The widely unpublicized Ba Vi national park, with spectacular gigantic mountain peaks, shrouded by infinite mist and serene tranquility is the perfect weekend getaway. If you’re feeling slightly adventurous, hop onto your bike and begin your journey. The route from Hanoi to Ba Vi district is relatively easier and traversing through the smaller town persuades into halting often to capture the ever inviting landscape of Vietnam.
Located in the mountain range about 60 Kms to the west of Hanoi, originally a French hill station, with a total area of over 10,000 hectares is an ideal way to unwind in the adventures of nature. What distinguishes Ba Vi is its remarkable biodiverse area of tourist resorts, a string of mysterious French ruins to a host of intriguing mini-hikes and trekking trails.
The main attraction at the park is the mountain itself which is 1200mt above sea level leading to a temple at the peak dedicated in honor of Ho Chi Minh. There are a good deal of homestays in and around the mountain range and staying overnight to brush off the beat of the bumpy ride is essential. As I was visiting the weekend of Vietnam’s Independence Day celebration, witnessed a horde of locals out in the open, with an efficiently packed picnic basket, basking in the glory of Sierra Ba Vi accompanied by extended family members. That, of course, is an unlikely situation otherwise.
To fully explore the national park and it’s surrounding area, renting a bike is a sound idea. There are compelling places to explore in and around the foot of the mountain. Popularly known by the locals as a location for hosting wedding photography, the gorgeous waterfall located in Thien Son makes for a refreshing and relaxing swim. To get to the top of the waterfall one has to climb through the mossed rocks formed by gushing water, surrounded by oodles of tall trees or at least that’s my version. Don’t panic yet; there are scads of stairs that lead to the top of the waterfall. Once there, you’ll realize that hours have past wading in the cascade of the fresh greenish-blue water. The breathtaking view is worth the fee and time, and if you’re into uncrowded places, you wouldn’t be happier.
On the ride back from the falls, you will encounter umpteen hangouts where one can catch a break. One such striking spot was the enjoyable lake that stood still and placid while the trees lounged around the water and the mist faintly hovered the entire spread. In between the serene lake runs a narrow bridge overlooking the whole landscape, making it an excellent location for stunning portraits.
Whether you’d choose to mount the peak the same day or a day later or whether you choose to hike, bicycle or ride is up to your discretion. Nevertheless, the foliage as you ascend the mountain is green and pristine. Riding through the mist covered twisted roads is an adventure in itself. As you ride higher, the fog gets denser causing a zero visibility at times. It’s a good thing that the flux of passengers is on a lower degree.
Before heading to the peak, en route, encountered a mysterious trail leading into the forest that had information in Vietnamese. The path was intriguing and decided to explore further. Soon discovered the walkway had gotten narrower and hazardous only made it more exciting. In due time, the trail led to an incredible French ruin (What seemed like a Church), and the site looked murky and abandoned utterly. Can be amusing if you’re into deserted wrecks but maybe not to everybody’s liking.
While almost reaching the foot of the temple to begin the hike, a few radii away are where I witnessed the ethereal sight of the temple. Positioned on the peak of the mountain, clouted by fog throughout, only for a few seconds could one catch a glimpse of the fantastic outline of the shrine which seemed like a sketch straight out of a kindergarten notebook.
The stair hike to reach the top of the temple Bac Ho is fascinating but exhausting. Situated at a high of 1296 meters altitude, the architectural design of the temple is much in line with the traditional Vietnamese style. Above the copper statue of Ho Chi Minh, on a pedestal is the most profound quote in Vietnamese “Không có gì quý hơn độc lập tự do” meaning “Nothing is more precious than Independence and Freedom.” Amen! I was informed that the highlight of the summit is the spectacular panoramic view of the valleys and river below. Unfortunately, due to excessive fog, I couldn’t catch the sight. Well, that opens a door for another visit. Standing tall, atop the pinnacle, under the wind and cloud in the company of a legend is a distinctive experience.
The whole time that I spent in the district of Ba Vi, regardless of whether it was on top of the mountain or at the foot of it, the atmosphere was quiet and harmonious. A peaceful retreat for anyone wishing to escape the big city. If you’re sick of tourist traps, touters and traffic, Ba Vi is the break you deserve.
Travel Related Information:
How to get there: By car, By bus, By Bike (From Hanoi)
Waterfall Name: Thein Son
Cost: Waterfalls - VND 150000 Per person (Approx Rs 450)
National park entry - VND 50000 Per person (Approx Rs 150)
Photography Credits :
Shilpa Srinivas @flohwithme