Travelers are sighing over the urbanization speed in Sapa. New hotels and homestays appear one after another every day, changing this beautiful mountain town to a huge construction site. Sapa is no longer the Sapa you used to love 5 years ago. And if you had been there a decade ago, you might want to cry for its dramatic change. Just as I do.
Luckily, northern Vietnam still has many mountainous areas to offer. Authentic and pristine, green and biodiverse, Ba Be Lake must be a perfect destination if you are looking for an alternative to Sapa. It has the biggest natural lake in Vietnam, a National Park, waterfalls, deep valleys, vast rice fields, a specific ethnic culture, and many, many outdoor activities to keep you fit.
Although the lake’s true age is difficult to date, scientists said that it is more than 200 million years old. The great creation of the Southeast Asian continent at the end of the Cambrian period had bought a huge body of water in the middle of untouched jungles and ancient limestone mountains that date back more than 450 million years. This lake is the most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem in Vietnam, and home to hundreds of fish species, and some lovely small islands.
Ba Be Lake offers some of the most amazing mountain biking trails in Vietnam that are good enough for pro cyclists. Whether you want to go green with the environment, breathe in some fresh air, let the mountain breeze touches your face, or you look for your next adrenaline fix, Ba Be puts the mountain back into biking, with amazing views on the way, climbs that attract experienced bikers come to challenge, and rewarding descents that you even don’t need to pedal for a long way.
Don’t worry if you are just a new rider. We'll provide you a premium mountain bike or electric bike with an experienced guide who will teach you cycling skills and accompany you throughout the route to make sure you can enjoy your adventure.
For those who like leisure trek, this is definitely the place you should be. The surrounding landscapes of Ba Be Lake boast numerous trails that are hard to beat. You can choose to hike through the evergreen jungles of the National Park in the bird’s chirping, or leisure walk on narrow roads which run between a peaceful river on one side and paddy rice fields on the other side. You can see ethnic people working on the fields, catching fish on the river by simple traditional nests, and living in their wooden stilt houses.
It’s hard to resist an enjoyable kayaking when you are at Ba Be National Park. Not like any other experience, kayaking in the Nang River likes stepping into a world of peace. In most of the time, there are only you with nature. Time seems to stop for those precious moments. That is when you can hear the sounds of your paddles tapping gently or see a falling leaf spinning around before it hits the water.
Kayaking on the Nang River will take you 2.5 to 3.5 hours depending on your kayaking skill and fitness. But I can ensure that this activity deserves your effort. You can choose one of the two options: kayaking on the Nang River or on the Ba Be Lake. Or you can do both of them as you wish.
Your kayaking on the Nang River will take you to the Puong Cave in the north of the park. You can make a stop for a visit before setting off on the water journey again. The cave is up to 50 meters high and 300 meters long with limestone foundations. That won’t require lots of energy to trek up the cave but its smell isn’t very nice, I must say. No surprise, Puong Cave is home to up to 10,000 bats. You can hear their wings flapping loudly when you are in the cave.
If Sapa is famous for it terraced fields, Ba Ba boasts its immense rice fields and cornfields lying between mountains and lakes. In the harvesting season in late autumn, the corn and rice turn from green to brilliant yellow. The whole of nature looks like a charm and bewitching painting that can give you a sense of peace and relaxation.
Lied on halfway up to the mountains, cruising on the Ba Be Lake give you an astonishing experience. This deep green water, that is surrounded by primeval forests and limestone peaks, remains it's calm and beauty all year round. It’s hard to imagine that, after hundreds of millions of years, this painting still keeps its pristine color and ambiance. This kind of feeling is not easy to find elsewhere. Ask your guides the best spots to swim if you want to immerse yourself into the cool water.
125 miles from Ba Be Lake, Ban Gioc is one of ten greatest waterfalls in the world. It’s beauty can compare to Niagara and Iguazu waterfall. The trip might be a bit long but the route is one of the country's most scenic drives. The fall’s vertical drop is just about 100 fts but it has an impressive span of 985fts, featuring a spectacular sight of majestic waterfall and forest. The drop is so powerful that the spray can make you wet from a distance. See the fall from May to Sep to have the best view of it.
Although it’s less colorful than Sapa, the local life in Ba Be Lake exudes a special feeling. You don’t have to go deep into the valley and mountain to experience its authentic vibe.
There are 5 ethnic groups in Ba Be Lake but Tay people make up the majority of the area’s population. They still live in traditional stilt houses and use fired-wood in cooking. Spend one or two nights with the locals, talk to them, taste some of their traditional dishes, and wake up in the bird singing to reward yourself a beautiful gift of nature and culture. (Photo: an old Tay woman)
Having a trip to the mountain is like taking a huge breath of fresh air that is good for our lungs, not the mention the majestic views, local touch, and a lot of vitamin sunshine that we hardly have in the large, congested cities. If you are looking for an authentic mountain holiday, don’t hesitate to add Ba Be Lake into your list.