Viet Nam News
By Mộc Miên
One of the highest mountain peaks in the South Việt Nam, Mt Bà Đen, also known as Black Virgin Mountain, has long become a favourite for adventurous travellers and veteran mountain trekkers.
Mt. Bà Đen is situated in the Núi Bà cultural and historical monument ensemble in Thạnh Tân Village, Hòa Thành Commmune, 11 kilometres away from Tây Ninh Town to the northeast. At 986 metres, Bà Đen has the highest peak in Southeast Việt Nam. Veiled with clouds almost all-year round, the peak is also called Vân Sơn. From a great distance, Mt. Bà Đen looks like a giant nón (conical hat) sitting with charm and grace amid the lush delta.
I love trekking and mounting Black Virgin. A night on Black Virgin allowed me to feel fresh air and experience isolation from people. As I have done on other treks, I brought a Minsk motorbike, medicine, food, water, a sleeping bag, map, etc. Of course there are services, but carefully preparing oneself is a must for any backpacker. From my experience, here are some tips before you travel to Mt. Bà Đen:
From HCM City, you can choose either bus or motorbike.
To reach the mountain, you must catch 2 bus trips: one from Bến Thành market (HCM City) to Gò Dầu (Tây Ninh Province), the other from Gò Dầu to Long Hoa.
With motorbike, you follow the National Highway (QL) 22 toward Tây Ninh. At Gò Dầu Commune (Tây Ninh), the QL 22 splits into 2 routes: QL 22A (toward Mộc Bài) and QL 22B (toward Tây Ninh Town, Xa Mát border gate). Follow QL 22B, along which you get to gaze at the tranquil, lush Vàm Cỏ Đông River. Arriving at Tây Ninh Town, drive only 5km farther down to finally reach Mt. Bà Đen. As the second route, follow QL 22 to the Trảng Bàng T-junction (Trảng Bàng, Tây Ninh) and turn toward Dương Minh Châu (the other route toward Gò Dầu). This route will save you more time.
There are two sections one must pass through to conquer the Southeast peak:
- 1st part: from the foothill to Điện Bà, the pass along which an ensemble of temples, pagodas and sanctuaries are built. There are three choices, namely a cable car, sliding tube or simply walking. It takes about 20-60 minutes to finish the part no matter what choice you take.
The first two options are geared towards the spiritual pilgrims; most interested travellers and trekking groups choose to walk through the 1,000-step staircase.
- 2nd part: from Điện Bà to the top. Here, the only choice is to follow the well-beaten path behind Điện Bà, getting through the huge rocks and caves to reach the peak.
The path itself is very winding and tortuous. It is filled with the forest greens, rocks, along which the streams and creeks murmur softly. The higher one gets, the cooler the weather gets, which one can tell is totally different from the hot and muggy climate of Tây Ninh.
The terrain of this path is fairly complex and challenging, thus it is not recommended for occasional trekkers who are not familiar with the local area. Again, don’t risk going on the adventure on your own or even in a group. If you are physically fit and know the area well enough, it takes roughly two hours to get to the mountain peak.
Places to visit
The endless bounty of caves make for a must-see. Visitors can choose from Thanh Long, Ông Hổ, Ba Cô, Ba Tuần, Thiên Thai, Ông Tà, etc. and the pagodas such as Hạ, Trung, Thượng, Hang, etc.
In addition, we recommend nearby Tây Ninh sanctuary (Caodaism), Dầu Tiếng lake or shopping at Long Hoa market.
Accommodation and food
You can stay overnight in the Núi Bà area or check in at some local hotels or motels at Tây Ninh town. If you are staying in Núi Bà, choose a hotel along the foothill or near the Điện Bà area.
Camping overnight on top of Mt. Bà Đen is a marvelous experience for trekking groups well-prepared with tools, food and necessities.
Two specialties not to be missed are the crispy fried mountain lizard wrapped with bean sprouts, ambarella (also called ‘jew plum’) sprouts, and cosmos caudatus leaves dipped tamarind sauce; and the Bà Đen mountain snails living in the rock cracks and medicinal leaves called Nàng Hai.
You will also be offered the take-away snacks such as sun-dried rice papers and shrimp-flavored rice papers.
On the foothill of Mt. Bà Đen, there are a few restaurants serving the mountain visitors. If you are staying overnight on the mountain peak, be prepared to bring along food and water.
Notes for preparation
The approximated cost is VNĐ200,000 per person.
Only light clothing and sports shoes are needed.
Bring along tents, warm clothing, sufficient food and water for overnight camping.
An experienced mountain guide is highly recommended.
Consider bringing medicinal balm, sunscreen, digestive supplements and other personal necessities. — VNS