Ba Be Lakes National Park is a remote region far to the north of Hanoi, reached by a long but scenic drive. Along the route there are plenty of opportunities to break the journey, to stretch limbs and take photos of the picturesque mountainous scenery and local minority villages. The National Park is a beautiful area best explored by boat and on foot, drifting downstream to the vast Puong Cave and exploring the local village markets nearby and the cascading waterfalls at Dau Dang. Accommodation in this part of Vietnam is basic, staying in traditional stilt-house homestays, for those who don’t mind a little bit of local character this is a glorious and still relatively undeveloped part of 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 many trekking 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.