Du lịch hồ Ba Bể
A Foreigner’s Quick Guide to Babe
Lauri Silvennoinen Helsinki, Finland Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This short memo lists the essentials when travelling to the Babe lakes from Thai Nguyen City. It is solely based on the author’s journey experience on the 8th to 9th of November, and should only be taken as a guideline.
• There are no ATMs at Cho Ra or Babe, so take enough cash with you. For a weekend trip for a group of five persons, we found 2 000 000VND sufficient to cover all costs (total cost for all persons). That is 400 000VND per person.
• Take a bus from Thai Nguyen to Cho Ra via Bac Kan. The bus leaves at 06:30 o’clock from Thai Nguyen and the bus trip takes approximately four hours. One way cost is 50 000VND.
• The road from Thai Nguyen to Babe is in good condition. It is asphalted all the way and has only little holes and bumps. From Thai Nguyen to Bac Kan the road has two (four in the city center) lanes and therefore allows relatively fast speeds. Shortly after Bac Kan, the road changes to a narrower one lane mountainous serpentine road. The asphalt is still good but the speed drops to around 30km/h. This part of the road is prone to landslides, so don’t travel on heavy rain or within a couple of days of such a rain.
• There is a short half way break at the mountainous road lasting 15 minutes. Snacks and beverages are sold at a hut.
• When the bus arrives at Cho Ra, don’t waste time there but try to find transportation to Babe as soon as possible. There are two stops at Cho Ra; at the main bus station and at a bridge about two to three kilometers after the bus station. Apparently there are some buses from Cho Ra to Babe but their schedule is somewhat random and the time interval between two consecutive buses is relatively long. If you decide to get a bus from Cho Ra to Babe the main bus station is the best place to get off from the Thai Nguyen bus, otherwise get off at the bridge and take a motorbike (xe om) to cover the rest of the distance.
• Remember to ask when the bus leaves back to Thai Nguyen on Sunday to avoid unpleasant surprises. Bear in mind that the bus driver may favor his own bus and thus give biased information related to other buses.
• A motorbike costs 50 000VND per person and it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to travel the distance (17km) between Cho Ra and Babe.
• If you’re feeling hungry after the bus trip from Thai Nguyen to Cho Ra, it is a good idea to eat a lunch at Cho Ra.
• There are no shops at Babe, so buy food, snacks and drinks from Cho Ra. Dinner is available at the guest house in Babe, but it is better to bring all additional food and drinks with you – including the food you will eat for breakfast next morning.
• The main means of travelling at Babe is by boat. Renting a boat costs 350 000VND for a maximum of five hours and 450 000VND for a maximum of seven hours. If you want to visit both of the main sights, the cave and the waterfalls, it is better to take the seven hour option. The price for the boat is the same regardless of how many people are onboard. Again, do not waste time here when booking the boat; just pay the price and proceed. The time is around 12:00 to 1:00 when you arrive at Babe so there are not too many hours before the dark – considering you have paid the boat for seven hours.
• Once you have paid the money, the driver will take you anywhere you like. Practically only one way to travel exists because there are two main sights and a limited amount of time.
A sketched map of Babe
• Cross the lake with the boat and arrange accommodation at the other side of the lake. A walk of 200 meters takes you to the first guest houses (nha nghi) but there are several options along the way (200m to 800m from the lake side) so you have where to choose from.
• Accommodation for five persons for one night including a dinner costs 450 000VND (night stay 200 000VND and 250 000VND for the dinner). Fresh fish from the lake is served. Drinks are not included in the price.
• At least two optional locations for staying overnight exist, but we found our choice of accommodation satisfying. See the sketched map for details.
• Once you have booked the accommodation, you can leave your stuff at the guest house and go back to the boat. If you have valuables or large amounts of cash consider taking them with you instead of leaving them at the guest house. There are no lockers and the locks of the room door are not that good.
• Travel to Puong cave first since the cave is not artificially illuminated and it’s better to go there before the dusk. There’s a short path inside the cave. It’s a good idea to bring a torch with you.
• After the cave, travel to the waterfalls. Again, a short path leads to the waterfalls.
• Return to the guest house. If the night is clear moonlight is enough to guide you home.
• You will have to return to back to Thai Nguyen relatively early next day, so go to bed early enough to allow an early (5:00 to 6:00) awakening the next morning.
• On Sunday, you have time to spend at Babe until noon. One option is to walk (or to take a motorbike) to the local market. It might be a good idea to walk there and take a motorbike back. The river (about 20cm deep) crossing the road to the market flows over the road so you will have to cross the road barefooted. The market is about 2km from the guest house.
• Take a boat back to the arrival point for 5 000VND per person. 40 000 VND will buy you a short trip circling around the lake and then returning to the arrival point.
• If you are lucky you can catch a bus back to Cho Ra. Otherwise take a motorbike for the same price when you arrived, 50 000VND per person.
• The bus back to Thai Nguyen leaves at 12:30 from Cho Ra. Later departures exist, but 12:30 bus is the same bus that you arrived with to Cho Ra on Saturday. Apparently the latest departure is 14:00 but make sure that such a departure exists before counting on it.
• Get on to the bus at the main bus station, not at the bridge. The bus arrives from Thai Nguyen to the bus station, stays there for a while and then drives to the bridge and back to get passengers. The bus will be packed with passengers and the seats will be occupied already at the bus station, so get on to the bus as early as possible.
• Finally, there is a half way stop after Bac Kan. Sticky rice in bamboo sticks and beverages are available.
See the last page for some pictures from Babe.
The halfway stop from Thai Nguyen to Cho Ra
Babe lake as seen from the arrival point
Guest house at Babe
Native people village
Nagn river at the evening
The market of Babe
The halfway stop from Cho Ra to Thai Nguyen
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