Bach Ma (White Horse in Vietnamese) national park is some 45 kilometres southeast of Hue city in Thua Thien Hue province. To someone with good imagination: the province stands halfway from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city, at the heart of central Vietnam. 

The park is known for its biodiversity with more than 1,400 species of fauna and flora. Bach Ma itself covers 37,000 hectares with a mountain peak at 1,430 metres high. Yes, it’s so big that you can never finish everything in one day.

It has a collection of lakes and waterfalls, which groups into an area called 5 Lakes. This area marks the most popular adventure trail inside the park, but generally sees fewer tourists than other parts (certainly for its so-called ‘difficulty’).

The adventure tour typically involves a car drive to the peak, and then a 7-kilometre trek in the 5 Lakes. While not truly hard, the trek requires ropes to pass some 10-metre cliffs. So yeah, it’s only difficult to those with acrophobia.

How to get there?

The park is reachable by national road 1A, midway from Hue to Da Nang/Hoi An. 45 kilometres from Hue, 60 kilometres from Da Nang, those are the magic numbers. Taxi and rented bike would work just fine. You cannot miss the big sign on the road that points to the park unless you choose to do so.Additionally, both Hue and Da Nang are served by international airports, major bus and train stations.

How about the one day adventure tour?

One travel operator in Hue claims that it’s the only one to offer this tour from Hue/Da Nang/Hoi An. I cannot confirm that but this bold claim has some truth in it, as I know some other agencies outsource this tour to them. I’m not promoting for this company so no name here, but if you ask any hotel receptionist, the chance of resorting to this company is higher than total eclipse.

Otherwise, you can book the tour directly with the national park, usually a few days in advance. This service costs you VND500,000 ($22), plus VND60,000 ($2.6) for entrance ticket (2018 rate). This would also require a van drive of VND800,000 ($35) from the entrance to the peak and the trek starting point and back. The van’s capacity is set at maximum of 12 Vietnamese or 8 foreigners. Call it Vietnamese discrimination or whatever.

So unless you have a big group to hang out with, I’d say booking the tour with the operator saves you quite some bucks.

I’ve read enough. How’s the Bach Ma adventure like?

It starts out as unadventurously as possible.

Either by organized tour or national park’s tour, the car/van drives you to the mountain top, some 16 kilometres away. The mountain pass to Bach Ma peak is well paved, but as a safety measure, no bike or bicycle is allowed. The view along the way is pretty cool if you ask me, as mountains encircle small valleys of forests down below.

The view along the way is pretty cool if you ask me, as mountains encircle small valleys of forests down below.

Once at the peak entrance (another entrance!), you would walk for 800 metres through the path, covered with greens of course, to the top. There lies an observation deck called Vong Hai Dai, a 2-floor roundshaped house where everyone crowds in to escape harsh sunlight. Two life-size white horse statues outside the deck house seem proud as long as tourists climb up to do an embarassing riding pose.

The view from the top is a bit underwhelming, so you’d better gear up for the trek. Driving 3 kilometres down, you would reach a restaurant, also the starting point of the adventure.

The journey descends all the time, from concrete steps to uneven rocks. Trees surround narrow paths to bring out natural air conditioner, as pleasant as the peak is hot.

Once at the peak entrance (another entrance!), you would walk for 800 metres through the path, covered with greens of course, to the top.

There lies an observation deck called Vong Hai Dai, a 2-floor roundshaped house where everyone crowds in  to escape harsh sunlight. Two life-size white horse statues outside the deck house seem proud as long as tourists climb up to do an embarassing riding pose.

The view from the top is a bit underwhelming, so you’d better gear up for the trek. Driving 3 kilometres down, you would reach a restaurant, also the starting point of the adventure.

The journey descends all the time, from concrete steps to uneven rocks. Trees surround narrow paths to bring out natural air conditioner, as pleasant as the peak is hot.

The adventurous thing is literally when you need to hold the rope to pass cramped walkway, with cliff on one side and rugged wall on the other. They install rope in every difficult section; you just need some effort to jump and swing. Don’t worry, the cliffs are just 8 to 10 metres high, though enough to kill you but won’t make you dizzy. Elsewhere, you would descend by wooden stairs and abrupt elevation change. I’d say this is the highlight of the park by far.

You would trek past 5 lakes in total. They flow pristine water down from one to another, forming short waterfalls on the way. In all, the space is not really open; it actually makes you feel intimate without much annoying thick bushes as you often imagine about rainforest.
The third lake comprises large areas of rocks where people stop for lunch and swimming.
Bring your swimsuit! Be careful if you encounter any leech, although Bach Ma has never been notorious for this.

After 6 kilometres and 5 lakes, the Do Quyen waterfall apear. You can only stay at its top because for some reason walking down is not an available option. This area is the most open of all, offering you the view beyond mountains far away. Although not a big fall, Do Quyen proves another highlight as a final relax point where throngs of ramblers settle on large rocks.

They stare into infinity and think about the meaning of life, as in flopped movies.

Walking back a few minutes, there’s a short way to the restaurant. Oops, that’s the easy walk for Do Quyen waterfall as advertised at the entrance. There you finish!

There are other trekking routes in Bach Ma, but this one remains the most popular. Even so, you don’t often see many tourists, as Vietnamese rarely chose trekking. I believe that’s the charm of such a national park. Only 6 to 7 hours, this little adventure is a break from central Vietnam’s calm and slow travelling tradition.

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