Tour to Bac Son (Lang Son) – Cao Bang – Bac Kan

It was autumn in northern Vietnam and for a few days recently it had been wet. The northeasterly monsoon blew again making daily temperatures much lower in Hanoi. In the mountains, it must have been chilly and cold now. Work had been busy and I was desperate for a short break. It was no fun traveling in so wet weather anyway.

Then it suddenly turned delightful on Thursday and more lovely a day on Friday. The air was dry as if it had not been moist before and the winds were blowing hard. Sunshine was so pleasant. I was getting impatient and was trying to wrap up work for a couple of days.

Then came Saturday, a cheerful day again in Hanoi. It was a waste not to enjoy such a beautiful day. But it was lovely to stay in the city, too. I was enjoying my coffee and was indecisive in making up my mind. I must have said “Yes” and “No” for several times and the last one was Yes. It was 1000 A.M when I left the city, quite late for starting a journey.

Outskirt of Hanoi
Outskirt of Hanoi

I had been thinking of traveling through the Northeast of Vietnam and Ha Giang and back to the city, but I wasn’t sure if I could make it all. Work was busy and I didn’t have that much time. When leaving I was only thinking that it should be Bac Son first, then I’ll see how it should proceed.

The rice fields outside of Hanoi had been harvested and it turned a bit cloudy. There were several weddings on the way. People traveled in a relaxing way at weekend. The trip to Thai Nguyen City was quick as if it it had taken no time. The city had changed quite a lot since my last trip here. There were more high-rise buildings and the city was certainly much cleaner. Thai Nguyen had always been one of the industrial centers of Vietnam; it the past it had been heavy industries and nowadays it was high-tech.

Countryside in Thai Nguyen Province
Countryside in Thai Nguyen Province

 A quick tour through the city brought me to the outskirt with scenic landscape. There were rice fields with mountains in the backdrop. The road was very quiet in the country. It was half sunny and half cloudy, dry and pleasant. Local farmers were in the process of harvesting rice as some patches of fields were left only with stubble. The colors were so nice and it was so refreshing in such lovely environment!

Scenic road from Thai Nguyen to Bac Son Valley
Scenic road from Thai Nguyen to Bac Son Valley

 

A delightful day in the lovely countryside of Thai Nguyen
A delightful day in the lovely countryside of Thai Nguyen

 

Rice fields at Vo Nhai, Thai Nguyen
Rice fields at Vo Nhai, Thai Nguyen

The air was moist when I reached Bac Son Valley, an amazing photogenic spot in Lang Son Province. It must have rained here this morning. The village paths were wet and the rocky path leading to the top of the Na Lay Mountain was slippery. I was not in a hurry and thought it was good to climb up the mountain. I had been here a few times already, but it was a treat to do exercise after so many days sitting still in the office. It was hazy and it wouldn’t be ideal for photography for certain.

Bac Son Valley, Lang Son Province
Bac Son Valley, Lang Son Province

 

Scenic rice fields and mountains at Bac Son
Scenic rice fields and mountains at Bac Son

 

Thai people's houses at Bac Son
Thai people's houses at Bac Son

 

Slippery path to the Na Lay Mountain at Bac Son
Slippery path to the Na Lay Mountain at Bac Son

 

Slippery rocky path to the top of the Na Lay Mountain
Slippery rocky path to the top of the Na Lay Mountain

It was hazier when I got to the top of the mountain and it was no use spending more time there. It looked as if it were getting dark just soon. Quite amazing with the weather in the Northeast of Vietnam, cooler and wetter than most other regions in the country. At least I have a feel that whenever I travel to the Northeast and it is just wet. This time was no exception.

A breathtaking view from the top of the Na Lay Mountain at Bac Son
A breathtaking view from the top of the Na Lay Mountain at Bac Son

My adventure continued on the good road for only short while more, then it was extremely bad, full of potholes and elephant-holes. That was much below my expectations. Because of that I had to travel through darkness for a while to get to That Khe Town for the night. Light dinner, clean room and sound sleep put an end to nearly perfect a day.

Amazing mountains at Binh Gia, Lang Son
Amazing mountains at Binh Gia, Lang Son

 

The road at Binh Gia travels through a series of enclosed valleys surrounded by karst mountains
The road at Binh Gia travels through a series of enclosed valleys surrounded by karst mountains

 

A Nung village in a scenic valley at Binh Gia
A Nung village in a scenic valley at Binh Gia

 

A couple on a quiet road at Binh Gia
A couple on a quiet road at Binh Gia

 

The lovely road at the end of a day
The lovely road at the end of a day at Binh Gia, Lang Son

I woke up early and found it was a cloudy day outside. It was mostly dry and that was good. The temperature was pleasant. It’d be better to get going early and see what to do next. I wasn’t sure of the plan and thought I’d make decision when in Cao Bang City.

Peaceful countryside of Dong Khe, Cao Bang
Peaceful countryside of Dong Khe, Cao Bang

There were so many changes with Cao Bang nowadays, more expensive cars and more high-rise buildings. Quite a lot of construction was going on around the city. I pulled over at a cafe when the sun was rising. It was going to be a beautiful day and I knew I’d better go back to Hanoi. It’d be too long a trip through Ha Giang and I wanted to save it for another adventure. All had been a wonderful trip anyway.

Forested mountains outside of Cao Bang City
Forested mountains outside of Cao Bang City

The cafe seemed trendy for a mountain town and there were not many guests. I had been lazy and lost in thoughts when sunshine became bright; it was good time to hit the road again. The city was quite busy. The road was in good conditions, though not as good as on my last trip. It was forest all the way to Bac Kan and that was great. The road is on high altitudes which offer panoramic views of the natural landscapes around. It is good that they could protect the forests in this region. Deforestation is rampant in some other regions in Vietnam; you travel back after a couple of years and all the forests are gone!

Scenic moountains in Cao Bang Province on a wonderful day
Scenic moountains in Cao Bang Province on a wonderful day

 

Scenic nature on the road from Cao Bang to Bac Kan
Scenic nature on the road from Cao Bang to Bac Kan

It was quite warm when I arrived at Bac Kan. Lunch at a local restaurant was a good chance to have a peep at local daily life. The city was as clean as usual and all looked more organized. There seemed to be quite a few office people in Bac Kan nowadays; it was certainly trying to catch up with the overall pace of the Vietnamese economy. It is interesting to see how things in the country improve every now and then.

Breathtaking landscape at Ngan Son, Bac Kan
Breathtaking landscape at Ngan Son, Bac Kan

 

Lovely landscape at Cho Moi, Bac Kan
Lovely landscape at Cho Moi, Bac Kan

It was quite interesting for me to find out that there was a new toll road to Thai Nguyen from Bac Kan which is shorter than the old one. Construction technology is so good that they built amazing roads and bridges across mountains and ravines. Good road system makes travel so easy from one region to another and it’s lovely to have weekend somewhere in the mountain and still come back in good time for work on Monday. Hanoi was quiet when I got back. A hot coffee wrapped up another good adventure of life!