When you visit Hanoi it might be hard to imagine that just 60km west of Vietnam’s capital is a tranquil national park where you can delve into nature and breathe in fresh mountain air! Ba Vi National Park is the perfect destination for a day trip in Northern Vietnam, especially if you need an excuse to go on a fun motorbike tour as it’s a very tolerable 3-4 hour round trip from Hanoi, with or without Vietnamese travel agents.
Ba Vi National Park in all its glory (Source: Internet)
Getting to Ba Vi is fairly straightforward: take the Thang Long Highway from Hanoi and follow the signs to Son Tay and Ba Vi. One of the first things you’ll notice as you leave Hanoi’s city limits is the sense of a thriving agricultural community and pride in its local produce, especially sua tuoi (fresh milk). The further from Hanoi you drive, the more signs you will see advertising ‘Sua Tuoi’ and the more your curiosity will make you crave a taste of the local dairy products. If you get the chance, ask your Vietnam local travel agency to stop and try the sua chua (yogurt) - it’s so creamy and smooth!
You must try the local sua tuoi or sua chua on your Ba Vi day trip (Source: Internet)
It takes 1.5 to 2 hours to get to the entrance of Ba Vi National Park but the journey seems a lot shorter. Perhaps this is because you pass through many little towns and farmlands so you always have interesting new wonders to look at along the way.
At the entrance you’ll need to go to the toll booth to purchase an entrance ticket for around 60,000 VND per person for the day (which should be included if you book a Vietnam travel agent in Hanoi). There’s also a large sign showing a map of the National Park which is handy to take a photo of with your phone so you can refer back to it if needed, but the roads aren’t too complicated to navigate without it.
Ba Vi National Park entrance
The adventure truly begins once you’ve been granted access to the National Park and you start driving up the mountain road. The twists and turns of the road make for a fun ride and the further and further you ascend, the more breathtaking the views become. The lush tropical rainforest covering the mountain shades parts of the road making the breeze crisp and cool as it gently rushes past you.
The winding mountain road of Ba Vi National Park
Ba Vi National Park was once a French colonial summer camp holiday destination and many ruins of these resorts remain to this day. You will come across various French ruin sites on your way up the mountain road, with the first site having a pleasant hiking loop track and only takes around 30 minutes for you to walk and explore the ruins along the trail.
Out of all the ruins, the pièce de résistance has to be the church which is surprisingly well preserved, considering the wild tropical flora climbing up and around its walls. The ruins make for alluring photographic subjects or, as was the case when I visited, beautiful settings for couples’ wedding photos!
The beautiful ruins of a French colonial church (Source: Internet)
Keep driving along the road to the top and you’ll see entrances to the mountaintop temples: one entrance leads to Mountain God Temple on Tan Vien Peak, and the other leads to Ho Chi Minh Temple on King Peak - the topmost peak of Ba Vi mountain at 1296m. The climb to Mountain God Temple is over 600 steps and the climb to Ho Chi Minh Temple is over 1300.
I won’t pretend it’s an easy jaunt to either temple but the prizes are absolutely worth it when you get to the top of the steps. Each temple is unique and the views from each are very different so it’s impossible to say which one is better than the other! All that can be said is for you to take your time to visit both and judge them for yourself. Do ask about these stops if you go with Vietnamese travel agents as well!
View from the top of Ba Vi mountain (Source: Internet)
If you don’t travel with Vietnamese travel agents, you may be surprised to find out there is an amusement park in Ba Vi which can keep thrillseekers and children alike entertained for hours. The resort at Ao Vua consists of a water park, a manmade waterfall, dozens of amusement rides (such as a rollercoaster, dogdems, 5D cinema, etc) and is covered with various animal and cartoon statues - making the stroll around the park highly amusing!
The entrance fee to the park is only 150,000 VND per person and is well worth it for an unexpected, nostalgic journey back to your childlike, playful self.
The manmade waterfall at Ao Vua amusement park (Source: Internet)
The road to and from the amusement park, from the entrance of Ba Vi National Park, is an attraction in itself. The drive with Vietnamese travel agents takes you through quaint farming communities where you’ll see handbuilt straw huts and large bounties from rice harvests spread onto the road surfaces to dry out in the sun. Dodging and weaving through the rice and straw drying on the roads makes the ride all the more interesting and gives you a peek into the lives of these hard-working farmers.
The dreamy wooded area you’ll pass on your drive up the mountain road in Ba Vi (Source: Internet)
According to travel agents in Vietnam themselves, the best time of year to visit Ba Vi National Park is between April - September when it’s cooler and drier. However, Ba Vi has a fairly pleasant climate most of the year, as long as you don’t visit when it’s raining as this makes the road slippery, dangerous and it will be a less enjoyable experience overall! If you like flowers, you should visit Ba Vi between October - November when wildflowers are in bloom and their yellow petals shine brightly to signal that winter is coming.
Visit Ba Vi in October - November to witness the wildflowers in bloom (Source: Internet)
After visiting Ba Vi, and returning to the city Hanoi, you’ll reflect on the immense beauty of the untouched landscape and how content nature can make us. It’s healthy for us to escape urban areas sometimes for some peace and quiet, and what better reason to do this than when you’re visiting the country with Vietnamese travel agents?