by Nguyen Khanh Chi
While standing in the midst of mountains and forest, I grow speechless as sounds of an ancient lithophone fill the air. Behind me, three glassy waterfalls splash down on rocks.
Mountain marvel: Yang Bay is the largest of the three magnificient waterfalls in the park. — VNS Photos Nguyen Khanh Chi
|Musical: Artist Cao Dy instructs a tourist on how to play the lithophone, made of stones.
The one-hour trip by coach from Nha Trang City to the Yang Bay Tourism Park is immediately worth it as my eyes and ears feast on stunning views and sounds.
Little is known about the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa's inland tourism attractions. Yang Bay Park, 45km west of Nha Trang, is one such destination.
Located in Khanh Vinh District, the ecological tourist park covers over 570ha and attracts many visitors, both domestic and foreign, with its protected forests, diverse wildlife and sublime waterfalls.
About 5km from the main road, one can feel the difference in temperature at the park entrance, as well as the serenity of the surrounding landscape. The park, en route from Nha Trang to Da Lat, is said to have the typically cool weather of Da Lat. For this reason, the park attracts its highest number of tourists in the summer from June to August.
Of the park's three magnificent waterfalls, the largest is Yang Bay, a wide fall with steps going down as much as 100m. A side path brings one to the top of the falls, a place with a great photo opportunity.
The main falls have been modified, and some swimming areas have been artificially created, but the overall feel is fairly natural and quite beautiful.
Sounds of the forest
According to the vice director of the Yang Bay Tourism Park, Nguyen Phi Truong, traditional music performed by local artists is the most attractive entertainment activity at the park.
|Fun and games: Pig racing, based on local ethnic customs, brings new and exciting experience for tourists.
"Foreign tourists are quite impressed with the performances, while domestic ones express their surprise that there is such a professional art troupe in Khanh Hoa," said Truong.
The mountain area of the province is known for Yang Bay Waterfall and the Raglay ethnic minority who have settled in the area. The Raglay have maintained their traditional music, and entertain travellers with songs from bamboo clarinets and lithophones made of stones, known as dan da.
"These amazing people are proud of their musical ability and are happy to entertain visitors. They even create many of their own instruments," said Truong.
"One of the musicians showed me some traditional songs on the stunning lithophone. It is amazing," said a tourist from Australia, Richard Henderson, after giving a try on the instrument by the waterfall.
Henderson also mentions artist Cao Dy – the only person who can make and play all of the instruments such as the chapi, t'rung, tacung flute, and taleploi clarinet, which the Raglay use in their festivals. Dy later sat on a cliff and played his handmade taleploi.
"I'm amazed by the flute-like sound and am glad that he invited me to his house to learn more about his passion for music."
Apart from this ‘cultural speciality', the park offers visitors a range of entertainment activities, including crocodile and bear ‘fishing', operational early in the year.
"Of course, it's just for fun," Truong said. "For ‘bear fishing', visitors stand on a platform, 2,5m above the bear cage, and use a rod with some food at the end to snare the bears."
Truong added that games such as crossbow shooting or pig racing are based on local ethnic customs and bring about new and exciting experience for tourists.
"Feeding the crocodiles was fun but terrifying," said American tourist Ken Jones, adding that he was particularly taken by the 4,500sq.m crocodile farm.
Thanks to the enormous area of forest, there are also personal trekking tours designed for tourists.
"Trekking tours here are a bit different from what is normally seen. Tourists are encouraged to discover caves or animal traps of local people years ago," Truong said.
He added that during the final months of last year – the low season – the park received more than 1,000 foreign visitors each week.
After working up an appetite from hiking and swimming, tourists can stop at Yang Bay Restaurant, built in the traditional architectural style of the highlands.
Dishes of crocodile and ostrich meat are among the specialities which provide tourists with a unique taste of the mountainous area.
"It's easy to see why this part of south-central Viet Nam attracts people from all over the world," said Henderson.
"From the laid back atmosphere of the magical islands and beaches to the ancient temples in the heart of Nha Trang, there is so much to discover and enjoy here. Exploring and meeting members of the different ethnic groups gives you a sense of the diversity and beauty of Viet Nam." — VNS