When a small group of my friends decided to head out of the city one summer day to try to escape the scorching heat, we didn’t have a destination, just an idea. So I suggested we go to Suoi Hai Lake, just 70km northwest of Ha Noi.
After an easy one-hour road trip, the loud noise and heat of city life seemed to have subsided.
Suoi Hai Lake, at the foot of Ba Vi Mountain, is a reservoir that was built in December 1958. It has a 4km-long system of main and supporting dams to reserve water from the Yen Cu and Cau Rong springs, giving the lake its name of Suoi Hai (Two Springs). The water from the lake irrigates 7,000ha of farmland.
When we arrived at the lake, we decided to take a motorbike tour around it. The road was smooth and surrounded by eucalyptus forests. We were refreshed by the cool breezes and, along the way, saw many people fishing on the bank.
There are a number of islands in the lake, and we even saw a boat full of tourists on the lake. After asking around, we came to the Suoi Hai Service Centre, which we had previously passed on our way. A woman in the centre told us that there were boats available around-the-clock to take tourists to the islands or cruise around the lake. The fares are reasonable. To get to the largest island, it only cost each of us VND30,000 (US$1.5), while hiring a private boat to go around the 90ha reservoir costs VND300,000 ($15), and you can stop at any island of your choice.
The four of us decided to get a boat and take a tour around the lake. We were not disappointed by the decision. As we glided on the water, stunning scenes opened up before our eyes. The islands, the clear water, the trees and the meadows of grazing cattle had the look of a fairy wonderland. Wild birds, such as teals, coots and cranes, swam around the boat, imparting an even more romantic air to the scene.
“Each season brings with it a different colour to the lake, but it is beautiful all year round,” said boat captain Vo Van Tan, as we set foot on an island. We were welcomed by the sweet smell of litchi and green grass. Local farmers have planted fruit trees on every island and tourists are allowed to pick and enjoy the fruits.
“The lake is a perfect weekend spot to spend time with your family,” said Nguyen Thi Loan, owner of a coffee shop on the island. “We mostly get visits from groups of students who came here for one-day picnics”.
Besides hiring a boat, you can rent a canoe at a very affordable VND15,000 per hour ($0.75) and row yourself around the lake. You can also go horseback riding around the lake or into the eucalyptus forests, or take a dip in the cool water of the lake.
If you want to stay for more than a day, accommodation is available at VND60,000 ($3) to VND120,000 ($6) per night. You can choose rooms at a conventional guesthouse or stay in one of the stilt-houses.
Last year, a $200 million resort was planned at the lake by PetroVietnam Premier Recreation, but environmental activists and local residents raised concerns with the plan, which was revised and is now in its first stage of construction.
“The first phase will be completed in 2012,” said the deputy head of Ba Vi’s culture department, Nguyen Viet Giao. It will change the face of Suoi Hai Lake, as most of the 14 islands will be taken over by resorts, golf courses, hotels and restaurants.
“The current plan has received agreeable nods from residents,” said Giao. “In two years, tourism will give Ba Vi’s economy a considerable boost, and people’s living standards will therefore be improved.”
In other words, in just two more years, weekends at Suoi Hai Lake won’t be the same. Come now and enjoy the serenity while it lasts. — VNS by Nguyen Le Hung