Ta Dung – "Ha Long bay of the Highlands"
Located deep between Dak Nong plateau and Di Linh, with its 36 magnificent islands and its highest peak at 1982 meters, this completely isolated lake is a masterpiece of nature.
Text and photos: Hai An
After checking our vehicles, reflected-light belts and safety clothing, our group with its 22 members started its journey to Ta Dung from Ho Chi Minh City at 7p.m. Instead of travelling along the Highway 20 as usual, we chose a less traveled, more scenic route towards Long Khanh and Duc Linh, passing through mountain passes to Bao Loc city, tucked in the Highlands. We cross the Ta Pua pass under the eaves of moonlight, quite a memorable moment of the adventure.
After staying one night in Bao Loc, we travel to Di Linh plateau (Lam Dong) and then take a bus 30km to Ta Dung wharf. Mr. Khanh, a local guide, picks us up. Because this place is still quite virginal when it comes to tourists, we had to take a local barge.
A friend of Khanh joins us for the trip, who appeared to know every corner of the landscape. The barge moved across the lake, a mix of locals and excited urbanites on board. We had to take two trips due to the size of our group. To explore the lake properly from one end to the other, we decided to rent motorbikes for our return journey.
We continue our maiden voyage on Highway 27, currently being built around the lake. At first what seemed like a good idea turned in to a monstrosity as air became thick with dust, the curves in the road unanticipated, the dust clouds blocking our sight. After this nightmare we board another barge which takes us to the center of the lake. Finding a place to camp on one of the many islands, we are framed in a dazzlement of scenery. The sky, the vernal mountains, the quiet lake meet to form a triumvirate of vision. While the journey has left us tired, our surroundings are restorative, and we soon forget the long trip’s toll.
Here, we can view the very stunning scenery. The sky, the green mountains and quiet lake meet to create an amazing three-dimensional world.
The barge takes us to the center of the lake. We seize the opportunity to jump into the cool, turquoise water. In the past, we were told, where the lake now lays was a land of red dirt paths, bridges crossing various rivers. Later on, the rivers were damned in order to harvest hydroelectric power and the water level increased to nearly a hundred meters. Because of such a depth, the water carries a deep blue hue.
The island we have chosen for camping is inhabited only by a man named Mr. Teo and his family, who grow coffee here. He is surprised and glad to welcome us strangers and proud to show off his surroundings. As night falls on the lake, we start a fire under the moonlight, singing songs late into the evening. Those who were once strangers become friends, and our voices echo over the lake, bouncing off the mountains. On the following day, we leave the island to return to Saigon. As we depart, we are greeted by morning fog, Ta Dung’s parting gift.
Saying farewell to Khanh, we ride to Dak Som, across Quang Khe and then back to Bao Loc. After high slopes, the panorama of the lake appears in front of us. It was then that we understood why such a place is regarded as the “Ha Long Bay of the Highlands”. Small islands hurl themselves out of the water, gather together to create a breathtaking landscape.
On the way back to Saigon, we already feel the peaceful land of Ta Dung calling us back. Such a place provides the perfect atmosphere for those who fancy adventure, who seek sanctuary from the crowds and cacophony of the city.
+ Itinerary: From Ho Chi Minh City, go to Dau Giay T-cross and then turn left to Highway 20 towards Di Linh. From Di Linh market, turn left and go straight for about 30km to Ta Dung wharf. Currently, roads to Ta Dung are asphalt.
+ Contact Mr. Khanh for a guide, the barge and camping places. Mobile: 0973468012.
+ Cuisine: You should buy food at Di Linh market because there is no food service around the lake.
+ Bring your lifejackets for swimming in the lake.
+ Accommodation: Bring your tent and sleeping bag for your journey. You can also ask Mr. Khanh to help you arrange your accommodation at a homestay.
+ Activities: From Ta Dung lake, travel around the lake by motorbike, go on a barge to discover wild islands, visit an enormous ancient tree and H’Mong villages, climb Ta Dung peak, or go fishing on the lake.