The Northeast Loop (Cao Bang to Lang Son) Day Three

The Northeast Loop (Cao Bang to Lang Son) Day Three

The next morning we continued on and headed West riding out of Lang Son on Ben Bac Road, passing along the north bank of the Ky Cung River. It was an invigorating way to start our day. The river quickly snakes through a valley dotted with relatively short, mole like limestone hills appearing as though they were covered in moss. After a half hour we turned left on a bridge crossing the river which took us to highway QL1B going to the small towns Van Quan and Binh Gia. This cultivated jungle was as lush as any we had seen and was full of aromatic perfumes with star anise drying along the roadside.

In Binh Gia we turned left , heading south, remaining on highway QL1B going to Bac Son. The road climbed steadily, as it passed through the forested limestone karsts. The roadside view down onto the valley floor below was amazing.

The reputation of Bac Son’s considerable beauty was well earned. The town is surrounded by rice fields that were so brightly colored it seemed as though each blade of grass had been magically charged by a electrical current. The vibrant fields of rice were encircled by yet more limestone karst which added an unusually dramatic flare to this typically rural setting. The ethnic minorities living here reside in brick houses made from brick, wood, thatch and tile roofs. The tiles, we witnessed being made in a tile factory on the road into town.

The locals living in Bac Son Town were warm and friendly and unusually well spoken. We felt unusually welcomed by these happy villagers.

We spent the night in an unusual and uncommonly welcoming Homestay about 2km behind Bac Son Town. The simple sleeping space consisted of a soft mattress and mosquito net spread across a wooden floor. The price of $11 included dinner and breakfast so it was a real bargain. It was still early afternoon so we opted to ride the recommended and scenic 60 Km Bac Son Loop. The ride turned out to be well worth the effort, passing through a green, fresh landscape causing me to mentally compare it to a crisp dinner salad.

The next morning we arose early and rode north on Road QL279 towards Yen Lac. It the narrow road consisted of a small but well paved country lane. QL279 is an extremely mountainous road that eventually ends to the west in Diem Bien Phu. This particular section took us through Bac Kan Province which is the most scarcely populated province in Vietnam. The ride was fun as it was easy, passing through warm forested mountains on a lightly traveled road featuring spectacular landscapes. The area was scarcely populated remote, minority in habited, villages.

This is the heart of where the Viet Bac region, which was a revolutionary strong hold in the 1940’s. Here, Ho Chi Minh and his followers would hide from the French authorities by taking cover in the surrounding steep sided valleys and thickly tangled forested jungles.

Due to the serious road deterioration we had to turn off QL279 at Ban Giang and detour onto another scenic road just south of Yen Lac. We turned right on this newly paved road and climbed up and then descended into a beautiful valley where we turned left onto QL3. We traveled several kilometers on this very scenic road until reaching the town of Phu Thong.

At Phu Thong we took a sharp right to the north on the newly reconstructed Road TL258. This beautiful road led to the crossroads town of Choy Ra, which is known as the entrance to Lake Ba Be. We immediately fell in love with this little town and decided to spend the night before continuing on to Lake Ba Be the next day. We stayed at the comfortable hotel Khach San Hoa Sim. The rooms were large and included balconies with a nice view for only 300,000 VND per night.

Ba Be Lake

We were excited to see Lake Ba Be so we arose early the next morning and were soon on our way down road TL258. We paid the 25,000 VND each at the ticket kiosk and entered the park. The road to the lake was amazing. The conservation area showed a demonstrable change in the landscape as the foliage was thick and the trees were taller with knotted and gnarled trunks. Everything seemed to be on a grander scale with nature projecting a bigger natural influence. It was a welcome change in our environment we felt as we cruised on toward the highly anticipated lake.

Then suddenly, it came into view and we were actually startled by it’s dominate presence and magnificent splendor. The large body of placid water was so impressive, quietly sitting there, surrounded by the jungled limestone mountains towering above.

Narrow wooden motorboats ferrying locals and tourists were sprinkled across the lake. We followed the lakeside road to the right along the shoreline until we came to a cove containing the source of the narrow wooden boats. Here they were searching for customers to show around the lake. We hired one with a smiling cheerful captain and headed out to see what adventures we could find on this beautiful day in this spectacular setting.

 To Be Continued 

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