Stream crossing - fun yet challenging. Photos courtesy of Hồng Minh
Being big on nature, I always look out for nice treks in the wild whenever I travel. Returning to Huế for the second time, I had a gut feeling about where I would be going, but was still amazed by the natural gems awaiting in Bạch Mã National Park.
Located in a mountainous area on the border between the former North and South of Việt Nam, the park is reachable from Huế and Đà Nẵng by motorbike or bus. The drive from Huế did not take me more than two hours.
Since motorbikes are not allowed inside the park, you should go on a tour or book a minivan which costs approximately VNĐ700,000 (about US$30) for a round trip. No worries if you are a solo traveler. The park officers are generally happy to find you a tour at the entrance to the park. I was fortunate enough to encounter a tour at the ticket office and they let me join their group for half the price of the full tour. And there began the fun!
A lizard hanging out on a trekking trail.
Going with a tour group has its advantages. The guide briefed us about the national park in the van. Bạch Mã National Park lies at an average height of 1,45m above sea level. Sprawling across 37,487ha, the park is home to a plethora of flora and fauna, including 93 species that appear on the Vietnamese Red List and Global Red List of endangered species.
I could feel the freshness and tranquility as soon as we entered the jungle. The higher we went, the cooler it got. The tour guide said the average temperature in the park was around 25°C but dropped to 19°C from 1,200m. Along the trail, it was not difficult to spot various creatures such as snakes and lizards.
Due to the weather and location, the vegetation is different from Yok Đôn National Park in the Central Highlands that I visited before. If Yok Đôn is home to khộp (dipterocarp), the oil-family trees that shed their leaves during the dry season to save energy, Bạch Mã is made up of evergreen trees. Of course, both national parks have their own beauty that mesmerise every nature lover.
Unexpectedly fantastic trek
Tourists clamber down a cliff. Photo localvietnam.com
The nature was fascinating, but the trek was what I was looking for. It started off as unadventurously as possible since the van drove us to the top of the mountain from where we had a view of the entire park.
I had no idea what the trek would hold, and there are plenty of options for all abilities, but we opted for the “Five Lake Trek”.
“The park is home to a collection of lakes and waterfalls, grouped into an area called Five Lakes”, the guide said, adding that the area was the most popular adventure trail, but not many visitors took on the challenge.
That excited me, and following a narrow, slippery path, we headed deep into the jungle. It was hard to stay clean and dry during the trek as some parts required us to use all four limbs to traverse.
The trek was not overly intense but challenging enough to make our hearts pump. We climbed over rocks and cliffs, holding onto cables that had been slung along the side. It also involved climbing down a couple of crude ladders and hopping across stones in a river. Despite the sometimes nerve-racking terrain, I genuinely loved the adrenaline rushing through my veins as I was hanging upside down on a wire trying to pull myself across a stream.
However, that did not mean the trek was without its dangers. While crossing the river, I recklessly hopped from one stone to another, and failed. Luckily I was holding tightly to the rope and did not drift away, but I was absolutely soaked.
We stopped for lunch break by a waterfall next to the third lake. Some of the group members took the chance to take a dip, but I was happy enjoying lunch while relaxing my feet in the frigid water.
After lunch the trek continued for another kilometre and a climb down and up to reach the top of the highest waterfall in Việt Nam, called Thác Đỗ Quyên (Rhododendron Waterfall). We took some time to enjoy the fresh air and experience even more spectacular natural views.
The trek was beyond my expectations. Calling it “a trek” does not really cut it. It should be dubbed “an adventure” like the guide said. Bạch Mã National Park is a hidden gem in the Central Region, and I cannot wait to have more expeditions in this stunning park. - VNS