A giant statue of Maitreya Bodhisattva on Forbidden Mountain in An Giang Province
Looking across the Mekong Delta from the top of Forbidden Mountain.
At 750 meters above the sea, Nui Cam, or Forbidden Mountain, is the highest peak in the Mekong Delta.
Located in An Giang Province’s Bay Nui (Seven Mountains) area, near the Cambodian border, the site got its name when Lord Nguyen Phuc Anh, who later became Emperor Gia Long - the first king of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), took refuge from the Tay Son army at the top of the peak. While in hiding, Anh forbade anyone to visit the mountain.
Locals know the landmark as Thien Cam Son (Heavens’ Forbidden Mountain) or Bach Ho Son (White Tiger Mountain).
An Giang Khmers also know it as Phnom Popeal Sama (Beautiful Mountain).
Tourists can get to the top via a one-two hour hike or by taking a xe om (motorbike taxi) for about VND60,000 (US$3.50) round trip.
The peak, in Tinh Bien District’s An Hao Commune, has mild weather, with fog early in the morning and an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius at night.
It’s coolest at the top, where visitors can catch a glimpse of the vast rice fields that sprawl out into Cambodia to the northwest and as far southwest as where the town of Ha Tien meets the sea along the border in Kien Giang Province.
On the mountainside, Van Linh Pagoda resembles the historic mausoleums of the former capital Hue in central Vietnam.
Opposite Van Linh Pagoda is a 36-meter-tall statue of Maitreya Bodhisattva, a 600-ton behemoth that can be seen from any part of the mountain.
It’s the largest Maitreya statue in Vietnam. Maitreya is a figure in Buddhist philosophy expected to appear in the future as a successor to Sakyamuni Buddha.
Tourists can visit other scenic spots such as Bach Tuong Peak, Thuy Liem Cave, Bo Hong Peak, Cuu Pham Cave, and Cao Dai Tu (Caodaist Temple).
Additionally, Lam Vien Tourist Park at the foot of the mountain serves up local specialties including banh xeo (rice pancake) with local vegetables.
Nui Cam is 30 kilometers from the border town of Chau Doc, a gateway to both Cambodia and Vietnam’s westernmost regions. (Reported by Diem Thu)