A weekend retreat among waterfalls

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The Thien SonSuoi Nga tourism area, some 60 kilometers west of Hanoi, impresses tourists with its natural treasures of waterfalls, lakes and mountains

With its natural treasures of waterfalls, lakes and mountains, the Thien SonSuoi Nga tourism area has, over the last few years, become a favorite weekend retreat for Hanoi residents.

The resort, some 60 kilometers west of the capital city, is located on the east side of the Ba Vi Mountain Range in former Ha Tay Province (now merged with Hanoi). The mountain range features a stunning landscape of rolling greens and limpid waterfalls pouring from the Tan Mountain and densely forested mountains that rise out of layers of cloud and fog.

Legend has it that the eastern part of Ba Vi Mountain Range, usually called Tan Vien Son (Tan Vien Mountain) is the place where two gods, Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh, representing the power of the mountain and the sea respectively, fought to win the hand of beautiful daughter of the 18th Hung King some 4,000 years ago.

After Thuy Tinh withdrew from the fight, he took revenge by raising water and gathering storms at the mountaintop where Son Tinh and Princess My Nuong lived.

The Thien Son-Suoi Nga tourism area is divided into three sections, each around two kilometers away from the other. The Ha Son (literally meaning "the lower part of the mountain") section has the Tam Cap Waterfall and Ha Son Lake, which is fed by two other waterfalls.

Tourists can board small swan-shaped boats to cruise the lake and rest in villas built on stilts. Several local dishes are served, including the gà ri (a local chicken) and bánh tế (a kind of rice cake).

GETTING THERE

From Hanoi, drive (motorbike or car) down National Highway 32 or Lang - Hoa Lac Highway to Son Tay Town; turn left to reach the Ba Vi National Park near Thien Son-Suoi Nga tourism area. You can also take a bus from Hanoi to Son Tay Bus Station and take a taxi or xe om (motorbike taxi) from there.

Alternatively, several travel companies including Sinh Café Hanoi, Travel ANZ and Vietnam Open Tour offer one or two-day tours to the Thien Son-Suoi Nga area.

To get to the Trung Son (the middle part of the mountain) section, tourists are led on a winding road that skirts clean, blue lakes.

Another stone-paved path under luxuriant trees leads to the Cong Troi (Heaven's Gate) Waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Ba Vi National Park, which drops from a height of about 100 meters.

The Ngoan Son (which means "enjoying the scenery of the mountain") section is where tourists can get panoramic view of the Ba Vi Mountain Range. It is also an ideal place for fishing from lake-side paths and bridges built on the water.

The area provides for a day full of outdoor fun climbing mountains, wading across streams, swimming in the lakes, watching the waterfalls and fishing. Visitors would be well-advised to spend the night in the cool mountainous ambience and head back to Hanoi the next day. On the way back are several historical relics worth visiting, like the Son Tay ancient citadel and the Mia Pagoda.

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