Thursday, November 29, 2018

Ba Be National Park


lake ba be national park vietnam


              If your looking for an outdoors adventure in Northern Vietnam then look no further than Ba Be National Park.  Ba Be boasts a pristine lake, beautiful rivers, scenic waterfalls, and prehistoric caves set amid towering forest shrouded mountains.  The national park offers rich biodiversity, unique landscapes, and at its heart, Ba Be Lake, which is the largest and highest natural freshwater lake in Vietnam.  The park can be explored on foot by trail, bicycle/motorcycle by road, or kayak/boat.  Offering great and welcoming homestays, Ba Be National Park is a great place to get way from the hustle of Vietnam. 


What to Do



ba be national park map vietnam


              Ba Be National Park is known for being the best place in the Northern Vietnam for outdoor adventures.  Whether you are looking to trek through the lush jungle, cycle through the beautiful mountainous landscape, exploring some of the many caves hidden below, kayak across the pristine lake, or take in all of the beauty on a boat tour, Ba Be has it all.  Depending on your schedule you can easily spend a full day or a few days exploring everything it has to offer.  Any of these adventures can be planned through the Ba Be Tourist Center, Mr. Linh’s Adventures, and most of the guesthouses.  Through your guesthouse is the far cheaper option since you will have the opportunity to bargain the price, as well as customize your trip.    


Nang River



nang river ba be national park vietnam
Floating down the Nang River.


              The Nang River flows from China and connects with the northern tip of Ba Be Lake as it continues westward.  Along its route through the park it flows through Puong Cave on the eastern end and down Dau Dang Waterfall on the western end.  Riding down the Nang by boat is one the best ways to take in the beautiful scenery of the Nang River as it is lined with beautiful lush jungle, karst mountains, and green rice fields. 


Puong Cave


 
puong cave ba be national park vietnam
Mouth of Puong Cave


              Located up the Nang River from Ba Be Lake, this 30 meter high cave spans the river as it cuts its way through the mountain.  Boats can dock just within the mouth of the cave allowing their travelers the chance to get out and explore the cave.  A concrete trail runs the span of the cave, from one opening to the next, enabling people to walk through the entire length of the cave.  A colony of bats have also made one of the dark recesses their home. 


Dau Dang Waterfall



dau dang waterfall ba be national park vietnam
Dau Dang Waterfall from the observation deck.


              Located down river from Ba Be Lake, Dau Dang Waterfall crashes down 500 meters of boulders.  The whitewater hurtling through the rocks while surrounded by primitive jungle creates a picturesque scene.  There is a viewing deck just below the first level of rocks that is easily accessible by walking down a trail just west of the line of restaurants upriver. 


 Fairy Pond



fairy pond ba be national park vietnam
Fairy Pond as advertised (Photo Credit: Ba Be National Park).
 
fairy pond ba be national park vietnam
Fairy Pond during our visit.


              Fairy pond is located northeast of Ba Be Lake and is a small pond surrounded by cliffs of thick forest.  A local legend has it that a hunter came across fairies bathing in the pond who then cast a spell on him.  Along the short walk from the boat dock to the pond there are many stalls selling traditional medicines and foods.  I had heard great things about this pond before going, but it was far from impressive when I visited.  On my arrival the once pristine pond was dirty and stagnate possibly due to recent rain.  


Widow's Island



widow island ba be national park vietnam
Burning incense at the shrine on Widow's Island.


              Widow's Island is a small island reaching out of the middle of Ba Be Lake.  Made of karst rock tangled in the roots of trees, this island stands as a picturesque silhouette against the still lake and mountains in the background.  The island is topped with a temple to the widow and her son, who local folklore says saved the people of Ba Be from disaster.


Tay Ethnic Minority Villages


 
vietnamese village ba be national park vietnam
Vietnamese village on the Nang River.


              Many of the Tay ethnic communities lay within Ba Be National Park, along Ba Be Lake and the Nang River.  Most of the people still retain a traditional way of life, living in stilt houses and practicing subsistence farming as they always have.  You can see some of the villages while you ramble past on a boat tour, while others are only accessible by the hiking trails.  Though most people stay in guesthouses and homestays in Bo Lu or Coc Toc villages, some of the other villages also have homestays that allow you to get a real sense of traditional Vietnamese way of life.          


How to Get There


 
nang river ba be national park vietnam
Boat tour on the Nang River.


              The two main ways to get to Ba Be National Park is by shuttle or public bus.  It is also a popular location for those that are traveling by motorcycle and is on many people’s itinerary for the northern loop.   


From Hanoi


 
shuttle bus ba be national park vietnam
Shuttle bus to/from Hanoi and Ba Be National Park.



              A shuttle can be arranged through Mr. Linh by email, phone: +84 9 860 160 68, or by visiting his office: 83 Ma May street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.  Tickets are $15/one way and will take 5 hours.  Pickup locations are either his office at 7:30 am or the Hanoi Opera House at 8 am.
               If the local buses are more your thing, they also make the route to Ba Be daily.  You can catch the local bus at My Dinh Bus Station, Gate 33, at 10 am (I suggest arriving early so that you don’t miss it).  Look for the red bus to Cho Don, via Thai Nguyen, run by the Thuong Nga bus company.  Once on the bus tell the attendant you are going to Ba Be and once you arrive in Cho Don they will direct you to the connecting minibus from Cho Don to Ba Be (total time also around 5 hours).  The first bus should cost 130,000 VND/6.50 USD and the second minibus 40,000 VND/2 USD. 


From Sapa


 
bus sapa thai nguyen ba be national park vietnam
Bus from Sapa to Thai Nguyen.


              There is no direct bus from Sapa to Ba Be National Park so you will have to take a series of four buses/minibuses to get there.  First, you will need to take a bus/moto taxi to Lao Cai.  From the bus station in Lao Cai you can catch the night bus to Thai Nguyen at 7 pm for 250,000 VND/12.50 USD.  The following morning you catch a bus with the Thuong Nga company at 8 am headed for Cho Don.  Once on the bus tell the attendant you are going to Ba Be and once you arrive in Cho Don they will direct you to the connecting minibus from Cho Don to Ba Be.
Alternatively, you can take a bus directly to Thai Nguyen, but you will most likely need to wait till the following day to make the rest of your trip.  It leaves at 7 am, takes about 8.5 hours, and costs 250,000 VND/12.50 USD.  


From Cao Bang



              There is no direct bus from Cao Bang to Ba Be National Park.  From the Cao Bang bus station look for a bus heading to Thai Nguyen or Hanoi.  Once on the bus you will need to ask the bus driver to drop you off in Phu Thong.  There are many buses that make these trips and it should cost around 80,000 VND/4 USD.  In Phu Thong catch another bus to Cho Ra.  These buses leave about every hour and cost 50,000 VND/2.50 USD. At Cho Ra look for a motorcycle taxi to take you to Bo Lu village (Ba Be lake-shore).  These should cost around 100,000 VND/5 USD – 150,000 VND/7.50 USD.  Alternatively, you can take a motorcycle taxi to the lake shore for 40,000 VND/2 USD, then take a boat across to Bo Lu village for 40,000 VND/2 USD (for however many people you fit in the boat).       


Leaving



When you are leaving, I suggest you talk to either your hotel staff or Mr. Linh’s Homestay to schedule a shuttle.  They leave daily to Hanoi and, if you’re on the main road, will pick you up from your hotel.  If you are hoping to leave to a different location, they will also be able to direct you to the easiest possible mode of transportation.


Where to Stay



boat tour ba be national park vietnam
Boat tour of Ba Be Lake.


              Ba Be National Park has numerous homestays and guest houses for you to choose from.  The most advertised is Mr. Linh’s Homestay, which provides rooms, food, and an array of tour packages.  That being said, the other homestays and guesthouses can also provide food, rooms, and prepare tours for you. 


anh ngoc guest house ba be national park vietnam
View from the Anh Ngoc Guest House.


              We stayed in the Anh Ngoc Guest House, located on the lake with amazing views, just a short distance from the boat station.  The guesthouse has nice rooms, a porch seating area over looking the lake, and a common seating area on a deck also overlooking the lake.  The staff was very friendly and the owner even gave us bananas as a parting gift.  They have a good selection of food on their menu and the food is very good and reasonably priced.  The staff also helped set up our boat tour of the lake and our bus back to Hanoi.


Where to Eat



              Finding food in Ba Be is not hard to do, especially if you are staying there.  All of the guesthouses/homestays will cook dinner for you upon request.  The menu will differ depending on your housing situation, with most of the smaller homestays having a set menu for the day and the larger guesthouses having a menu to select from.


anh ngoc guesthouse food ba be national park vietnam
One of the delicious 'family meals' at Anh Ngoc Guest House.



              Since we were staying at Anh Ngoc Guest House, we at all of our meals there, but they had a great selection on their menu and the food was delicious.  They have an array of single dish or multi dish ‘family meals’ to choose from.  If you are looking for a place to stay or eat, I highly recommend looking to this guest house.



map ba be national park vietnam


Have you been to Ba Be National Park?  What are your thoughts about the park?  What did you enjoy there?  Comment below!

 

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