Out-of-time experience in Northern Vietnam
The words will be hard to find to qualify this experience. Northern Vietnam may not be the first destination popping into your mind for a relaxing holiday. There may be no beaches but the scenery creates such a unique atmosphere that you will feel enchanted and mesmerised at every step.
The tour starts with a ride through the province of Lang Son to reach Chi Lang Pass. This site has seen some of the greatest wars with China over the centuries. It is a 20km-long gorge between two mountains, creating a narrow path for enemy armies to walk through. An impressive landscape with a rich history, Chi Lang Pass is now a haven not often visited by tourists.
Next stop is Dong Dang village with its colourful Mother Goddess Temple. The architecture is breath-taking as the temple lies on the edge of the mountain, contemplating passengers from above.
The first day of this tour ends in the village of Quang Uyen with the discovery of a traditional Nung house, built on stilts with a large open space on the first floor. The family of Mr Kim counts now three generation and you get to be a part of it, evolve with them, learn from their habits and enjoy a simple yet delicious dinner amongst relatives.
An early waking is absolutely necessary to enjoy a short trek to climb up a nearby mountain. At the top, the beauty of the valley in front of you will blow you away as the sun rises between two mounts.
On this second day, the pressure and the wonders will increase slowly. First with a quiet morning in the blacksmith village of Phuoc Sen. Ancestral knowledge and impeccable skills are required when it comes to creating a perfect knife!
The intensity will then take another step once you reach the Ban Gioc Waterfall
. One of the largest waterfalls in the world, forming a natural frontier with China. A little boat trip will take you close enough to get wet but take incredible photos.
And finally, end the day with a sudden dive into Mother Earth’s entrails, the Nguom Ngao Cave otherwise known as Tiger Cave. It is said that once many tigers inhabited the 2144m-long cave before being chased away by local people. From delicate formations of stalactites and stalagmites to jaw-ping caverns, the cave is one of the main attractions of the province with the waterfall, and easy to walk through with no special equipment.
Of course the next and final highlight of the day is again the night spent in a local homestay in Ba Be National Park. The generosity of a shared meal added to the openly hospitality of the family is one of the greatest things you will experience during your visit to Northern Vietnam.
The next morning, it is sadly the last day of the tour amongst the wild jungle surrounding Ba Be Lake. Kayaking on the mirror-like waters early in the morning is a guarantee of a calm and relaxing time, filled with a certain serenity for the rest of the day. After breakfast, a boat will take you around the lake, separated in three parts linked by rivers, ‘Ba’ in Vietnamese meaning ‘three’. From the lowest part of the lake the boat will drive North, up to the Nang River to Puong Grotto where a lovely colony of bats spends their days.
The tour takes you to places so little visited by foreigners that the feeling of being privileged is not unknown to those who experienced these places before. This is so much more than a trip, between the beautiful scenery, enchanting atmosphere, delicious food, and great locals, it is a life experience.