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Home >> Vietnam >> Northern Vietnam >> Ba Be National Park

Ba Be Lakes - Ba Be National Park

Overview

Ba Be National Park quietly resides in Bac Kan, a province in the northeast area of Vietnam. It is a paradise of amazing sights and mesmerizing biodiversity, as well as being abundant in culture.

Ethnic minority communities that reside in small villages here live straightforward lives. They survive by fishing for food, along with growing their own fruits and vegetables to cook. As you travel through National Park, you will have the opportunity to interact with locals and learn about their culture and history. There are several individual areas of National Park that have their own respective legends and history, with stories of all sorts past down from one generation to another.

Ba Be is a name that means Three Lakes (in English), in reference the lake’s three sectors: Pe Lam, Pe Lu, and Pe Leng. It is Vietnam’s vastest freshwater lake, and covers more than 500ha. At 150 meters over sea level, the lake also stakes its claim as being the tallest. The large lake is encompassed by karst peaks that fill the mountain range of Pia Booc with rich evergreen forests.

This is the ideal area for all kinds of savvy adventurers. You can journey through the dense jungle, discover mysterious caves, sour down rivers in a kayak, and dip into the lake for a swim. This astounding terrain will give you plenty to explore. The National Park alone is only 17 years old, and as such, you’ll have the feeling of discovering new land when you trek through it. In fact, most caves here are recent discoveries, warranting further exploration about their biodiversity and geography.

In addition to displaying spectacular scenery, the National Park plays host to 1268 different fauna and flora, which are rare species. This truly is a playground for lovers of nature. 65 mammal species have been discovered by researchers, which includes bears, langurs, macaques, flying squirrels, and Chinese pangolins. Researchers have made more discoveries about mammals living in the area, namely 300 kinds of butterfly, 223 bird varieties, and 106 fish species. You could spend days discovering one new creature after another in National Park.

Boat trip on Ba Be Lakes - Ba Be National Park
Boat trip on Ba Be Lakes - Ba Be National Park

See & Do

A great way to take in all the beauty that Ba Be has to offer is from the water. Do some exploring through caves, lakes, and rivers that encompass this place of mesmerizing gorgeousness. Ride in a small boat and experience all the best Ba Be has to offer, or if you’re more daring, do some exploring in a kayak. The best part about kayaking is that you can get up close and personal with nature for a more engaging experience.

When exploring the area by water, be sure to visit An Ma Temple, which resides beside the lake. You can take in the place’s soothing atmosphere and discover the rituals and religion of the natives.

Also on the lake’s list of peaceful areas is Fairy Pond, which is located in the lake’s third sector. The name is appropriate as Fairy Pond has a sense of magic associated with it. According to legend, several fairies, who were taking a bath in the waters, drew a huntsman to the area and placed a spell on him. Not scared off by such stories, you will often find locals doing some peaceful fishing in Fairy Pond.

Ba Be Lakes - View from Pac Ngoi village
Ba Be Lakes – View from Pac Ngoi village

Another area that has a legend attached to it is Widow’s Island, which resides in the center of the lake. In it, you can explore a myriad of branches and rocks. This great assembly of rock is surrounded by green forestry. Widow Island comes with a sense of mystery as it resides on the lake’s core. The island’s name stems from a tale of a neighborly widow and her son who resided on the island. It is said many of the island’s inhabitants have been saved from natural disasters with only a couple of rice husks given to them from a fairy.

Another interesting aspect of Ba Be is its series of caves that warrant exploration. Lung Nham Mountain is a dark, large cavern that resides at the base of the mountain. It was produced by the Nang River’s gradual erosion. The river has a presence looming over it because of the tunnel cave, which visitors can access by boat. The cave’s dark mouth will take you into a fascinating maze full of stalagmites and stalactites which cast shadows over the towering limestone walls. This incredible paradise also plays host to bats totaling in the thousands. There are over 18 species of colonies that reside in this hub of nature.

A fascinating cave to explore is the Hua Ma Cave, which is breathtaking, however, it comes with frightening legends attached to it. Villagers of the area gave Hua Ma its name, which translates to“horses head” – the tale involves a king and his servants who were visiting the area. When a horse the king was riding tried to enter the Hua Ma cave, the animal froze in its tracks, scared out of its wits. The king learned that  the cave was filled with the ghosts of innocent villagers who were murdered. The locals gave details about the chilling cries that emitted from the cave at night. The king – who was touched by the stories told to him – figured out a way to release the spirits from the cave. He told his soldiers to cut the heads off of their horses and send them down the river. He then went to perform Buddhist scriptures at a nearby temple. Because the spirits were freed by the king, there hasn’t been a cry from the cave heard since. For a long time this spooky story prevented anyone from going near the cave, but these days, courageous visitors who do enter get to see mesmerizing rock formation views. Not too long ago, improvements to the cave have made it easier to access. The 300m entrance trek is worth the endeavor. As you make your way to through the cave’s dark corners, you will take in an uncanny scrimmage of stalagmites and stalactites that seem to change into various shapes as you transition by them.

An intriguing cave was recently discovered by an explorer. Tham Phay Cave’ karst cavern is accessible once you travel through 3000 meters of a river underground. Inside the cave’s dark corners, you will find stalactites and stalagmites flying through the brisk air, with many of them flying as high as 40 meters. The colossal columns gleam in the lights, casting shadows that look like they are consistently changing shape. As a thriving ecosystem, the cave offers a place of refuge for several rare fauna and flora species. And while this cave isn’t open for public viewing yet, there are plans for curious adventurers to explore the cave.

Dau Dang Waterfall
Dau Dang Waterfall – Nang River

A brief distance from Ba Be Lake, which is about 3km away, are the magnificent Dau Dang Waterfalls. This 1km expanse of rapids is situated at a location where the Nang River enters the Tuyen Quang Province. Big boulders covered with untamed vegetation are along the Nang River’s path, producing a streaming torrent. You will notice the water turning white from green as it clashes with the rocks. This place has magical legends associated with it like the over caves – it is said that a giant threw away the stones here once he burrowed the Puong Cave. In addition to the waterfalls, you’ll get the opportunity to see Ca Chien fish, a rare species that swim within the waters. Several of these fish might be as big as 10kg!

Puong Cave - Ba Be Lakes
Puong Cave – Ba Be Lakes

 

Culture & Arts

H’mong, Dzao, and Tay are some of the ethnic minority communities that make up most of the dispersed villages surrounding Ba Be National Park. These modest communities vary from a small bundle of three stilt homes to much broader structures.

The natives of Tay, who are renowned for their wooden stilt homes, reside in the villages of Ban Cam, Pac Ngoi, and Coc Toc. These basic, wooden buildings rest quietly on the riverbanks, seamlessly integrating with the water and mountains. Natives depend on fishing and farming for survival, and are often found either fishing or venturing out from their doc moc, which are dugout canoes. The natives expertly make their own canoes using tree trunks, and while these boats are quite slim, they glide along the water smoothly. In addition to being skilled woodworkers, the Tay natives have a reputation for elegant looms. You can often find women crafting luxurious materials beneath their stilt homes, enjoying the fresh air while doing so. You might often hear the villagers singing and dancing to popular folk music, livening up the habitat.

The H’mong communities live agriculturally in Ba Be, farming rice, soya, maize, and pumpkins. Such hamlets are usually isolated, and as such, a community setting is instilled among the villagers. Wearing unique conventional garb, the women working outdoors weave detailed brocades to produce vibrant outfits as their kids play in the background.

Na Nghe Village is also worth visiting, which is full of cordial inhabitants. This Dzao village is small, but worth visiting once you venture into the forests. You will be encompassed by nature sounds and breathtaking signs of the valley beneath the village. Na Nghe Village is comprised of conventional Dzao wooden structures where families live, sleep, and eat. In this village, you will notice women cooking insatiable dishes. A standard Dzao approach of relaxing involves cleansing, aromatic herbal baths. An ion of herbs and streaming water is poured into a cauldron, which are selected for their individual healing abilities. The water in contained with a blanket, allowing you to take in the fragrant steam and let the herbs to do their thing.  

Tay's Ethnic Community are performing their traditional performance on Ba Be Lake
Tay's Ethnic Community are performing their traditional performance on Ba Be Lake

Festivals & Events

A famous festival in Ba Be is the Long Tong Festival, which is a massive celebration to honor the new lunar year’s initial rice crop. During the lunar month’s 9th and 10th days, inhabitants form every ethnic minority community will embark on the banks of the river, each person dressed in their best conventional attire. The vibrant colors of the embroidered fashion, the flapping flags, and the custom decor will liven up the area with a festive feeling. Each field is stuffed with kiosks selling native dishes to eat, which you will be allured to with their aromas. The festival showcases conventional rituals, including formal offerings of fruits and vegetables to the gods for the sake of praying for a prosperous year. As one of the largest social gatherings of the year, friends reunite with one another having fun reminiscing and participating in enjoyable activities. You will notice an array of popular games, dancing, and music at the outing, with each patron having fun with the festive ambiance. The mesmerizing back of the lake and mountains add beauty to these celebrations. As night falls, the event is adorned with floating, fragile flower lanterns and a fuming bonfire to keep the inhabitants warm.

When spring is on the horizon, and once the rain begins setting in, the rare Ca Chien fish, renowned for growing as large as 10kg, put on a wild performance floundering through the waters. You will see them racing competitively to see who gets to the other side first!

Food & Drink

Due to Ba Be’s preferred methods of fishing and farming, there is plenty of food to choose from. Whether it entails freshly-caught fish, free-range meat, or locally-produced vegetables, the options you have to fill your stomach are plentiful.

One dish that stands out is Lon Cap Nach, which means “pig lifted under an arm,” in reference to how small the animals are – merely 10kg, give or take. These pigs are raised wild in nearby forests and fields. Their meat is tender, and their flavor is sweet. When roasted or grilled, you will take in the distinct smell of the meat.

Each meal is paired with an ion of healthy and freshly grown vegetables. One dish to try out is a green vegetable called chayote. The moderate sweetness of the food is in sync with the natural nutty taste of sesame.

Rice, which is consumed throughout Asia, is the dish Com Lam is known for. Newly grown bamboo sticks are filled with a combination of coconut water, water, and rice. The bamboo is then tied up with banana leaves and roasted over a fire. The outcome is a lovely-smelling sticky rice that tastes sweet. It is the ideal side dish for a plate of fresh vegetables and delicious meat.

After the sun descends behind the mountain, you will have the opportunity to unwind and drink a cup of Noc Suong, which is rice wine consumed by the locals. This potent brew is homemade and is consumed by natives to relax after working all day. The wine is drunk from plastic water bottles that you can sip from while sitting on small chairs. This transparent spirit wine will warm you up on chilly nights! 

Guest's enjoying family dinner in Ba Be National Park
Guest's enjoying family dinner in Ba Be National Park

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