Ba Vi National Park offers ideal vacation close to home
The cool weather and beautiful panoramas of Da Lat and Sa Pa may be too far away for those who have limited time for vacation. A one-day picnic to the Ba Vi National Park might be the ideal option to escape the heat and enjoy life in the clouds.
The haven is a mere 60km or an hour and a half drive from Ha Noi.
Ba Vi has been named one of four ecological tourist sites, along with Da Lat in the central highlands, and Sa Pa and Tam Dao in the north.
The National Park is centred on Mount Ba Vi, an isolated spot situated to the west of Ha Noi. The mountain rises steeply out of a plain that rarely exceeds 30m in elevation. The slopes on the western side of Mt Ba Vi, at an average of 25 degrees, are steeper than those on the east. Above 400m, the slopes on the western side may reach a gradient of 35 degrees and are covered in rocky cliffs. Mt Ba Vi has three peaks: the highest is Vua at 1,296m, followed by Tan Vien at 1,226m and Ngoc Hoa at 1,120m.
Because of the mountainous topography, the climate on Ba Vi varies with altitude. Above 500m, fog enshrouds the top of the mountain on most days.
The special terrain and climate provides Ba Vi with a clean and quiet atmosphere under the green shadows of the thick and interminable forest.
From the gate, a sloping zigzag path leads visitors through the jungle to a 400m high destination. After 30 minutes of walking, cool weather and fresh air awaits.
Visitors can look for and discover traces of French colonial architecture: an ancient church, an orphanage, villas for vacation and a prison built in the 1940s.
With a relatively favourable climate, good infrastructure and close proximity to Ha Noi, Ba Vi already attracts large numbers of visitors. Several tourism companies have developed resorts and visitor attractions in and around the national park and further major tourism resorts are planned.
The higher visitors climb, the thicker the mist and fog they encounter; sometimes one cannot see the faces of companions. At a height of 1,200m, Mt Ba Vi allows tourists to admire the beauty of the landscape, surrounded with clouds reminiscent of Elysium.
From the peak, another 770 steps on the stone staircase to the west leads to Vua Peak, atop which sits President Ho Chi Minh’s Temple, while 225 steps up the east face leads to Thuong Temple, where local residents adore Saint Tan Vien-Son Tinh who is ranked first among the national four immortal saints.
Son Tinh is considered a national hero for fighting floods, waterlogging and foreign aggressors. The saint played a key role in uniting the Viet and Muong peoples.
For those who are still strong, dozens of steps will take them to the Vong Canh (Enjoy a View) Peak, the penultimate height, perpetually cloud-covered year-round. As it name says, the peak is really a nice place to admire the whole panorama of the capital city highlighted with the modern and high buildings which are interposed with green rice fields, parks and zoos.
Except for the Da River on the western side of the national park, Ba Vi has no large, permanent water bodies. Streams in the national park are small, steep sided and fast flowing. In the rainy season, the volume of water flowing through these small watercourses and over the surface of the ground is sometimes sufficient to cause landslides. In the dry season, however, many of the streams are dry.
In Ba Vi National Park, natural forest is mainly distributed at elevations above 600m. The indigenous vegetation of Ba Vi are lowland evergreen forest, lower montane evergreen forest and lower montane mixed coniferous and broadleaf forest. In 1998, the national park supported 4,701ha of forest, comprising 1,710ha of natural forest and 2,991ha of plantation forest. The plantation forest is still, however, in the early stages of development, with only small trees present.
Ba Vi is not only the lung of the capital city but also home to 812 species of vascular plants. The national park also supports 44 mammal species, 114 bird species, 15 reptile species and nine amphibian species.
The forest of Ba Vi National Park is an important source of forest products for local communities. For example, medicinal plant collection is a major economic activity in the area. Between 1997 and 1998, an estimated 250 tonnes of medicinal plants were extracted from the national park. It has been estimated that 80 per cent of the Dao ethnic group in Ba Vi commune extract medicinal plants, which is their second most important source of income.
Ba Vi is also an important site for education and scientific research. The park managers are currently building a research centre which will play an important role for scientists and students. The centre is being set up with separate areas for birds, medicinal herbs, and a garden for specimen trees which aims to preserve rare genes.
At the root of Mt Ba Vi, there is also a place that not many Vietnamese people have chance to see as all visitors must ask for permission from the President Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Management Board.
The destination is K-9, where President Ho Chi Minh lived and his embalmed corpse was taken care of between 1969-75.
In 1956 President Ho paused here for lunch during his visit to Division 316. Finding it a clean and fresh place, he chose it as the shelter place for the national leaders in case the American war spread to the North.
After his leave, some apartments and a fortification system were built and named K-9. The construction, which was designed to be in harmony with nature, became an occasional home for the President, who with other Vietnamese leaders, would come to work and rest.
K-9’s apartments were designed with large corridors which would make the house warm in the winter but fresh and cool in the summer. This area has remained virtually unchanged as it was not affected by the war.
(Source: Viet Nam News, URL:http://english.vietnamnet.vn/travel/2008/09/805757/)
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