One of the greatest things about living in Hanoi is it’s location. It is possible to drive to the countryside in less than two hours. When we were growing tired of the cities hustle and bustle, we asked a local where they’d go to get a break and some fresh air. When she suggested Ba Vi National Park we were a little surprised.
Having researched places to visit close to Hanoi, Ba Vi was not an obvious suggestion. In fact we had never actually heard of it before.
The park is very popular with the locals looking for an escape from the city and does not seem to attract many tourists. We thought we’d give it a try and planned a 2 day trip.
Getting from Hanoi from Ba Vi
There are a few different ways to get to Ba Vi from Hanoi. All are pretty simple.
Most guest houses and hotels will arrange a taxi to collect you from Hanoi for a reasonable price. We paid $50 for a return taxi to collect us from Hanoi.
The road to Ba Vi is wide and straight. It is an easy drive from Hanoi and will only take about 1.5 hours. If you do not have your own bike, it is possible to rent one for two days to make the journey yourself.
If you do decide to go by motorbike, you should consider getting a geared or semi-automatic bike. Ba Vi is not flat by any means and getting around on an automatic would be a nightmare/merely impossible.
Buses run regularly from Hanoi Bus Station to Ba Vi and it’s a relatively easy route with only a few stops. The journey takes around 2.5 hours.
This is the cheapest option.
What to do in Ba Vi
It is possible to visit Ba Vi for one day, but I’d suggest two if you’d like to make the most of it. I would also suggest checking the weather before making any final plans.
When we arrived in Ba Vi and checked into our homestay, we rented a bike to explore the area. Something I would definitely suggest you do if you want to make the most of your time there.
The bike we were given was a semi-automatic, something we had not yet encountered. Eddie did his best. He only managed to put serious strain on the engine 4 or 5 times before he realised he couldn’t accelerate and change gear at the same time. You know, a bit like a car…idiot.
We made the decision to visit Ba Vi as a typhoon was heading towards us from the East (idiots). We were advised against it, but went ahead with our trip anyway. In the torrential downpour we made our way to the National Park entrance.
When we arrived, the lady at the kiosk tried to explain why we could not enter the park. After some difficult conversation using google translate I finally realised she was saying “LANDSLIDE”.
At first we thought this might be something to do with the fact we were tourists. In reality, I’m pretty sure it was just a landslide.
We soon realised that this was a common problem faced by the park during bad weather. It was pretty clear the mountainside might have a tendency to slip under the strain of some heavy rainfall. As mountainsides do.
We made a last minute change of plan and headed to nowhere with no plan and drove to the next thing we saw.
Khoang Xanh Suối Tiên Theme Park
We came across the famous waterpark and paid 150k ($9) each to enter. The park itself was absolutely deserted. In fact we only passed 3 other people the whole time we were in there!
Something to do with the persistent rainfall I imagine.
Weather aside the park is impressive. Surrounded by thick green forest spread across mountainsides you feel as though you are in the middle of a rainforest.
We spent a good 4 hours driving around the park and ditching the bike to hike up random paths in the forest. We came across 3 different waterfalls and spent a good amount of time admiring the parks natural beauty.
The waterfalls are some of the highest and most powerful I have ever seen. Amazing to discover when you’re aimlessly driving and walking.
At the base of the waterfalls there are numerous different natural and man made pools, which you can swim in when the weather is more pleasant.
It did seem a little strange as the waterpark itself was deserted and didn’t look like it had been in use for while. There were dried up slides, empty swimming pools and baron restaurants.
Odd to say the least, but very interesting to explore!
Ba Vi National Park
On the second day the rain had eased and the park had reopened. We made our way to the park at around 9am and spent the majority of the day there.
Entry to the park was 80,000 VND ($3) for both our bike and us.
Once you’ve entered the park you are on one winding road leading all the way to the base of the Ho Chi Minh temple. This is where a geared bike is necessary. It is one road that just goes up!
On this road there are various different places you can stop to get a view of the countryside. In the distance you can get a glimpse of Hanoi and the smog that hangs above it.
About half way up the mountain you will pass through Ba Vi Resort where you can stop to grab a bite to eat. The resort itself is very popular with hiking groups and tourists wanting to make the journey to the Ho Chi Minh temple by foot.
During the French Colonisation of Vietnam, the French built a holiday resort in Ba Vi. The ruins can be found at various points just of the road up the mountain.
We would suggest leaving your bike at the base of the various side roads that disappear into the misty forest and explore them by foot. The ruins themselves are eerie and even more so in the misty thick forest. The perfect set for a horror film.
The remains of the church are particularly creepy.
Or they would have been if it weren’t for the 8 year old dressed to the nines at her birthday photo shoot sound tracked by thumping Vietnamese techno. The mood was some what ruined.
Don’t let this put you off though. I’m sure this isn’t usually the case.
Ho Chi Minh and Thuong Temple
As you continue up the mountain and into the depths of the clouds you will arrive at the base of two temples. Easy to find, as it is the highest point you are able to reach by bike.
Here you have no choice but to park your bike and tackle the 1000+ steps by foot.
The 1000+ steps wind through thick misty forest and are broken up with various benches where you can catch your breath. You will need them.
Once at the top you will find the Ho Chi Minh temple. The temple itself is relatively new but still impressive.
I imagine the view from the top is incredible, however we cannot comment. At this point we could only see about a meter in front of us.
We didn’t care though. The sound of the ceremony coming through the heavy mist from the temple created an incredible atmosphere. The kind that makes your hair stand on end.
From the car park there is another set of steps that lead to the Thuong Temple.
The 600+ steps lead to a second temple, however this was not a challenge we were willing to take. Tired from our initial climb, we opted to make out way back down the mountain to grab some well earned food.
Where to Eat
Eddie and I decided to stop at the Ba Vi Resort on our way back down the mountain to grab some food. We were able to get a few traditional Vietnamese dishes for a reasonable price and they were delicious.
At this stage the cloud cover had lifted slightly and we had an incredible view over Ba Vi from our table.
If you’re planning on making the trek to the top of the mountain to see the Ho Chi Minh Temple I would suggest you task some snacks. The locals seem to take picnics with them and set up on the side of the road to eat.
Something I wish we had done.
What to be wary of
Ba Vi is very damp and is surrounded by dense forest, lakes, pools and waterfalls. Prime conditions for a variety of insects, and more surprisingly, crabs.
During our trip we encountered an array of different insects, many of which we had never seen before. The worst being leeches.
Eddie had a bright idea and decided we should go off the beaten track to explore some of the jungle. Not the best idea when you aren’t really wearing any protective clothing.
We stopped to look at a leech on the path having never seen one before, interested in the way it followed Eddie’s hand. Meanwhile this leech had told his leech friends and they were making their way up our shoes to our ankles to suck our blood.
We managed to fight the surprisingly persistent and hard to kill leeches from our skin. Only one managed to latch itself to my ankle through my sock!
Luckily I removed it before it removed a decent amount of my blood.
Safe to say we won’t be going off the beaten track in a jungle unprepared again. Idiots.
Where to stay
We stayed at Ba Vi Homestead just on the outskirts of the park, just a ten-minute drive from the entrance.
The homestay is very basic, but it was all we needed. And for $18 a night, we can’t complain.
The food offered in the restaurant was a mix of local and western dishes. The outdoor restaurant sits under a canopy and here you can play various board games to keep you occupied in the evening.
The homestay also arranged for us to rent a bike for a small fee.
Would we go Back?
We loved our trip to Ba Vi. It was the perfect escape from the city and really convenient to get to.
At times we really did feel as though we were miles away from anyone or anything. Just surrounded by dense forest and waterfalls. Ideal.
We will definitely be going back. Only this time we may check the weather forecast and listen to the locals.