Be Lake and National Park
Be is Vietnam’s largest natural lake and is now the centrepiece
of an extensive National Park. The park and the surrounding
area is limestone country, so lakes, waterfalls, caves and
unusual rock formations abound. The whole area is richly
forested and home to many ethnic minority communities.
National Park is covered by tropical and semi-tropical evergreen
Thailandian monsoon forest. The bio diversity is rich – 50
animal species, over 400 plants and many species of insects,
reptiles and birds. The ten seriously endangered animals in
the park include two primates, the Black Gibbon and the Tonkinese
latter is one of the world’s rarest species and on the brink
of extinction. Flora and Fauna International is working with
the park authorities and other agencies to save this attractive
lake itself is really three lakes linked by wide channels.
Overall, it’s about 7km long and a kilometre across at its
widest point, and contains around fifty species of freshwater
fish. The surface is nearly always calm, making a boat trip
a peaceful experience. In adddition, there are islands and
caves to visit.
the park’s boundary there are a several small villages inhabited
by members of the Tay, Red Dao, Coin Dao and White H’mong
ethnic minorities. However, the colourful costumes typical
of most of these groups are seldom in evidence apart from
performances and demonstrations for tourists.
of the villages offer basic, but reasonably comfortable, homestays.
An alternative is the park’s guesthouse, which provides basic
accommodation only. Elsewhere, there is limited local standard
accommodation in Cho Ra town, about 18km away outside the
Be can only be reached by road - the 250km journey takes between
six and eight hours. The road gets rough along the latter
part, but the excellent scenery compensates.
interesting stop en-route is Thai Nguyen, a centre of heavy
industry based on steel manufacturing, and the unlikely home
of the Museum of Nationalities of Vietnam. It provides an
informative overview of the country’s many ethnic minorities,
particularly useful for visitors that haven't already visited
Hanoi's excellent Ethnology Museum
north is Cao Bang province, a remote area on the border with
China. Cao Bang is sparsely populated. It has very few large
settlements but several ethnic groups in villages hardly affected
limestone ‘karst’ scenery is attractive, unspoilt and fich
in bio-diversity. Few visitors venture further north than
Ba Be, so Cao Bang vies with the remote northwest as one of
the best places to see truly authentic ethnic minority lifestyles.
Cao Bang, it’s possible to loop round to the south via the
border town of Lang Son to Quang Ninh Province and Ha Long
Bay. However, the road is poor, and the scenery is not particularly