Morning on Ba Be Lake

Ba Be Lake: A Sanctuary in the Forest

Tiếng Việt

Nothing can prepare you for the first glimpse of Ba Be’s pure, unadulterated beauty. An ancient lake embraced by soaring limestone mountains, which in turn are covered by primaeval forest. It looks like an idyllic haven in Vietnam Northeast.


Nestled in the dense forest of Bac Kan, 230 kilometres north from Hanoi, Ba Be Lake is Vietnam’s largest body of fresh water (650 hectares). It was formed around 200 million years ago and comprises of three mountain lakes joining together via wide channels. In the language of Tay ethnic minority, Ba Be simply means “Three Lakes”.

The dense forest of Bac Kan

Ba Be Lake

Lying in the middle of a majestic mountain range, Ba Be Lake is a natural sanctuary. A tranquil landscape features fresh air, mirror-like water and virgin forest. The deep-green scenery is dotted with a few islands (large and small), as well as several stilt houses of the Tay community.

Towering cliffs seem to shield the area from the disturbance of human, creating habitat for numerous plants and animals. That includes many rare butterfly species and over a hundred kinds of freshwater fish. Due to this high biodiversity, Ba Be Lake has been designated as a protected area since 1978.

Ba Be Wharf
Ba Be Lake

While on the lake, I noticed some floating bottles. As first they irritated me as I mistook them for plastic waste. But our boatman-cum-fisherman explained that they are actually fishing nets. For generations, Tay fishermen have honed their fishing skill. Overfishing is prohibited and only sustainable techniques, such as gill netting are allowed.

Small shrimps – a speciality of Ba Be Lake
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Nang River

The main inflow of Ba Be Lake is the Nang River which originates from the eastern part of Bac Kan. It runs under Lung Nham mountain to Puong Cave, before reaching the confluence. From there, the river separates into two branches: one pours into Ba Be Lake, the other continues downstream to Dau Dang Waterfall.

Cruising on the Nang River

As our boat travelled upstream, I recalled about the trip to Trang An. The scenery is somewhat similar, with forested limestone pinnacles flank either side of the river. The water also changed from emerald colour to a mud green tone. The only difference is probably the strong current which forces the boatman to use the motor. After 20 minutes, Puong Cave appeared and I was literally in awe.

Jaw-like entrance to Puong Cave

Puong Cave

Standing in front of Puong Cave, I felt as though I was facing a giant shark. Its jaw-like entrance is gigantic and packed with marked stalactites. The entrance opens up to a very large space which measures about 300 metres wide and 30 metres high. There are also countless of stalagmites, crags and crevasses, making the karst cave an ideal home for tens of thousands of bats.

Nang River flowing through Puong Cave
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Dau Dang Waterfall

Leaving Puong Cave behind, our boat went downstream to Dau Dang Waterfall. Here the Nang River is broken by a series of overlapped rocks. The water thunders down for over 500 metres, with dazzling white bubbles all year round. It blends perfectly with the lush green banks, creating a grandiose jungle landscape.

Dau Dang Waterfall
View of the waterfall from above

Practical Information in Ba Be Lake

  • So far, a private vehicle is the most convenient and fastest way to Ba Be Lake. The nearest town is Bac Kan Township located approximately 50 kilometres to the southeast.
  • There are several accommodations within the vicinity of the national park, ranging from homestays to hotel.
  • At an elevation of 145 metres, the temperature in Ba Be Lake is always lower than in Hanoi. It’s similar to the resort town of Da Lat. That’s why a light jacket might be necessary, even in summer.
  • All the above-mentioned attractions are reachable by boat. A boat trip usually takes half-a-day (depends on how fast you go) and costs around 800.000 VND (per boat). Hotel receptionists or hosts at the homestay can arrange the trip.
  • From the wharf, there is a 20-minutes hike to Dau Dang Waterfall. The path is highly uneven, thus comfortable shoes are required.
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14 thoughts on “Ba Be Lake: A Sanctuary in the Forest”

  1. Alison and Don – Occupation: being/living/experiencing/travelling In our sixties, (Don is now 77) with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our apartment and car, sold or gave away all our stuff and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia, South America, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We will continue travelling until it's time to stop - if that time ever comes. So far it suits us very well. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both. Interests: In no particular order: travel, figure skating (as a fan), acceptance, authenticity, walking/hiking, joy, creativity, being human, adventure, presence, NOW. Same for Don except replace figure skating with Formula One motor racing.
    Alison and Don says:

    What a beautiful place, and your photos are stunning. I want to go there!
    Alison

  2. Bama – Jakarta, Indonesia – Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.
    Bama says:

    From your photos, Ba Be Lake and the Nang River do appear very pristine and seem to have not really been exploited by humans. I can imagine the air must have been very fresh, ideal for forest-bathing (on a boat, of course). That photo of the entrance to Puong Cave (with a boat for scale) does a good job giving us an idea of how big it is. Very impressive!

    1. Thank you, Bama! It’s exactly like you said. I captured the boat so that my readers can realise how large the cave is. It’s by far the biggest cave entrance that I’ve ever seen.

      What I couldn’t capture is the bat colony hanging upside down. It was difficult to see them, but I clearly heard their screeches. I can’t imagine how the cave looks like when they wake up 🙂

  3. The landscape of heavy jungle, green rivers and limestone pinnacles is impressive. I have not previously heard about Ba Ba Lake. It looks so serene in your photos. Is it popular with tourists (in a normal year)?

    1. Nope 🙂 Even among Vietnamese, the lake is not so popular. They often choose beaches over these places. The reason could be lack of promotion. Another reason might be the infrastructure. Well, it’s incomparable to that of touristic destinations, but I think it’s adequate.

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