Awesome Views Abound in Bach Ma National Park
Setting out by motorbike, we were lead along our ride to Bach Ma by enormous mountains and tranquil ocean waters. The journey down was very enjoyable as the sun remained low in the sky and the seascape radiated with sensations of a remote and secluded retreat. The smell of saltwater and the sticky humidity slowly became more prevalent as the sun crawled its way higher into the sky.
The road to Bach Ma National Park snakes its way up a mountain, bending with each switchback and giving clearer and clearer glimpses of the valley below. Near the base, where my driver and I parted ways, the humidity is thick and heavy as you begin your journey. At this point of the expedition, the top-passing waterfalls appear miniature. Around the 10 km mark, all of the moisture in the air seems to disappear and you have a revelation that out of nowhere you have just risen to a great height. The cool cleanliness of the air is a welcome contrast to the stuffiness so close behind, and the views over the valleys below are nothing short of amazing. The incline was manageable, not exactly something you could ride your bike up, but walking it slowly allowed you to hold a decent pace.
Silence disappears as you approach the heart of Bach Ma National Park, and it is replaced with the buzzing of a lively rainforest. Swarms of wild animals and insects seemingly scream for your attention. In pursuit of spectacular views, I set out for the voluminous waterfall named Thac Do Quyen or Rhododendron Falls. Not easily visible from many locations, the only real way to get the unsurpassed view of Rhododendron Falls I desired was by descending to its base. Following well-marked paths that fluttered with purple winged butterflies, I embarked down a set of 689 slippery steps bound by rusted handrails. In the face of this awesome life force of nature, I edged out onto the lookout point (which I should clarify, could be more commonly associated with a protruding rock). The 300-metre descent produced a humbling sense of accomplishment and spectacular views of such an exquisite natural wonder.
The water, glistening on the rocks and reflecting the bright sunlight, makes a beautiful scene to stop and admire as you rest on the warm stones beneath. It is possible to swim in some of the many pools of Rhododendron Falls, but as I found out from the rangers, it is best to be careful when doing this due to all the leeches. The crystal clear water is rather chilly but is refreshing, and a brisk dip is much deserved after the trek up the mountain.
When to Go to Bach Ma National Park
Bach Ma National Park gets a little busy during the summer months because of the school break in Vietnam. A great time to visit is during the late part of the dry season, around May, which is when the Park is relatively empty. If you are looking for a little outdoors time and are in Vietnam, Bach Ma is a great place to check out. Plenty of activities and things to do make Bach Ma National Park a must see for anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
Odds n' Ends
Bach Ma National Park is located in central Vietnam about 40 km south of Hue and 60 km north of Danang. Tours can be organized rather easily through almost any travel agent in the area for a modest price; which depends on the amount of people in your group. The closest airport is located in Danang. If you prefer to go it alone, a motorbike can be arranged for about US$25 or US$30 per day. The ride from Hue is around an hour long and Danang would be a little longer—an hour and a half, depending on traffic.
Entrance to Bach Ma National Park is 20,000 Dong for an adult (about US$1); however, the bus ride to the top is 500,000 Dong (US$30) so it gets a pricey if you are an individual. It is possible to walk the road to the top but extreme care must be given to the amount of water and food taken with you as there are no places to get water until you reach the restaurant (14 km). This also limits the amount of things you would possibly see in a day as the road is long and can be tiring. If you are walking, the road gets steeper as you approach the top, meaning you should be in fairly decent physical shape to attempt it. The ranger station at the base is 13 km from the first trail, making it a decent hike just to get to the main attractions. There are numerous options for trekking depending on your mood for the day, whether it is waterfalls, animals or just great views throughout.
Camping in Bach Ma is available for those who wish to stay on top (approximately US$6 a day) as well as a guesthouse (100,000-200,000 per night) and a fairly decent restaurant that isn't too pricey. There are three different guesthouses; although the nicest one is on the top, which is located about 1,250 metres above sea level, making it the ideal location to stay.
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