A homestay at Pac Ngoi Village at Ba Be National Park
A homestay at Pac Ngoi Village at Ba Be National Park

Ba Be (Bac Kan) by Motorbike: Escape from Hectic Life

It is the middle of the winter in Hanoi now, but so strange that the beautiful weather makes it more like beautiful autumn days. Everyday the sun sprinkles down precious golden particles that make the temperatures so pleasant! The breezes make the air dry and fresh, nothing of the normal cold winter winds. The whole world is definitely having the best moments of the year...

I wake up by my hot coffee late in the morning, looking down the window, casting my eyes further into the river with weird feelings. I don't feel as great as I should, especially in this kind of weather. My heart is not beating normally. Maybe it's been hectic work, or it's the beautiful weather, or it's serious lack of “travel oxygen” that my body has been addicted to. Who knows... I think I know. Something keeps pushing inside: it's high time to roam wild!

It takes me less than thirty minutes to get ready and off I jump on my motorbike and dash off leaving all the hustle bustle of the world behind... Leaving Hanoi, I take Road No.3 to Thai Nguyen which is as busy always and not much to keep my attention. My eyes are fixed on the road and my mind wanders in the mountains, the forests and the tranquil ethnic villages in Ba Be National Park...

Back road from Thai Nguyen to Ba Be National Park
Back road from Thai Nguyen to Ba Be National Park

 After Thai Nguyen, there is a back road to Ba Be apart from the main route which is Road No.3. The small road travels through Dinh Hoa District (Thai Nguyen Province) and Cho Don District (Bac Kan Province). The area is enclosed by ranges of mountains and narrow valleys which make the landscape just bucolic. Thanks to the strategic terrain, the area was the Safe Zone (ATK) which protected Viet Minh and Vietnam's early government in the war against the French during the period 1946-1954.

Mountains near Cho Chu Town, Dinh Hoa, Thai Nguyen
Mountains near Cho Chu Town, Dinh Hoa, Thai Nguyen

 I turn into the road and immediately feel relieved by the freshness of the air. The aroma of the mountains and trees is so pleasant. It is surprising that that the road is in good condition and very quiet... There are small ethnic communities on the way, but basically just mountains and forests all the way along. Then, comes a large valley with the township of Cho Chu in the front. It is blue sky, bright sunshine and the temperature is very pleasant. I can't help but stop and get some sips of my hot coffee gazing mindlessly at the towering mountains, the stubbly field and the blue sky...

 

Mountains at Cho Don, Bac Kan
Mountains at Cho Don, Bac Kan

After Cho Chu, it is just quiet again with mountains and forests. There are some ethnic houses nestled in the trees, but not many people encountered on the road. Scenery is beautiful and the atmosphere is  relaxing. It seems to be getting late. After Bang Lung Town of Cho Don District, sunlight becomes weaker and the temperatures drop suddenly. I stop to put on some warm clothes and get the last drops of coffee at an idyllic valley. Smoke is rising from the field but nobody is seen there. Farther, the mountains and trees are becoming darker. By the road side, wild chrysanthemum flowers bring a bit of warmth color to the scene...

The Lu River at Ba Be, Bac KanThe Lu River

Darkness is closing in and the music of the Lu River leads me all the way to Ba Be Lake. It is just pitch dark and the road in the park is in very bad condition. Struggling for a while in the forest, I find a homestay in Pac Ngoi, an ethnic Tay village. A young boy shows me to a simple room in his family house on stilts with some privacy, the shared bathroom is outside. It is so late the family doesn't have much food left, I ask for a huge portion of sizzling hot fried rice. The night goes by so peaceful...