and enjoy the scenery before reaching the top.
About 15 minutes into the climb, there is a fork in the path. This is a good place to rest for a minute and decide which path to climb firs.
The path on the right leads to small stone pagoda perched on top of a narrow pyramid shaped peak. This is the less popular destination and I will cover it later in the post.
The path to the left leads to the summit of the Lying Dragon Mountain and the viewpoint that most people come to see.
Continuing up to the left leads to the first incredible viewpoint with a spectacular view of the Ngo Dong River and rice fields below. This is a place that you will definitely stop to take in the scenery because it is one of those sights that you will remember forever! The Ngo Dong River wind its way through the conical shaped mountains with lush green rice fields growing between them. The area below is known as Tam Coc and was the topic of one of my previous posts. A link to this post can be found at the end of this post.
Mua Cave Viewpoint (Lying Dragon Summit)
Upon reaching the summit of Lying Dragon Mountain there are three things that are instantly become visible: the massive stone lying dragon, the statue of Quan Am inside a small pagoda and the 360 degree views of the Tam Coc valley.
It is immediately obvious why the mountain is named Lying Dragon Mountain when you first see the huge stone dragon lying on the peak of the mountain.
Getting to the viewpoint is not easy because it is a steep climb in the heat and humidity so having a photo taken with the dragon that the mountain is named after is a must. It may not look difficult getting in position for a photo but there is no path and getting into position requires carefully maneuvering across small rocks and the rocks used for holding on with your hands have jagged edges. It takes using extreme caution because suffering an injury in this location could be a serious problem.
The other landmark on top of the mountain is the small pagoda with a statue of Quan Am which is the Goddess of Mercy. The view from inside the pagoda is really nice
Mua Cave Viewpoint
Of course, the highlight of the hike to the summit of Lying Dragon Mountain is the viewpoint! This is the highest point of the surrounding area and there are 360 degree panoramic views of Tam Coc, Ngo Dong River and a huge amount of Ninh Binh province.
The most stunning view are of the Tam Coc Valley with the Ngo Dong River emerging from an underground cave and flowing through beautiful rice fields that seem to get lost in an almost never-ending maze of mysterious looking limestone hills that are covered with vegetation. The low clouds on the day of our visit created an atmosphere that felt even more mysterious as hilltops disappeared into the misty horizon.
Looking on the opposite side of the mountain are view of the virtual living tower that can be reached from the path of step that goes to the right at the fork mentioned earlier. Beneath the tower are more rice fields and the city of Ninh Binh fading into the distance.
Boats on the Ngo Dong River
Boats slowly gliding along the river can be seen by looking closely at the river. These are boats that are passing through a section of the Tam Coc boat ride that takes about 3 hours to complete.
A short distance away from the pagoda with the statue of Quan Am is a small stone pagoda that is very isolated. The mountain top is very rugged and there does not seem to be a path that goes to this pagoda. For me, the isolation makes it more interesting and it gives me the feeling that there is a fascination story why this pagoda is located so remotely.
It has the same number of sections as the virtual living tower and it looks very similar except for the top section but I don’t know anything about this pagoda. It does make for a nice photo so I thought that I would share it in this post.
Mountain Summit of the “Virtual Living Tower”
Taking the stairs to the right at the junction will lead to another viewpoint where the virtual living tower located. The views at this location are nice but this is the “path less travelled” because the views are not as spectacular as the views from the top of the Lying Dragon Mountain. This is a wonderful location as shown in the photos below and it should be seen if you have the time and energy to hike both locations.
Even though the views may not be as nice, the path less traveled means that there are less people to compete for the best photo spots and there are some nice photo opportunities. The photo below is from the viewpoint of the mountain summit.
The Dust on My Shoes
Sometimes I see a photo of something so beautiful that I instantly put the destination on my travel list. This was the case for me when I saw the view of Tam Coc from the Mau Cave Viewpoint. Traveling to the other side of the world with the hopes that what I will see will be just as beautiful as a photo of the location is a little risky. A lot of things can go wrong, namely the weather. The weather wasn’t perfect on the day of my visit to Mua Cave Viewpoint but it still lived up to my expectations. The view of Tam Coc from the Mua Cave Viewpoint is still beautiful even if the weather isn’t perfect.
The fork in the path offers two choices: The popular path and the path less traveled.
Sometimes the path less traveled is more difficult but in this case the path less traveled is actually easier but it is less traveled because the scenery at the destination is not as rewarding. Getting to the summit of the Lying Dragon Mountain is harder but it is more popular because the reward at the destination is worth the effort to get there.
The trails to both viewpoints are tiring so my recommendation is to go to the summit of the Lying Dragon Mountain first and if you still have more energy left then go to the view point where the virtual living tower is located.
Experiencing places like the Mua Cave Viewpoint are the reason that I love traveling so much. Places like this are never easy to get to but the reward is worth it when the destination is reached!