Ba Be: A Mixed Story

boat ba be lake national park vietnam

              Continuing on tour of Northern Vietnam, we decided to head across to Ba Be.  The trip was long and had us on two different buses, a motorcycle with all of our bags, and a boat, but we finally made it.  Not knowing we exactly what we wanted to do in Ba Be, we settled down, got a beer and some great food, and looked at the brochure that our guest house had provided us with.  Ba Be National Park is supposed to be the ‘outdoors capital’ of Northern Vietnam, but we weren’t really feeling the whole hiking/biking thing after having hiked for two full days and a full day of traveling.  

boat nang river village ba be national park vietnam
Nang River and rice farms.

              The next day we decided on a full day boat tour of the lake and to set it up through Anh Ngoc Guest House; where we were staying.  Upon asking the owner about taking a tour she called one of the boat owners who arrived quickly afterwards with a map of the park.  After he circled a few spots he thought we would like to see we asked to add a few more spots we wanted to see.  Then came the price negotiation.  He started off extremely high, so we asked what the price would be if we removed a few of the locations, negotiated some more, and came to an agreement of 600,000 VND/30 USD total for the tour.  

nang river ba be national park vietnam
The Nang River became tight and shallow at points.

              Hopping on the boat we headed off across the lake to our first location, Puong Cave.  The ride to the cave was amazingly beautiful.  As we crossed through the middle of the lake, we were surrounded by high jungle covered mountains on all sides.  Once on the other side, our boat slowed to make its way up the Nang River.  The river became narrow and shallow at points, but the boatman was very knowledgeable of the river and had no problems finding his way.  

nang river ba be national park vietnam
Nang River surrounded by mountains.

              The Nang River is remarkably beautiful.  The river is lined with jungle covered karst mountains that jut abruptly into the sky, broken occasionally by bright green fields of rice and the occasional traditional stilt house.  As we meandered up the river, we also saw water buffalo as they trudged through the water and up the muddy banks.  

puong cave ba be national park vietnam
One of the cave opening to Puong Cave.

              As we turned a bend in the river the mountain opened up to the large opening of Puong Cave.  The massive cave opening loomed like a huge craggy mouth devouring the river we were on.  Soon after entering the cave we landed at a nearby boat dock already harboring a few other boats.  As we scrambled out of our boat and across the others, we were greeted by a lady selling drinks and sausages, which, on our return, our hunger would compel us to buy.  The cave itself, although not long, was vast and was more than we expected.  Upon one side was the craggy rocks and recesses where the sound of bats could be heard as the screeched and on the other was the river as it flowed through the darkness and out into the light of the other side.  

puong cave ba be national park vietnam
Nang River flowing through Puong Cave.

There isn’t much to the cave itself.  Just a short walk over the rocks on a concrete path that leads to the other end of the cave about 300 meters away.  The view through the large cave opening on either end of the brightly light jungle in contrast to the dark cave and the ability to take a boat up the river through the cave make for a fairly unique experience though.  

lunch stop village ba be national park boat tour vietanm
Lunch stop during the Ba Be Lake boat tour.

Once we finished with the cave we hobbled back into our boat and headed down river.  We traveled back the way we came, but instead of turning into the lake we continued further down the Nang River till we came to a boat station just east of the Dau Dang Waterfall.  A small village has sprung up around the boat station and it has become a popular lunch stop for the boat tours.  Walking into one of the restaurants, we were shown to a table, and then left confused as to what there was to eat.  It turned out that there was just a set menu and we were soon brought an array of delicious dishes.

After eating, our boatman pointed for us to go down the walkway following the edge of the river.  When we started, we were unsure where the path was taking us, being uncertain of our actual location within the park, but we soon came to a sign for the Dau Dang Waterfall pointing us down a nice trail.  The trail leads to a viewpoint overlooking part of the waterfall and gives a great view.  The waterfall is located in the midst of jungle and the water plunging over the boulders creates a great atmosphere to enjoy.  The waterfall itself is nothing too special though.  It’s more like a set of steep rapids with the begin and end just out of sight.  

fairy pond ba be national park vietnam
The Fairy Pond didn't look so mystical with this dirty water.

Continuing our tour, we returned back to our boat and began to make our way back to Ba Be Lake and our next stop, the Fairy Pond.  We had seen pictures of the Fairy Pond online and were looking forward to seeing it ourselves, but it ended up being a huge let down.  As we pulled up to the boat station people began summoning us to buy their goods.  The entire path leading to the pond was lined with people selling food and medicinal herbs who all tried to get us to buy something.  Once at the pond we found that it looked nothing like the pictures we had seen online.  Instead of pristine water with fish swimming around and birds chirping in the trees we found a silent and stagnate pond.  The dirtiness of the water could have been caused by the recent rains, but in any case, it created an image that was not very mystical.  

an ma temple widows island ba be national park vietnam
The An Ma Temple atop Widow's Island

Leaving the Fairy Pond a little bummed and confused, we made our way to our last destination, Widow’s Island.  I expect far more from Widow’s Island than it what was there.  I expected that the An Ma Temple at the top of the island would be bigger and nicer than it was.  There is a large billboard showing what might be the future look of the temple, but there have been no moves in that direction.  The island itself is nice and covered with trees, but do not expect to get a great aerial photo of the lake from the top of the island, as the view is obstructed by these same trees. 

boat nang river ba be national park vietnam
Boat ride down the Nang River.

When we were finished with the island, we started our final journey on our boat and I decided to fly the drone for some aerial video of the lake and boat.  This turned out to be a bad idea.  On my first try, the drone disconnected from my phone and tried to land.  Fortunately, it drifted into the boat and landed there instead of the water.  I connected it up again, took off, and instantly the drone started having problems.  Its forward movement was slow and all other movements were very sporadic.  By this point we were close enough to the coast that I put the drone in sport mode and flew straight for the shore and happily landed it there; happy not to have crashed my drone. 

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