Located amidst the undulating mountain ranges, Tuyen Quang Hydropower Lake is like a giant mirror reflecting the vast blue sky and fluffy white clouds. The imposing cliffs dotted with greenery, flowers and the shadows of travellers have created the stunningly beautiful natural surroundings.[rpi]
From the centre of Hanoi, it takes three hours by car to reach Tuyen Quang city but it takes another four hours once in Tuyen Quang Province to reach Lam Binh District. Passing through the crowded town, the cars drive through the peaceful countryside with the flowering rice fields, crystal-clear streams and idyllic stilt houses where children play happily. The serene simplicity of the surroundings makes the distance seems shorter. With an area of nearly 6,000sq. km, Tuyen Quang Province is home to an amazing variety of beautifully spectacular mountains, forests, lakes, waterfalls and caves.
Comprising nearly 800sq. km and covered in lush forests, Lam Binh District is home to many stunningly beautiful natural landscapes. Lam Binh District shares the 8,000-hectare Tuyen Quang Hydropower Lake with Na Hang District. Surrounded by a network of limestone mountains, primeval forests and interesting caves, the lake promises a spectacular adventure. After taking a rest at Nam Dip homestay, I did not wait too long to visit Tuyen Quang Hydropower Lake. The car coasted smoothly through the winding dirt roads; from a distance, the majestic undulating mountains curve around the right bank of the Gam River. The 99 mountains of Thuong Lam associated with the legend of phoenix flocks were vividly enchanting. The high mountains are adjacent to the silent river. There are lush green grass fields and towering trees on each riverbank.
Following the road and crossing over the steep slope, you reach the marina. The marina is a section of the lake where boats bob gently up and down on the crystal-clear water. Embarking on one of the largest boats for tourist transportation, I began my journey to explore Tuyen Quang Hydropower Lake.
The boat passes the towering cliffs and the surface of the lake seems to widen and stretch endlessly towards the horizon. At this time, the sun pops up from behind the clouds and the surrounding landscape becomes shrouded in a white mist. The mist gently gathers around the top of the mountain, creating a soft white silk strip, the fog hovers in the air drifting from the alluring water surface. Sitting on the boat with the early morning mist engulfing the surrounding environment, I felt like I was being transported to another planet, such a dreamy way to start the day.
Over time, the gentle rays of the morning sunshine appeared, the mist cleared and the scene became clearer. The surrounding mountain ranges gradually appeared and the rocky islands taking all sorts of formations became visible, drawing the visitors’ attention on the boat. Only a few minutes ago, the landscape was covered with a soft white mist, but then the surrounding scenery was adorned with striking colours. For instance, the sparkling colours of the lake reflected the sunlight, the mottled grey of the nearby hills, the lush green of the distant trees and the slither of silver of the distant mountains. An array of layers and colours creates a stunningly beautiful picture that is hard to describe in words.
As a travel enthusiast, I always try to capture every moment through my camera. However, no lens is a replacement for what the naked eye can see. The photographers on the boat could not resist the wonderful sites and after a few moments of shooting, they sat down, put down their camera and just appreciated the picturesque nature. I really like to take time to stop for a few moments to fully feel the pure wildness of a place. The busy days of the hectic city suddenly drift away and only peaceful moments kept running through my mind.
The sun climbed higher in the sky, the greenery and rocky mountains also became more brilliant dazzled by the sunshine. The boat stopped near Khuoi Nhi waterfall, the water flows smoothly and gently from the top of the mountain to the lake. The waterfall stretches for around 3km with many floors, thunderous flows of water crash down, creating the white foam at the foot of the cliffs. Tiny droplets of water are caught in the wind creating a cool environment.
After climbing the waterfall and taking a well-deserved dip, my group returned to the boat to head towards Ban Phung Wharf – the ideal place for a kayaking experience. My friend and I worked in sync when rowing the kayak, so the kayak moved gently and smoothly across the water. A far cry from the large tourist boat, the small kayak allows us to snake through rocky islands, touch rugged mountainous rocks and trail our hands through the cool water. The boat sways in the wind which made for quite an adventure when trying to battle against the wind and head upstream. After the kayaking experience, our hands were exhausted, our clothes were sweaty, but we had the biggest smiles on our faces.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to experience the breathtaking scenery of Tuyen Quang Hydropower Lake both in the early morning, at noon and late afternoon. The lake boasts its peculiar beauty according to the different times. For instance, the mystery at the beginning of the day, the overwhelmingly magnificent beauty at noon and the tranquil ambience with the sounds of the boats running steadily in the afternoon. Our boat returned in the afternoon, as strong winds took our boat to the shore. Closing my eyes, I could hear the wind blowing like the voice of the mountains and forests and smell the unmistakable scent of the waves.
Returning to the Nam Dip homestay, we were welcomed warmly by boys and girls in traditional costumes. Over 95% of the population of Lam Binh is ethnic minorities, including 12 ethnic groups living together such as Tay, Dao, Mong and Pa Then. Their traditional meals are served in the rustic wooden stilted houses, the food is particularly unique and delicious. For instance, you can try hill chicken, rocket pig, lake fish, forest vegetables and even corn wine made naturally from more than 50 types of forest leaves and roots. The fervent aftertaste of corn wine is rather special with its sweet aroma. Sipping a cup of corn wine and eating the sticky rice cakes with ant eggs and smoked pork whilst listening to traditional tunes performed by ethnic girls.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
You can travel to Lam Binh in any season. Spring here is vividly beautiful with little green shoots and colourful flowers. Summer is fresh with the lush green forests. Autumn is surprisingly beautiful when the green gradually turns into yellow. Winter sceneries are blanketed in a white fog. However, you should check the weather forecast before your trip to avoid storms, floods or cold days when the temperature drops.
Located around 280km away from Hanoi capital, Lam Binh is an ideal tourist destination for short trips. From Hanoi, you can come here by bus, car or motorbike.
>> If travelling by bus, you can catch one to Lam Binh at My Dinh or Giap Bat bus station for around VND150,000 per person.
>> If you are interested in conquering the roads to Lam Binh by yourself, you should google the roads and drive carefully to ensure the safety of yourself and others. After moving from Hanoi to Tuyen Quang, you can follow 2 routes:
For the 150-km route, you can take the National Highway 2A (Tuyen Quang – Ha Giang) to Km 31, turn right to follow the direction of provincial road 190 through Vinh Loc Town, Chiem Hoa District to Na Hang District and continue to cross over 40km Na Hang – Lang Can roadway.
For the 123-km route, go along the National Highway 2A (Tuyen Quang – Ha Giang) to Km 31, turn right to follow the direction of provincial road 190 through Vinh Loc Town, Chiem Hoa District to provincial road 188, continue moving 55km along the Chiem Hoa – Lang Can routes.
With the aim of developing the community tourism, tourists coming to Lam Binh can opt to stay in the hundred-year-old stilted houses of the Tay ethnic group, the wooden houses of the Dao ethnic group or the beaten-cob houses of Mong people. Also, you can have the first-hand experience of the daily lives of the locals, for instance, you can help with picking vegetables in the forests, farming, catching fish in the streams and grazing buffaloes. In Lam Binh, homestays are available at Bon village, Nam Dip village, Na Muong village, Na Tong village and Na Dong village.
>> Taking an adventure to Tuyen Quang Hydropower Lake boat hire costs VND500,000 – VND1,500,000 per boat depending on your travel time. The boats have 40 or 50 seats.
>> Hiring a kayak costs VND50,000 per boat for the one firstly hour; VND40,000 per boat for next hour and VND20,000 per boat for the 3rd hour onward.
>> Enjoying the 1.5-hour entertainment program costs VND800,000.
Ly Nguyen | Wanderlust Tips