A Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam mountains

By Vy An    November 15, 2019 | 12:30 am PT
Marvelous rock structures jut out of Na Hang Lake in the northern province of Tuyen Quang just like in Ha Long Bay.

Tuyen Quang, 130 kilometers to the northwest of Hanoi, might never pop up in any top-10 tourist attraction list in Vietnam, and so its spectacular landscapes could surprise many visitors.

It has many pristine lakes and green mountains, but the 8,000-hectare Na Hang – Lam Binh ecological lake is arguably the most magnificent.

The lake lies at the intersection of the Gam and Nang rivers surrounded by mountains and looking like a miniature version of Ha Long Bay with its small islets. Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO natural heritage site in northern Quang Ninh Province, is home to thousands of limestone pinnacles jutting out of the smooth waters.

A boat trip on the Na Hang Lake, usually lasting four to five hours, takes visitors through several stops. They can disembark at the boat deck in Thuong Lam Commune, Lam Binh District. 

Na Hang Lake. Photo by Shutterstock/De Quang Nguyen Vinh.

Na Hang Lake in Tuyen Quang Province. Photo by Shutterstock/Quang Nguyen Vinh.

Since the lake is situated in a mountainous area with high altitude, visitors may feel the dreamy ambience with floating clouds around the mountain tops, especially on sunny days when sun rays shine through the white clouds and reflect on the water. Plants and moss flourish on the rocky tops and edges giving them their green color.

The most famous spot is Coc Vai Pha (pictured, right), which means "pile to tie buffalos" in the language of the local Tay ethnic people. This is a natural rocky column rising 50 meters when the water is at its lowest. 

Another stop on the way is Pac Ta Temple at the foot of Pac Ta Mountain. From here visitors can enjoy views of the Gam River and the mountain.

For tourists looking for an historical experience, Phia Vai Cave is an absolute must-visit. In 2005 the Tuyen Quang Museum and the Vietnam Institute of Archaeology unearthed in the cave an ancient human skeleton believed to belong to the prehistoric Hoa Binh Culture, which flourished in mainland Southeast Asia and south-central China. Archaeologists also found thousands of tools dating back to about 10,000 years ago.

The cave is in a limestone mountain east of the Coc Ngan Stream, which flows from south to north into the Gam River. The relics kept in the cave indicate the historical development of humans in the area.

From the cave, tourists can leave for Khuoi Nhi Waterfall. But the scenic fall is not for the faint of heart since, to reach its foot, visitors need to climb a steep trail about a kilometer long.

Khuoi Nhi Waterfall/Shutterstock/De Quang Nguyen Vinh.

Khuoi Nhi Waterfall. Photo by Shutterstock/Quang Nguyen Vinh.

At the foot of the falls is a natural lake, a place for visitors to swim. The lake with its cool water, set amid rocks, is especially inviting on hot days. A unique experience for visitors here is the natural fish ‘massage’. Many small fish gather at the edge of the lake, and when someone steps in they approach them and nibble at their feet. Sometimes hundreds of fish gather.

After a full day of climbing, bathing in streams and floating in the lake, visitors can choose to stay in popular homestays in nearby villages. Nearly a dozen houses have been turned into accommodation for tourists in Nam Dip Village in Lam Binh District’s Lang Can Commune.

Visitors can experience the local life by sleeping in the traditional stilt houses of the Tay ethnic people, listen to traditional music and enjoy highland specialties like grilled meat and grilled fish caught in the lake.


Na Hang Lake in Tuyen Quang Province. Photo by Shutterstock/Quang Nguyen Vinh.

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