As a nature lover, I take a trip to Ba Vi National Park almost once every two months. I am lured not only by the convenient road leading to the nearest “green world” to the capital, but also the pleasant feelings that overwhelm me when my lungs fill with fresh air and my eyes feast on the trees and lakes there.
The park also attracts me as it changes through the seasons. In spring, the forest is highlighted with striking colours of wild peach blossoms and apricot flowers, while in summer the dense forest is dryer and brighter with light sunshine beaming down through thick layers of leaves. Autumn covers most of the trees with yellow coats and winter seems to bring a fresh cool air to the space.
Located in the middle of the northern plain, Ba Vi (Three Peaks) is mentioned in the ancient legend of the Mountain God Tan Vien, and is said to be his final resting place.
The highest peak, known as King Peak, is 1,296m, followed by Tan Vien Peak (Mountain God) at 1,227m and Ngoc Hoa Peak at 1,131m. There is a temple dedicated to President Ho Chi Minh on King Peak and another to worship the Mountain God on Tan Vien Peak.
At the entrance to the park is Tien Sa Tourism Site, where a 20ha lake is surrounded by a 120ha forest.
“Its clear crystal waters make it an ideal destination for fishing lovers like me,” said retiree Tran Huu Canh, who drives here almost every weekend from Ha Noi to relax.
The site is divided into several themed zones to suit various ages, including a water park of 3,000sq.m with three swimming pools and nine slides and a games area of 2,500sq.m.
Young people can enjoy boating or play tennis, football, volleyball and badminton.
“Dancing and singing by the bonfire while tasting local delicacies like baked corn, sweet potatoes and grilled meat in the middle of the immense forest is inspiring,” said director of the site Banh Anh Tuan.
Following the sloping zigzagging 12km road from the park gate gives visitors a chance to see the rich local flora and fauna. The park is home to more than 1,200 kinds of plants, 21 of which are mentioned in Viet Nam’s Red Book. There are also 63 species of animals.
According to Nguyen Xuan Tan, a guide from the park, some old vestiges of the French occupation have recently been opened to the public at 1,000m above sea level thanks to the upgraded road leading to the ruins.
“There are not many documents on the French ruins available,” Tan told Viet Nam News. “The management board is trying to gather first-hand accounts from people who were alive at the time to provide tourists with a clearer picture.”
A French document dating back to the 1930s mentions the French planned to build three resorts at heights of 400, 600 and 1,000m above sea level, and were particularly keen on developing the highest one. Between 1932 and 1944, they built various facilities like a hostel, playground, church, orphanage and military basement that we can still see today.
A jail was also built in the 1930s capable of holding up to 200 prisoners, and some of the implements used to torture the prisoners are on display.
An unforgettable trek
Tan said that a new trekking route had been opened leading up to some of the parks oldest trees, mostly Bach Xanh (calocedrus macrolepis). Hundreds of them flourish at an altitude of 1,000m, and the tree offers fine wood with a gentle fragrance which is easily processed into furniture and houses.
For me, waiting for the scarce rays of light to leak through the dense layers of leaves to capture the perfect photo of the old forest is a unique moment.
At the end of the road, climbing over 1,000 steps leading to the temples on King Peak or Tan Vien Peak is another unforgettable experience.
I could not find the proper words to describe my feelings as I stood in the clouds at the top of King Peak watching the scenic landscape below after the tough trek.
From King Peak, the scenery looks like a huge painting with giant “strokes” of green grass fields, yellow rice crops and the Da River zigzagging through the undulating hills.
Admiring the live “painting” and taking a deep breath of misty air, I felt like a minute part of the immense wonder of nature.