BA VI NATIONAL PARK
Ba Vi National Park (tell: 881205; admission 6000d) is centered on scenic Ba Vi Mountain (Nui Ba Vi) and attracts Hanoians looking for a weekend escape from the city. The park has several rare ‘flying’ squirrel. Human encroachment on the area has made the chances of seeing any of them pretty rare.
There’s an orchid garden and a bird garden, and hiking opportunities through the forested slopes of the mountain. There’s also a temple to Uncle Ho at the mountain’s summit (1276m) – it’s a hard but beautiful 30-minute climb up 1229 steps through the forest – with spectacular views of the Red River valley and Hanoi in the distance. At least there are views between April and December when the air is clear; at other times it’s damp and misty but eerily atmospheric. The road to the summit car park is scarily steep, slippery and narrow, but road widening was due for completion by 2003.
Ba Vi Guesthouse (tell: 881197; rooms with fan/air-con US$8/10) in the park rents rooms with bath. Prices go up about US$2 per rooms o weekends, and there’s a big swimming pool used in the summer months. Ask for one of the less-noisy guesthouses away from the pool and restaurant area if you’re there on a weekend. You must have your passport with you to check into the guesthouse here; one traveller we know of was sent back to Hanoi because he had forgotten to bring it along. Even if you don’t stay here, check out the fantastic, creative English-language version of the guesthouse rules in the guest rooms!
Despite its unpromising appearance, the park restaurant serves good, cheap, fresh-cooked food; a tasty meal for three costs around 35,000d so make this your lunch stop if you’re on day tour, combining the park with Thay and Tay Phuong Pagodas. The toilets are disgusting – pee behind a tree.
Ba Vi National Park is about 65km west of Hanoi, and presently the only practical option for visiting is by hired vehicle (see the Thay & Tay Phuong Pagoda section). You could check with the travel café in Hanoi to see if any day tours are operation.
There has been some confusion between attractions near Ba Vi town, which is well away from the park boundaries, and Ba Bi National Park. The waterfall at Ao Vua (King’ Pond) is near Ba Vi town, and about 14km further north are Suoi Mo cold springs. These are more developed and very busy at weekends, so make sure your driver knows which destination you want.