Ba Be Lake in North Vietnam
For a sightseeing tour of the northeast region, a fantastic place to start is Ba Be National Park in Ba Be District, Bac Kan Province. There is a huge amount to explore here, with a vast variety of flora and fauna, as well as interesting geology and landscapes to discover.
One of the best ways to get a feel for the area on arrival is by boat on one of the three lakes –kayaks for the more adventurous or guided motor boat tours for those who want to relax a little. Ba Be National Park has featured in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, forums and blogs, but nothing can prepare you for experiencing its intoxicating landscapes and clear waters first hand. The lakes have a lot to offer, including waterfalls, rivers, valleys, lakes, and caves all set amidst picturesque landscapes. From Ba Be Lake, tourists can also visit other neighbouring attractions such as Dau Dang Fall, Puong Cave and Tien Pond.
The lake itself is actually three small lakes joined together – Pe Lam, Pe Lu and Pe Leng. The area was established as a national preserved forest and tourist centre in 1978, before being established as Vietnam’s eighth national park in 1992. It was recently recognised by UNESCO as the third Ramsar site in Vietnam – an important wetland of the world. Located 145m above sea level, the lake has an average depth of 20-25m and its deepest part is 35m. The lake bed is made up of limestone with millions of crags and crevasses that are ideal for a large variety of marine life – there are over a hundred of species of freshwater fish in the lakes.
Be Lake lies in the middle of the vast limestone mountain range of Ba Be National Park with large and small islands of limestone rising out of the water, many of which can be explored as you kayak around. There are also several caves to find, with beautiful rock formations that have developed over millions of years. Of those, a good example is Puong Cave, through which the Nang river runs under its magnificent limestone structures. It is 30 metres wide, and 300 metres deep with thousands of stalactite and stalagmite structures and a bat colony numbering tens of thousands. Its picturesque entrance lies to the north east of Ba Be Lake, in the hillside of the Lung Nham Range.
With further exploration of Ba Be National Park, tourists will also begin to discover some of the villages in the region. This is best done by joining one of manytrekking tours which can be arranged, as they include a guide that will introduce you to the people of the various ethnic communities that are resident here. Bo Lu Village is a great example, and by visiting the village, tourists have a chance not only to admire old stilt houses but also to learn more about culture and daily life of Tay people.
Vietnam’s largest fresh water lake is in the north east of the Country within a protected region in Bắc Kạn Province. Ba Be Lake is 240 km from the capital Hanoi and just west of the nearest town, Cho Ra. The lake, thought to have been formed 200 million years ago, varies in size between the dry and monsoon season. In similar limestone regions lakes can become completely dry but not Ba Be; it is never shallower than 17 metres and at its deepest it is 35 metres. It runs 8 km north – south and at 150 metres above sea level it is also the highest in the Country. Ba Be Lake has been ranked within the 20 most beautiful freshwater lakes of the world and in 2012, it was recognised as a special National landscape monument.
How to get there?
Depending on your mode of transport it will take between six and eight hours to get to Ba Be Lake from Hanoi. Some hire cars while Vietnam private tours offer comfortable transport to Ba Be. It is certainly a location for inclusion in Vietnam family tours as well.
Travel should always be by day and even the journey in the slowest buses is enjoyable because of the beautiful countryside.
Best time to visit
Vietnam travel is an experience any time of the year but there are different seasons and you should look at Vietnam travel packages with that in mind.
The dry season is the best time to visit, winter through to April and the Long Tong Festival on the 10th and 11th days of the first lunar month has traditional games and performances by the ethnic groups in the region.
Things to see and do
Trekking in Ba Be national park is particularly popular but you do not have to be especially active to enjoy the Lake. Boat trips are very popular, a chance to relax and look at both the Lake and evergreen forest and limestone slopes. It is perhaps a place to enjoy a honeymoon in Vietnam.
There is varied fauna including the Chinese pangolin, the slow loris, macaques and langurs, black bear, European otter, Asian golden cat and the red giant flying squirrel. Birds are plentiful and varied, likewise fish and butterflies. Take care there are also salamander and king cobra. Our Ba Be Lake travel guide cannot promise anything but you are sure to see several types of fauna.
Puong Cave a large cave in the north near the Nang River is up to 50 metres high and 300 metres in length. It could be described as a bat cave because the population might be even as many as 10,000 of them. In Hua Ma Cave there are beautiful stalactites and a Guanyin Buddha statue on a lotus throne.
Limestone is porous and a “Fairy Pond”, on a hill close to the Lake has filled with water. It is 3,000 metres wide.Meanwhile the Dau Dang Waterfall on the Nang River is another great natural feature; the rapids stretch for a kilometre.
Widow Island, one of three in the Lake, in the south and is so called because legend says it was once the home of a widow who was saved from floods by the gods.
Boat tours are one way to enjoy the Lake but you may like to enjoy the Lake by yourself; kayaking is certainly an option and cycling on land as well.
Homestay is the popular way to stay in the region. This is clean and air-conditioned accommodation available near the Lake and organised tour companies offering Vietnam tour packages will make all the arrangements for you.
Ba Be Lake provides a great contrast to the hectic life in the city. This Ba Be Lake travel guide has explained why a holiday in Vietnam should include a balance between the history and culture of Vietnam and the natural environment that has suffered little by the increasing number of tourists that are coming to the country each year. Experienced tour companies await.
Have a nice trip!