Viet Nam News
By Đăng Lâm – Ngô Hùng
“Our boats keep sailing back and forth. Against the silvery currents our oars keep moving...”
These lyrics from the song Hồ Trên Núi (Lake on the Mountain) by renowned Vietnamese song composer Phó Đức Phương are very familiar to many Vietnamese. But few people know the song was composed after the author’s trip to Cấm Sơn Lake in the northern province of Bắc Giang.
A trip to Cấm Sơn Lake helped us understand why this lake is an inspiration for so many songs and poems.
Cấm Sơn Lake is a huge man-made lake located some 300m above sea level. It is surrounded by villages of many ethnic groups, such as Nùng, Tày, Cao Lan and Sán Chí, with diverse cultures and colourful ethnic markets in the mountains.
There are many roads which visitors can choose to travel to the lake, such as national highway 31 from Bắc Giang City to Chũ Town - or national highway 1A from Đình Lập District in the northern province of Lạng Sơn. We chose provincial road 297, which is full of twists and turns but still tempts adventurous travellers.
Two villagers from Kép 1 Village volunteered to accompany us to Cấm Sơn Lake. Thanks to the funny stories told by our two enthusiastic and humorous tour guides, the 25km forest stretch seemed shorter and more interesting.
We were immediately stunned by the natural beauty on arriving at the lake. The fragile sunlight of the early morning radiated through the thin layer of mist above the water, creating sparkling rays of light. At that moment, Cấm Sơn Lake looked like a giant natural mirror amidst vast poetic forests.
The lake is normally some 2,600ha large. But in the rainy season, when the water level is higher, it may swell to 3,000ha. In the centre of the lake are hundreds of islands of all shapes and sizes, on which fruits and vegetables are grown by local people. Because of such a large number of islands, Cấm Sơn Lake has been compared with Hạ Long Bay, Việt Nam’s natural wonder.
Sailing gently on the calm water, our boat passed the villages appearing through lush gardens. The sound of the boat’s engine disrupted the peace of the surroundings. We caught sight of some storks spreading their wings and dashing above the water to seek shelter.
The feeling of purity and coolness gradually permeated our senses. It was so pleasant that each of us tried to inhale as much fresh air deep into our chest as possible, which is next to impossible in the noisy urban areas where we live and work.
It is easy to understand why visitors feel close to nature when they come here. They merge with the surroundings and enjoy the pure atmosphere, the beauty of the mountains, the water and the sky above.
Catch of the day: Locals prize Cấm Sơn Lake fish. -- Photo baotintuc.vn
After basking in the natural beauty, we visited a special floating house which belongs to Lương Đức Cường and Vi Thị Khoa of the Cấm Sơn Commune. It is also the first floating house to serve tourists in the area.
The two hosts happily invited us into their house and served us some specialty wine made of local herbs by the family. In the cozy atmosphere, Cường and Khoa surprised us with a wonderful performance of the song Mountain on the Lake by composer Phó Đức Phương.
We were also treated to our favourite dish, boiled snails, which went perfectly with the local wine. Enjoying the hot boiled snails, we felt extremely moved by the hospitality and the modest but sincere affection of the locals for us as tourists.
When night fell, Cấm Sơn Lake suddenly became very noisy with the sounds of boat engines of villagers about to cast their nets. For the past several years, the lake has been the main source of food and income for people from the Hộ Đáp, Sơn Hải, Cấm Sơn and Tân Sơn Communes who live around the lake. Nearly all the local families own fishing equipment, such as nets, fishing rods and baskets.
“Villagers only catch a lot of fish in warm weather - especially in April and May when there is more rain and water flows down from the higher levels. Then fish emerge or swim near the shore. So we can harvest heavy nets with catches that weigh up to 20-30kg”, local Vi Văn Hải said.
Like other visitors, we did not miss the chance to satisfy our stomachs with fresh and delicious seafood cooked by villagers during our stay.
Tourism is not well developed in the area around Cấm Sơn Lake. The lake is like a rough gem preserved in the high mountains. Few people visit the area. If you want to take a break from summer heat and urban noise, pack your bags and travel to Cấm Sơn Lake to enjoy fresh cool air and spectacular views. — VNS