When searching Vietnam for an enjoyable destination within the green wilds, there are lots of places pick from, even in the North alone, but for this thread, we will be taking a look at Ba Be Lake. The Lake is about 220 kilometers away from the city center of Hanoi and is within the top 20 largest natural freshwater lake in the world. Coming here will be a blast with very reasonable expenses!
Getting to Ba Be Lake:
Being within the Bac Kan province and is relatively far away from Hanoi, traveling to Ba Be Lake would take quite a while. There are two main ways of travel; one is by bus, and the other is using your means of transportation.
By bus: In Hanoi, you can start at My Dinh or Yen Nghia terminal, as both of them have lines going to Bac Kan. And from there you take another bus to the Lake. If you start your travel in the morning, then you should arrive early in the afternoon. It is also advised that you should not go on Friday at night, as there are no buses available to take you to Ba Be Lake in Bac Kan. It’s nothing serious, but you would need to spend some extra money renting a room to wait for the buses the next day.
If you are traveling by your vehicles, then start at Highway 3 and head to Thai Nguyen, be mindful as you drive for there might be lots of traffic. And when you arrive at Ra market, take a turn to the Lake, the road is small with lots of turns so you should proceed with cautious.
There are two largest villages around the Lake, Pac Ngoi, and Bo Lu; both have accommodations available. There are two options that you can take, one being you staying in a hotel and the other is homestay, as there are many local residences, makes a good business of it, and the quality is also decent at the least with free wifi, showers with heaters, etc.
And the biggest bonus that you get by staying in these villages is the lake view right from your rooms.
The most significant differences between the two are that Pac Ngoi is more developed by tourism services, it is more crowded, more tourists, more available services and overall more exciting. Bo Lu is still able to keep the pure silence and peacefulness of the area by being a lot less crowded.
The best grubs that you can get are green vegetables that vary throughout the year, fishes and shrimps caught right from the area, pork, etc. All made in the traditional styles of the local people. If you are picked homestay, then you would be greeted with the hospitality and delicious meals from your hosts.
Also, there are not at all that many restaurants and shops within the area, so you might want to consider bringing along some of your food and snacks.
Places to go and things to do:
Around the sectors that provide you with accommodation have services that lend you bicycles and motorbikes that you can use to travel around, and don’t be afraid when going around as there are signs that tell you where to go along the roads, just pay attention, and you’ll be okay.
Tours at the Lake: There are four tours available the takes you to all 4 locations (Puong cave, Dau Dang waterfall, King’s Pond and An Ma shrine) that are accessible by boats. The tours are separated by their differences in the total time taken, 1 hour and a half, 2 hours, 4 hours and 6 hours, if you want to see all 4 locations with the leisure of time, it's the best that you take the 6 hours long tour.
Puong Cave: with a river running through, this 20 meters high lake is breath-taking with gorgeous stalactites. The only thing that may cause some discomfort for some people is that the cave is home to a lot of bats which creates quite a “smell.”
Dau Dang Waterfall: Created when the Nang river runs through the dried rocks, this waterfall is both beautiful and too dangerous to swim in. So, unfortunately, the only way to enjoy this magnificent waterfall is from an observation post with a few small “cafes” owned by the locals for you to quench your thirst.
King’s Lake: a lake on an island with Ba Be Lake itself. This pond is breathtaking, with clear water in color much different from the color of Ba Be Lake. A factor to remember is that King’s Lake is very sacred, and it is forbidden to swim in, throw trashes in and even to enjoy the water with your hands or legs.
A Ma Shrine: Located on a limestone island 30 meters above the water level in Ba Be Lake, the shrine is dedicated to King of the sea, there are also other remnants of buildings that date back to the Le Dynasty.
Things to remember:
Bring bug repellent, staying near the lake has a lot of perks, but it also means a lot of insects and especially mosquitoes.
Bring some thick clothing like jackets and long sleeves shirts and leggings as temperatures drop significantly at night and early in the morning, also, fog is much to be expected.
Don’t pick this if you are unable to stand to some inconvenience like not having the best-looking toilets; it is to be expected for regions like this.