Forbidden Mountain or Nui Cam in Vietnamese is situated in An Hao Commune, Tinh Bien District, An Giang Province. It is also called Thien Cam Son (heaven’s forbidden mountain).
The Forbidden Mountain is actually made up of five smaller peaks, Thien Tue, Bo Hong, Ong Buom, Dau and Ba, where plants and flowers grow around the year to make for a pretty and tranquil picture. Early in the morning, the tops of these peaks are usually covered in mist.
The 710-metre Thien Cam Son is the highest among the mountainous region of That Son (seven mountains) and it is the highest peak in the whole Mekong Delta region. Endowed with such spectacular mountainous terrain, the Forbidden Mountain is known as the “Da Lat of the Mekong Delta”.
The Name of Forbidden Mountain
Local people spread two stories about the name of the mountain. In one it is said that the mountain was too rugged and full of beasts and inaccessible to everyone except the gods of the mountains, hence the name Forbidden; in the other it is said that when Nguyen Anh was hunted by the Tay Son troops he took refuge in the mountain and forbade anyone to access, hence the mountain got such name.
Nui Cam has a subtropical climate with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. It is at its most attractive in spring when the weather is cool and fresh, trees are verdant, and nature is bountiful.
The mountain is accessible by car and foot. One can take a 15- to 18-minute drive up a newly opened 8km road to the top of Thien Tue. The more adventurous can also make a 4km hike up Bo Hong, which, at 710m above sea level, is called the roof of the Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta. But since this path is rather rough it takes at least three hours to get there. Along the way to the peaks are some beautiful landscapes like Thanh Long Stream, the shrines of Rau Tan, Cuu Pham, Kin, and Cay Que, Ong Ho Cave, Thuy Liem Grotto, and Muoi Co Temple. Besides the obvious religious connection, each of them is surrounded by stories and legends.
Standing on Forbidden Mountain on cloudless days, one can get a panoramic view of the immense rice fields merging with the sea in Ha Tien on one side and the border with Cambodia on the other.
There are many places of worship here – like Phat Lon (Big Buddha) Pagoda, Phat Nho (Small Buddha) Pagoda, Trung Son Thien Tu Temple, and Van Linh Pagoda.
Van Linh is an old and very sacred pagoda. It was built in 1929 when it was called La (Leaf). It got its present name after being completely rebuilt in 1940.
The pagoda is situated on a slope and is surrounded by a peaceful, wind-swept yard. In front of its main sanctuary are three towers, the tallest of which is Cuu Trung Dai (nine-storey tower) at 40m. Each storey has an exquisitely carved, two-metre Buddha idol made of stone.
The two shorter towers are Quan Am Cac (Boddhisattava Quan Yin Pavilion) and a stupa dedicated to the pagoda’s first abbot. Van Linh has been restored many times after being damaged by the ravages of time and wars.
In front of the pagoda is the large Thuy Liem Lake, a reservoir of around 60,000cu.m. It provides water to the 500 families living on Cam Mountain.
Another attraction on Cam Mountain is a giant statute of the Maitreya, or future, Buddha. At 33.6m it is thought to be the tallest religious structure in Viet Nam. It is also considered among the tallest in Southeast Asia.
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