TUCKED AWAY: Melia Ba Vì Mountain Retreat has a perfect fusion of French colonial and traditional architecture of the northern region. It’s a luxurious destination in the middle of nature. Photo courtesy of Melia Ba Vì Mountain Retreat
I feel like Alice in Wonderland when I walk under the green canopy in the Ba Vì National Park. Humans seem to shrink in the face of nature. Trekking in the forest is more than a journey, it’s an escape from busy life to get closer to nature.
It takes an hour and a half to drive from Ha Noi city centre to Ba Vì National Park, the mountainous region of the capital. It’s a wonderful option for a weekend retreat.
On a total area of over 10,000ha, Ba Vì National Park, which is 60km to the west of Hà Nội, has everything to offer – amazing biodiversity, luxurious and eco-friendly tourist resorts, as well as a selection of mysterious French architecture.
Trekkers can discover various routes through the forests. I booked a room at the Melia Ba Vì Mountain Retreat and climbed from Cote 600 to Cote 700 of Ngọc Hoa Mountain, a part of Ba Vì mountain range. It is a popular route which is 5km long and suitable for most tourists.
The tourist site welcomed us with cool and fresh air. The temperature here is about five degrees lower than at the foot of the mountain. The atmosphere is so pure that I felt refreshed when I breathed in. It’s another world as the trees like araceae, banana and ferns are much bigger in the forest. The rustling sound of leaves in the breeze and melodious sounds of birds created a peaceful rhythm.
Hoàng Công Nhật, a man from the Tày ethnic minority, distributed wooden sticks for us. With a knife in hand to clear the way, he led us into the forest.
“The trekking tours to discover Ba Vì National Park are very attractive to tourists, especially foreigners,” he said.
“They enjoy all the characteristics of a tropical forest, with waterfalls, streams and birds singing along the way.”
Nhật said he has taken the trip many times as a tour guide but the forest always surprises him, so he can understand why tourists enjoy trekking and discovering the beautiful nature and abundance of flora and fauna.
“Sometimes, we can see colourful spiders on the way, but be careful, because they are dangerous like colourful mushrooms. Other animals you may see are birds, butterflies, squirrels and lizards,” he said.
The scenes change continuously like we were in a film. First, we walked beneath giant pine trees, and then we entered a forest of bamboo and other members of its genus.
We visited at the beginning of summer, when bamboo shoots were springing up around us like mushrooms after rain. We tried to find bamboo shoots which were the same height as us and took photos.
On the way, suddenly Nhật stopped because the path was blocked by bamboo trees that had fallen down after the heavy rain some days ago.
“Surprised? I told you. Though the route is very popular, many amazing things await us on the 5km-long path,” he said with a smile.
He chopped branches to clear the path but needed us to climb and wriggle between the tree trunks. At that moment, we felt like spies avoiding laser barriers.
Nhật said the waterfalls and streams are bigger in the rainy season (between July and September). The water from the mountain is cool and pure, so we can all wash our hands and faces. It was relaxing and eased our fatigue. However, drinking this water is not recommended.
When we finished the awesome trekking trail, the spectacular view from Ngọc Hoa Peak was a worthy reward.
The next day, we took part in a buggy tour from Cote 600 to Cote 700 to visit French relics hidden deep inside the jungle including a church, cannon emplacement, helicopter pad, Ladies’ Camp and other villas scattered near the Melia Ba Vì Mountain Retreat.
The buggy tour to visit French vestiges on the mountain is offered for free for in-house guests of the resort. Other tourists can buy tickets at the entrance at VNĐ350,000 (US$15).
Big roots on the ruined architecture created a mystical scene. Some parts of the constructions are still intact showing the French architectural style such as the stairs, pillars and walls.
Wild sunflowers, or dã quỳ as local people say, are scattered around, but unfortunately, we didn’t come during the blossom season. If tourists visit in November, they will have excellent photos.
The resort has a unique location between the natural beauty of Ba Vì Mountain Range. It blends a perfect fusion of French colonial and traditional architecture of the northern region.
When we prepared to check out, the children wanted to stay longer because they enjoyed the infinity swimming pool overlooking the mountains, the tree-houses in the play area and above all, the tropical forest where they have plenty to discover. We promised them we would return to escape the city’s hustle and bustle and experience relaxation in the middle of the clouds. — VNS