Ba Vi is a semi-mountainous district to
the northwest of Hanoi. It is endowed with charming natural landscapes with a rich ecosystem, having a diverse terrain including mountains, forests, waterfalls, streams, rivers, lakes and famous scenic spots.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
From April to October, Ba Vi becomes an ideal place to escape the summer heat. October to November is blooming season for the tree marigold.
WHAT TO EXPLORE
Ba Vi National Park
Covering nearly 11,000 hectares, Ba Vi National Park is considered the lung of Hanoi. Attractions include the mysterious abandoned old church covered with moss and the cactus greenhouse.
Like Da Lat, Sa Pa or Tam Dao, the French built many resort villas in Ba Vi. The only difference is that they have been destroyed over time, leaving few traces behind. The colonel’s residence is one of the few remaining French constructions in Ba Vi that remains quite intact.
There is an old church located at an altitude of 800 m, in the middle of the forest, without a roof after being abandoned for many years. The walls here scream nostalgia, with fog always lurking around, sometimes covering the whole stucture. The green color of moss, the gray color of mold and the fog all create a mysterious atmosphere.
At an altitude of 1,100 m on the western slope of Tan Vien Peak is a system of secret political prisons built solidly to hold soldiers during the war.
The prison is divided into three zones: zone 1 is for prison guards while zones 2 and 3 are for prisoners.
With a total area of nearly 1,000 square meters, this system could contain about 100-200 prisoners.
Visitors can also challenge themselves by climbing 500 steps to the top of the mountain to visit Thuong Temple, built to worship the mountain god.
In addition, Ba Vi also has other attractions including President Ho Chi Minh’s Temple and Ngoc Hoa Cave.
If you choose not to ride to the top of the mountain, a trek through Ba Vi forest that lasts for two to four hours is suitable for those who like walking. The tour will lead you through the dense primeval and soaring bamboo forests. You can also cycle to explore the forest via concrete routes.
Khoang Xanh – Suoi Tien
Khoang Xanh is located on the eastern slope of Ba Vi Mountain, an area with primeval forests. In the summer, waterfalls like Mo, Hoa, Tran and Mam Xoi get even more beautiful. Aside from the natural streams and forests, Khoang Xanh has many other things to experience including a water park, hot mineral mud bath, and playground for both children and adults.
King Pond is at the foot of Tan Vien Mountain, Bat Dam Village, Tan Linh Commune. Legend has it that the water in this pond was originally used by Thuy Tinh (Lord of the Waters) to fight Son Tinh (Mountain God) over a princess of Hung Kings. Currently, King Pond is being developed into a tourist area, with a space for relaxation, entertainment, and a water park with activities like climbing and rowing.
Thien Son – Suoi Nga
Located at the foot of Tan Linh Mountain, Van Hoa Commune, this tourist zone has forests, lakes, streams, waterfalls and entertainment services, divided into three areas: Ha Son, Trung Son and Ngoan Son. Camping is a popular activity for visitors in Ha Son as they get to sit by the streams and relax or walk through the emerald forest.
In Trung Son, visitors can stay in a stilt house and dine at a restaurant with local delicacies like roasted chicken, stream fish and grilled meat. Coming to Ngoan Son, visitors will get to see the Cong Troi waterfall at an altitude of over 60 meters pouring down the mountainside to form a natural swimming pool.
Visitors who like to take a dip in the streams need to wear life jackets and pay attention to safety if they can’t swim. They should also apply insect repellent and beware of snakes and centipedes. Entrance tickets cost VND150,000 ($6.27) a person.
Bang Ta Forest
Bang Ta Forest is in Cam Linh Commune, about 65 km to the west of Hanoi. This nature reserve is nearly 27 hectares wide, boasting forests, lakes, and many species of wild animals like monkeys, deer and wild boar. The primary forest here is already exploited for tourism with the Dam Long – Bang Ta tourist area.
Dong Mo tourist area includes a 200-hectare lake at the foot of Ba Vi Mountain, with resorts on the islands and golf courses.
According to legend, Dong Mo Lake is the place where the battle for Princess Mi Nuong took place between Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh. In the battle, when Thuy Tinh made the water rise, Son Tinh cast a spell to raise the mountain to block the water. Finally, Thuy Tinh gave up, with the lake a result of the war between both gods.
Visitors can travel here by tourist bus or drive themselves. A ticket costs VND80,000. Renting an overnight camping tent is about VND250,000, depending on the number of people.
As part of Dong Mo tourist area, the Cultural and Tourism Village of Vietnam’s ethnic groups has a total area of 1,544 hectares. In the village, visitors will learn about the cultural space through traditional stilt houses, enjoy ethnic cuisine and gain an experience of the life of ethnic people through activities like cooking and playing folk games.
The village opens from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Sunday. The entrance fee is VND30,000 for adults, VND5,000-10,000 for students and free for children under six years old or under 1.2 meters in height.
Son Tinh Camp
This campsite is also located in Dong Mo tourist area. The terrain here is diverse, from hills, valleys and grasslands for outdoor activities like team building and family games. Visitors can camp, BBQ, cycle and climb a mountain.
A ticket during the daytime costs VND60,000 for adults and VND30,000 for children from 3 to 10 years old. Staying overnight will cost VND110,000 for adults and VND60,000 for children. In addition, camping areas for rent range from VND200,000 to 800,000 for two to 10 people. There are also family-friendly cottages, priced from VND800,000 a night.
Ban Xoi Valley
Close to Dong Mo is Ban Xoi Valley, which is located in Chong Village, Yen Bai Commune and surrounded by lush hills and lakes, with a cool year-round climate. Ban Xoi Lake was formed from water geysers on the Ba Vi mountain range.
Visitors can enjoy natural landscapes and many local dishes like clay roasted chicken, braised catfish with banana and tofu, along with steamed rice in bamboo with sesame salt.
This place boasts high-end accommodation, campsites, a playground for children, zipline, and kayaking services. A ticket costs VND80,000 for adults and VND50,000 for children.
Some farms that welcome visitors are Ba Vi Country Farm and Detrang Farm. Detrang is about 12 hectares large with a variety of animals like goats, horses, camels and ostriches. Visitors can immerse themselves in nature, feed the animals, milk the goats or take part in activities like playing folk games and making pottery.
The glamping site in the middle of the meadow is ideal for lunch break or overnight stay. Visitors can rent a grill for a BBQ party or make a campfire. There will be live music performances on weekends. The tents here are set up in Mongolian style, with air cushions and pillows inside for two to four people. The farm is located in Ke Moi Village. Entrance costs VND120,000 a person and is free for children under 90 centimeters.
Tien Sa Lake
Tien Sa Lake tourist area is at the foot of Tan Vien Mountain and is famous for its charming landscape. Visitors can fish and relax on a floating house or rent a pontoon boat. There is also a water park and speedboat service for tourists to windsurf and enjoy the scenery here.
In addition, Ba Vi also has other attractions like the Thac Da eco-tourism area, Tan Da tourist area, and Suoi Hai Lake, all suitable for weekend trips.
WHAT TO EAT
Ba Vi goat meat is low in fat, tender and juicy. Aside of marinated with herbs and smoked, other ways to prepare goat meat are grilled, stir-fried, steamed or stewed with wine. To get more flavor, goat meat can be served with soy sauce, steamed rice in bamboo and stir-fried vegetables. Famed places to enjoy goat meat are Ba Vi culinary garden restaurant on the Yen Bai – Ba Vi – Hanoi highway and La Co restaurant in Tan Linh Commune.
Ostrich meat has become a delicacy of Ba Vi in recent years. The meat is firm but softer than beef and has a high nutritional value. Visitors can enjoy ostrich in hot pots, stir-fried or in sausages. A great place to enjoy ostrich dishes is Oanh Tham restaurant, in Tan Linh Market. In addition, visitors can also buy ostrich sausages and fresh meat for about VND270,000 a kilo. To avoid buying unauthentic ostrich meat, visitors should go to Lieu Quan food store in Van Hoa Commune.
Hill chickens in Ba Vi are mainly hybrid chickens that weigh about two kilograms. Fed with soybeans, corn and fish oil, the chickens here boast lean meat and tough skin. Locals often grill the whole chicken, roast it with charcoal, boil, roast it with chili peppers or mix it with onion salad. Some places to enjoy this dish are Huong Viet restaurant or Moc garden restaurant in Yen Bai Commune.
Banh te in Phu Nhi Village is one of the specialties that tourists should not ignore. With the smooth, fragrant and rich flavor of the meat and wood ear mushrooms, this delicacy is suitable to buy as a gift. It’s even more delicious when dipped in lime and chili fish sauce. This dish is sold at most restaurants and attractions in Ba Vi for about VND8,000.
Ba Vi is considered the land of milk with many farms here, so dairy products is one of the essentials that tourists cannot skip. In addition to fresh milk, milk bars, yogurt or caramel are favorite purchases. Along the way to the attractions, visitors will see many milk shops that sell the signature dairy products of Ba Vi. Fresh milk can be bought as a gift, though it can only stay in the fridge for three days.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation services in Ba Vi are quite developed, which give visitors many options from affordable to high-end. Most eco-tourism areas and farms provide accommodation services from about VND400,000.
A top-tier, highly recommended location is Melia Bavi Mountain Retreat in the national park. A night here costs about VND4 million, or Ba Vi Resort, which has a camping space in the middle of the pine forest.
Other resorts worth taking a look at include Tan Da Spa Resort, Family Resort, Paragon Resort, Bavi Annam Garden and Madela Ba Vi, which cost around VND1 million a night.
HOW TO GET THERE
If you go by car, you can take Thang Long Boulevard to Thien Son Suoi Nga. Another popular route is Highway 32. It takes about an hour to get to Ba Vi from Hanoi. You can also get a ride at My Dinh Bus Station.
Story by Du Hy, Hoang Nguyen