ba be lake northern vietnam

Ba Be Lake – Where I found peace in my heart


I have just returned from an exhilarating experience in the North of Vietnam. I was fortunate to be part of a group from within Vietnam tours to be able to go and visit one of the most beautiful lake destinations in Vietnam, possibly anywhere!

We began our journey in Hanoi and made the 6 hour journey to our final destination of Ba Be Lake, it is pronounced Ba Be not babe as our only English man on the trip thought! The drive was long and took us through some tiny villages and through beautiful mountain roads full of trees, flowers and all kinds of wildlife. As we slowed to the village where our home would be for the next 3 nights, I was still wondering, where is this lake?

ba be lake northern vietnam

Reaching the guest house at nearly midnight, I take a look around the room, this will be perfect I thought. I, really appreciated the caring of the host – the Tay family (from a Vietnam minority tribe), the chicken porridge was ready to eat and smell of it did awaken my hunger I had almost forgotten. The accommodation was well prepared and clean. As my colleague told me, this family have been the company’s friend for 10 years so hence there was no wonder why whenever come here; it brought a feeling that I was at cozy atmosphere of a family reunion. There was a good start – it would be a sign of wonderful trip. This I was certain would be experienced by all the visitors as well.

tay family ba be lake vietnam

Next morning, I was woken up to hear a bird singing outside the window, the sun was coming up behind the mountain in front of the house. It was throwing light on the mountain and rice fields, taking the dark coat of night away and returning the true color for green mountains and yellow rice field. After treating our stomach with really tasty food, we were ready to explore Ba Be Lake.

The first destination was Hua Ma cave (literately mean Horse Head). Today we had another companion, or should I say a half companion – a 10 year old boy, his name is Tu he is son of the host. One the way to the cave, we didn’t waste any time, we had a small quiz in the car and who could known it would be that fun. We asked him everything passing by the car, main purpose probably makes him confused then we try some trick questions like “How long has the tree been here?”

He answered it really smart and funny “The tree was here since Tu was a boy and now Tu is a man, then it has been a long time” everybody was laugh. Reaching the cave after 30 minutes; we walked up slope a little bit. Both sides of path were full of tree, a leaf-canopy above our heads, little sunshine went through it, built funny shadow on the slope. Arriving to the entrance of the cave, I could feel the cool wind blowing from the bottom of the cave bring along humid and fresh smell. I was surprised by the size of the cave.

The further I stepped down, the bigger the cave was. Every single step brought to us hundred amazing pairs of stalactites and stalagmites. The slightly acidic water dissolves some of the limestone, carrying it downward. Those thin vertical columns seem to be really fragile. I thought it could be collapsed even with a big sneeze. But no worry, none of us sneezed and it was more stable than it appeared. Under yellow lights, stalactites and stalagmites seem to sparkle like a palace. The cave was so peaceful hence, sometimes; I even could hear the sounds of bats’ flapping wings.

water buffalo in ba be lake northern Vietnam

Our next destination was silver waterfall. Waterfall flows through a small village in the middle of mountain, bring water for whole village. Reaching the end of road, from here, the current was our best guide; we just followed it to reach to the waterfall. Water flew from top of the mountain, went through hundred of rocks, throwing out thousands of white foam. Where we stopped, I could imagine it was in the middle of mountain.

The magical current went through rocks many years, created a small hole with full of water in the center, what I called “natural pool”. The water was cool and so fresh, dipping my body into the cool water, it totally blew my mind away. Let’s the current massage over my body, it was a best massage I’ve ever had. My colleges started sliding on the waterfall, down to my “pool”. It looked a little bit scary to me, because I can’t swim, but my curiosity already led me up to sliding point, releasing my body, let it go with the current over the smooth rocks and reached the “pool”, it was a fantastic experience.

After picnic lunch, with a stomach full of tasty sticky rice and grilled chicken, I allowed myself to be lazy, lying on rock and look up to the sky. The sound of water flow like a classical symphony is a music background for a ballet show of clouds moving in the sky. Back to the host house with lots of laugh and fun, and of course, wonderful photos, we spent the rest of day to listen to the music and` play cards. But there was a feeling that something was missing. The answer only came when our leader said “Tomorrow we will kayak on the river and get to the lake and swim there”. Yes, I hadn’t seen the lake since I got here. Did we save the best for the last?

ba be lake travel

Waking up earlier than first morning, my friend captured few amazing photos of dawn which definitely made me feel so regret because of trying to sleep a little more. Our driver brought us to Buoc Lom wharf; I was ready for kayak today. I’ve been kayak in Halong bay; however, kayak here was a completely different experience. Surround Halong bay was beautiful islands covered by hundred of trees whereas in Ba Be I kayaked through limestone and villages. We tried to pretend that we got lost and asked local people “Is this the way to Halong bay?” (It is far away from Ba Be about few hundred kilometers).

It didn’t work really well, because I was too shy to say it out loud, and villagers didn’t get it clearly, but it was so much fun. We got to Mr. Pirate’s house where we would have lunch today right at lunch time. Apparently, we have been his guests for many years. He treated us with amazing dry buffalo, and “complimentary” bananas. He whispered to us “I have to hide bananas for you under the blanket; otherwise, other guests will take it all”. Leaving Mr. Pirate’s house with big thanks for the food, bananas and all above his kindness, we were heading to the lake. Back on river, we cruised upstream about 10 minutes to the junction.

I even could see a clear line between the light brown river and the pure green lake. I was so excited to see the lake, and finally it was here. The lake is surprisingly big (I’ve been told this is the biggest one in Vietnam, but it was still over my imagination). All is covered in an endless green, light and transparent green of water, dark green of limestone covered by plants, and even sunshine under the reflection of the lake, turn out to be a magical sparkling green. Holding my life jacket tight, I was ready to jump. The water was warm and so inviting. It’s as clear as crystal, I even could see my feet wriggle. We swam and had water fight, in my case I allowed myself to float and go along with the water.

Waking up earlier than first morning, my friend captured few amazing photos of dawn which definitely made me feel so regret because of trying to sleep a little more. Our driver brought us to Buoc Lom wharf; I was ready for kayak today. I’ve been kayak in Halong bay; however, kayak here was a completely different experience. Surround Halong bay was beautiful islands covered by hundred of trees whereas in Ba Be I kayaked through limestone and villages. We tried to pretend that we got lost and asked local people “Is this the way to Halong bay?” (It is far away from Ba Be about few hundred kilometers).

It didn’t work really well, because I was too shy to say it out loud, and villagers didn’t get it clearly, but it was so much fun. We got to Mr. Pirate’s house where we would have lunch today right at lunch time. Apparently, we have been his guests for many years. He treated us with amazing dry buffalo, and “complimentary” bananas. He whispered to us “I have to hide bananas for you under the blanket; otherwise, other guests will take it all”. Leaving Mr. Pirate’s house with big thanks for the food, bananas and all above his kindness, we were heading to the lake. Back on river, we cruised upstream about 10 minutes to the junction.

I even could see a clear line between the light brown river and the pure green lake. I was so excited to see the lake, and finally it was here. The lake is surprisingly big (I’ve been told this is the biggest one in Vietnam, but it was still over my imagination). All is covered in an endless green, light and transparent green of water, dark green of limestone covered by plants, and even sunshine under the reflection of the lake, turn out to be a magical sparkling green. Holding my life jacket tight, I was ready to jump. The water was warm and so inviting. It’s as clear as crystal, I even could see my feet wriggle. We swam and had water fight, in my case I allowed myself to float and go along with the water.

ba be lake retreat

In our last dinner at Ba Be, one of us showed his hidden talent, he played a card trick with Tu and his cousins. I could see he became magician in children’s eyes. They looked at him with admire eyes and clapped when he showed the “ta-da” part. Also, they kept asking about the trick till next morning. Next morning we left Ba Be and back to Hanoi. It was an emotional moment when we left house, the host, his wife, and of course Tu and his cousins, all stood in front of house and waving us till the bus ran far away.

Sitting on the bus, I think Mother Nature was so generous to this land; she gave them many beautiful sites and also beautiful people to preserve it. For me, Ba Be is a complete picture of gorgeous sites, and charming people.