BA BE - NORTHERN VIETNAM
EMERALD PEARL FROM NORTHERN VIETNAM
Located about 230 km from the city of Hanoi, towards the northern mountainous region of Bac Kan in Northern Vietnam, Ba Be Lake (name in the local ethnic language, Slam Pe, which literally means "three lakes") is ranked among the top 16 most beautiful lakes in the world. This vast lake is a paradise of extraordinary landscapes, fascinating biodiversity and rich culture.
The nature of Ba Be Lake
Ba Be National Park, covering 7,610 hectares - home to 1,268 species of fauna and flora, a chain of caves and a magnificent freshwater lake - was created in 1992 to preserve the forest ecosystems of northeastern Vietnam. Due to its biological diversity and landscapes of lakes, waterfalls, rainforests on limestone mountains, Ba Be National Park was recognized as an ASEAN natural heritage in 2004.
The culture of minorities
The Tay, Dao and Hmong ethnic minorities constitute the majority of the villages scattered in and around Ba Be National Park.
The Tay, famous for their wooden houses on stilts, live in the villages of Coc Toc, Pac Ngoi and Ban Cam. They live from agriculture and fishing. Fishermen skillfully make their canoes from a tree trunk. In addition to being talented cabinetmakers, Tay are known for their weaving looms. You can also experience the traditional songs and folk dances that bring these villages to life.
Ba Be also hosts Hmong communities that lead an agricultural life by growing pumpkins, maize, soya and rice. These communities tend to be more isolated and have distinctive traditional clothing.
Na Nghe is another village where you can meet warm and welcoming people. This small village in Dao is well worth a hike. After a hike through the wilderness, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the valley below. You can discover a traditional Dao relaxation method: the herbal bath. In the large pots that are filled with hot water and herbs, you bask in the aromatic smoke, letting the medicinal herbs work in a magical way.
House near Ba Be Lake
What to do in Ba Be?
Boat trip on Ba Be Lake
By taking a boat trip around the lake, you can get a breathtaking view of the forest and limestone cliffs. We stop to visit a small islet called Widow's Island, Fairy Pond, An Ma Temple while listening to stories about local legends.
In addition, you continue your boat trip along the Nang River to discover the authentic rural landscapes of Tay villages: canoes, corn and rice fields, buffaloes and cows quietly eating grass by the river and the beautiful Dau Dang waterfall. Then you can hike to Puong Cave - the largest cave in Ba Be National Park, home to stalagmites and thousands of bats.
Overnight stay with a local resident in the village of Pac Ngoi
Pac Ngoi is a pretty poetic village of the Tay ethnic group, which overlooks Ba Be lakes, fields and tropical forest. It is pleasant to spend the night in this village where community tourism has been developed for more than 10 years. By staying with the locals, the cost is quite economical and you will get to know the local culture and taste the authentic cuisine prepared by the host.
The discovery of the Hua Ma cave
Another extraordinary cave is the Hua Ma cave, which is not only breathtakingly beautiful but also has a fascinating past. The inhabitants of this region of northern Vietnam called the cave Hua Ma, which means horse's head because of the legend that precedes it. The story goes that a king travelled in the area, but when his horse approached the Hua Ma cave, he was paralyzed by fear and refused to cross a stream near the cave. The king questioned the locals and discovered that the cave was inhabited by ghosts who were innocent people killed. The king has decided to find a way to free souls from the dark cave. He ordered his soldiers to behead horses to organize a ritual.
For many years, this haunting story has kept many people away, but now those who have the courage to enter the cave will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the rock formations. Recently, the cave facilities have been made more accessible and the 300 m ascent to the entrance is worth it.
Boat on Ba Be Lake
Some tips during your stay at Ba Be Lake
- If you feel more adventurous, you can take a kayak to explore Ba Be Lake. Kayaking has the added advantage of being able to get closer to nature, which will give you a more intimate experience.
- Due to the favourable agricultural and fishing conditions in Ba Be, the food found there is varied and fresh: locally grown vegetables, meat, fish raised in the open air in lakes and rivers. Something to enjoy during your trip to Vietnam.
- One of the biggest festivals in Ba Be is the Long Tong. It is a great celebration in honour of the first rice harvest of the lunar year. On the 9th and 10th of the first lunar month of the year, people from all the villages go down to the riverside, all dressed in their most beautiful traditional clothes. The festival includes traditional rituals such as ceremonies to pray to the spirits for a prosperous year. It is one of the most important social events of the year in this region of North Vietnam.