Vietnam’s largest natural lake, Ho Ba Be, from the core of the delightful Ba Be National Park, a feast of limestone and tropical forest. The lake is 7km long, up to 30m deep and up to a kilometer wide. A few islands decorate the surface and the whole lot is enclosed by steep, densely wooded slopes, with some tall and ancient trees breaking out here and there into while limestone cliffs. The main attractions here are boat trips to visit caves, waterfall and minority villages, with the added bonus of seeing at least a few of the 220 animal, 417 plant and 49 fish species recorded here. Bears, tigers and one of Vietnam are rarest and most endangered primates, the Tonkin snub-nosed languor, live in a few isolated communities on the fringes of the park, but nearer the lake there’s a good chance of spotting the more common macaque monkeys and garrulous, colorful flocks of parrots. Few people are around to disturb the wildlife and outside the months of July and August, when Hanoians take their holiday, you’ll usually find only a handful of tourists. What puts some people off Ba Be is difficulty of access by public transport, but if you join a tour from Hanoi or hire your own transport it becomes easier to justify, especially when combined with a visit to a minority market. Even then, though, a two-night stay is sufficient for most people.
Highlights of Ba Be National Park are peaceful boat trips on the lake, visits at nearby tourist spots such as Puong Cave and Dau Dang Waterfall and trekking to minority villages. Basic homestay at villages in the park is also a great experience. Further north of Ba Be is Cao Bang Province, a remote area where you can see authentic ethnic minority lifestyle as well as the famous Ban Gioc Waterfall .
When to go ?
The best time to visit Ba Be Lake is during the dry season (winter and spring). In the wet season, the lake takes up water from the Nang River and regularly flooded. If travel at the time of Long Tong Festival on the 10th and 11th days of the first lunar month, there are traditional games and performance of surrounding ethnic tribal groups.
Homestay condition is basic. Mattresses and mosquito nets are provided. Your checklists should be good walking shoes, raincoats, insect repellent and sunscreen.