So Runs the Stream: Kayaking to Hồ Ba Bể (Ba Be Lake National Park) in Vietnam
The overcrowded mini-bus drops us off (five-hours late) about three k’s 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 we wander out to the veranda of our stilted house. Sitting cross legged on bamboo mats, we sip strong coffee and nibble on sticky rice and hard boiled duck eggs.
Ba Be Lake hides behind the morning fog and evergreen forested crags. No phones or television, our soundtrack is the soothing sound of an adjacent stream. I ask our hosts if the clear, inviting stream runs all the way to the lake. “Of course,” they reply, as if there is anywhere else water might meander.
I unroll my kayak on a sandy bank and let the rising sun warm my damp skin. Ducks and cows wander into the water, while somewhere high in the mountains a troupe of monkeys are enjoying a bit of morning exercise in the trees.
I slip my kayak into the stream and wave goodbye to my friends – we’ll meet again at the mouth of the lake.
Note: I’ve held this footage for a long time, unsure of the best way to edit it together. Based on the advice of my friend, Ted Burger, I decided to take a minimalist approach and present the journey in its entirety – only natural sound and just three clip edits. The video below is the 80% or so of the full journey downstream to Ba Be Lake from Pulong Village. My kayak is a Sea Eagle FastTrack circa 2011.
Read about my other multi-day kayaking trips: