day one hundred and forty: february 16, 2016: ba bể national park
We arrived in Ba Bể National Park today. Our original itinerary had us taking a boat down the river and visiting a cave along the way before arriving in Ba Bể Lake at the Mr. Linh's Homestay. Due to a mechanical issue with the boat, we swapped our itinerary for the last two days, so first we squeezed in something not on the itinerary, a visit to Thác Bạc Falls (Silver Falls), but known to foreigners as Silk Falls.
Another large cave system, Hua Ma cave. The cave was discovered in the 14th century by a general from the Mạc Dynasty. The story of the cave is that the general's horse refused to pass thru the valley where the cave was because it was scared by the cries of ghosts coming from within the cave. After visiting with a fortune teller, the general was told to sacrifice his horse and offer its head to appease the ghosts. His army also placed a large stone statue of Buddha deep within the cave before moving on. The Buddha is very deep into the cave system, quite incredible that they were able to place it there without lighting other than torches and no paved path and stairs like what exists today.
There is also another Buddha statue placed in the same large cavern where the original statue is located, but it was placed there by locals much later.
After arriving at Ba Bể Lake we headed out on the lake in kayaks to explore. Our first stop was Widow Island. The story of Widow Island is that a poor woman was traveling thru the local villages begging for food and water but no one would take her in. The only person willing to help her was a local widow. The following morning the widow awoke to see that the woman had turned to a dragon and told her a big storm was approaching and to store rice in preparation for the storm. So she did, and the storm came as predicted and flooded the town creating Ba Bể Lake. Everything was flooded except her home, and she used the rice to throw into the flood waters, creating boats saving the local villagers. The remains of the town are only the two small islands in the middle, Widow Island and Kitchen Island (the widow's kitchen).
To our luck, we had arrived at the start of the Long Tong festival in Ba Bể in celebration of Tết. We learned that there would be a lantern festival that evening on the edge of the lake. We enjoyed watching the water lanterns being set afloat in the lake and listening to music and dance put on by the locals using traditional instruments.
We stayed our last night at Mr. Linh's Homestay away from the crowds near the festivities. Mr. Linh and his father built the homestay over a three year period and aimed to build it in traditional style of the local Tay minority group. The homestay was quite lovely and very comfortable and the food was excellent.
day one hundred and forty-one: february 17, 2016: ba bể national park
Our last day, we said goodbye to Mr. Linh and made our way to his office for a short boat tour before heading back to Hanoi. There were many more people out today at the festival compared to yesterday and many were dressed in their best clothes like the girl below. Mr. Linh's father gave us a tour of the lake on their boat which was nice and relaxing.
We were dropped off at the festival again and as we walked out of the festival we walked past an area where fresh meat was being butchered and sold. And when I say fresh, I mean FRESH. Yup, that's a cow's head below the table.
We headed back to Hanoi to catch our flight to Nha Trang where I'm going to get certified to SCUBA dive!