The overcrowded mini-bus drops us off (five-hours late) about three kilometers from Ba Be National Park. Pack raft on my back, I scramble up and down hills with my friends through the quiet starlit forest toward a bobbing light in the distance – our boat driver.
We board a small wooden boat and stretch out as the boat sputters across a glistening Ba Be lake to Pulong, a Thai minority village. ”Turn off your headlamp,” the boat driver jests, “the American helicopters will spot us.”
We arrive at our home stay for the night, eat a delicious dinner of free-range chicken and sticky rice, and promptly pass out on our mats.
Tired but too excited to sleep any further, I awake early to catch the first glimpse of the sun over the lake. Because we arrived in darkness and I didn’t view any pictures of Ba Be before the trip, I have no idea what to expect.
My friend Tung pours me a fresh Vietnamese coffee from his french press, and I wander out to the veranda of our stilted house.
How to Get There: There is one bus a day direct to the national park boundary. It leaves around 1:30PM from the main My Dinh bus terminal. The cost is around $5-7. Where to Stay: Homestays in local villages are the perfect way to check out the park. Homestays are around $10/night and include delicious two meals/day. Spend a few days and hike between the different villages. What to Do: Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, trekking...