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Ta Dung, Vietnam: A Pearl of the Highlands

Updated on June 3, 2017

Ta Dung Nature Reserve

Isn't it awesome?
Isn't it awesome? | Source

Known as "Inland Ha Long Bay," Ta Dung is a giant reservoir within Ta Dung Nature Reserve with a total area of 22,103 ha. It is located in Dac Nong Province, over 250km away from Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh City). This reservoir is a major water source for the Dong Nai River system and its several hydropower plants.

Amazing scenery
Amazing scenery | Source

Situated in the highest mountain ranges in Dac Nong, and along the geographical-biological interface between the Southern Central Highlands and the Southeastern Region of Vietnam, Ta Dung hosts diverse flora and fauna. Its fascinating myths are told by the Ma ethnic community. This is definitely an ideal place for a short getaway from a crowded city like Sai Gon. Well, let's plan up and go!

Pack up and ride!
Pack up and ride! | Source
My friends made a ride in March, 2017
My friends made a ride in March, 2017 | Source

Plan an Escape

Ta Dung is in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, whose topography features hills and mountains. You'd be better off traveling by car or on a good motorcycle, but for convenient access to the lake, a motorbike is preferable.

Besides the moped, you need a good tent with a heat resistant pad or mat because it's really cold at night by the lake. Wrap up some essentials such as flash torches or candles, mosquito repellent, blankets, and personal hygiene stuff. And, of course, remember to stock food and drinking water (or whatever you want to drink, like some beer for a small party) as well, because there aren't many open markets around for your shopping.

How would you like to get there?

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Two popular routes to Ta Dung Lake
Two popular routes to Ta Dung Lake | Source

There are a few ways to reach Ta Dung, including through Da Te, Lam Dong Province. or Gia Nghia, Dac Nong Province. You can make a one-way tour starting from Di Linh and ending at Da Te. Your job is to get to one of these places from Sai Gon by Highway 14 or Highway 20.
Please don't trust Google Maps 100%. It shows you a route through Nam Cat Tien Forest, named DT601. Hell! That's a dusty, broken path piercing the jungle. Though this road through Nam Cat Tien is somewhat beautiful with leafy shady trees, the later part of the route is severely damaged, and way too rough and time-consuming for traveling.
As an alternative to a damaged road, the road through Army Base D in Vinh Cuu District of Dong Nai Province really pays off.
It takes 6 - 7 hours to get there by motorcycle. Don't worry, since the roads are good enough to travel, but what matters is traffic police here and there to check your speed or law compliance. So drive/ride safe and get there sound.

Things to Pack

Stuff to Bring
Details
Other Stuff
Tent
Rent at SG: $8 -10 for 2-3 days
Blankets, pillows
Kitchenwares
A kettle or small pot, paper or plastic bowls and cups, knife, lighter or gas burner
Forks, spoons or chopsticks
Food
Sandwiches, sausages, veggies, eggs, noodles, etc.
Snack
Drinks
Bottled water (1-liter bottles), beer or soft drinks for party (if any)
 
Clothes
Sweaters, pants (it's cold at night), flip-flops (by the lake, you know)
Stuff for photography
Camera
Yes, it's a must!
Tripod or lens
Foodstuff and drinks for a night party
Foodstuff and drinks for a night party | Source
Me and my company after stocking everything for a night
Me and my company after stocking everything for a night | Source

Camping at Ta Dung

Find a place to camp by the lake because it provides the best view and atmosphere.
Find a place to camp by the lake because it provides the best view and atmosphere.

Because Ta Dung is a huge lake with several islets and islands, you can easily find a place to camp. Camp near the lake, which is nice for sightseeing and photo shooting.

The mountains at night are totally dark, so making a small fire by the lake is what you need to do. Collecting things to burn is quite easy, but don't forget to bring a lighter with you.

And with a guitar in hand, let's get the party started!
And with a guitar in hand, let's get the party started!
After erecting a tent, go collect stuff to build a fire at night, there are lots of tree branches or sticks around.
After erecting a tent, go collect stuff to build a fire at night, there are lots of tree branches or sticks around. | Source

If lucky enough, you can buy fresh fish like carp or shrimp caught by fishermen living in some floating houses on the lake.

I don't suggest swimming in the lake if you aren't sure how to keep yourself from drowning, although it may be an interesting thing to try there.

Take time to watch sunrise and sunset there, because at that altitude the sun is really gorgeous at dawn and dusk.

Fishermen gather to exchange their catch at dawn and dusk, even at midnight.
Fishermen gather to exchange their catch at dawn and dusk, even at midnight. | Source
The morning breaks over the horizon.
The morning breaks over the horizon. | Source
By the fire admiring the sunrise
By the fire admiring the sunrise | Source
Young lads watch the sun rising.
Young lads watch the sun rising. | Source

Photographing the Lake

Peace oozes out
Peace oozes out | Source

As you stay by the lake surrounded by lush green mountains, it's such a wonderful backdrop for photography. Especially in the morning, a thin veil of mist hovers above the water and the sun is rising behind mountain ranges. The sky is blushing up as the morning breaks. And when the sun strikes the first light ever, the lake surfaces in brilliant reflection. Catch the moment!

The lake surface is covered by a clinging veil of morning mist.
The lake surface is covered by a clinging veil of morning mist. | Source
Fishermen sail on to get their first catch of a day.
Fishermen sail on to get their first catch of a day. | Source
A sleeping boat beached by the lake waiting for another trip
A sleeping boat beached by the lake waiting for another trip | Source
A humble fishing boat beginning its sail
A humble fishing boat beginning its sail | Source

Sunrise happens every day, but the night sky varies during a year. From October to May, it's the dry season there, so the sky is really astonishing at night. It's like the whole galaxy hanging over your head with thousands of twinkling stars and the moon in varous shapes in and out during a month. The lake itself serves as a wondrous mirror that captures the whole starry night and gives you a chance to get close to paradise.

The emerald lake is surrounded by lush green mountains
The emerald lake is surrounded by lush green mountains | Source

In daylight, you should ride around the lake to find ideal places for photography. There are some bridges over the lake here and there, where you must stop and pose. Winding around mountain passes, you'll find many fantastic backdrops with mountains on the left and abysses on the right. These places look dangerous, but the views absolutely pay off.

Before getting on the road, you must take a boat tour around the lake. Ask a fisherman for a tour, which may cost roughly $20. The emerald water is tearing under your boat while the breeze is blowing all along the sail. The mountains are silhouetted against the sky over the mirror-like surface.

A turn round the edge
A turn round the edge | Source
The lake emerges over bushy jungles
The lake emerges over bushy jungles | Source
The sky is flawlessly beautiful.
The sky is flawlessly beautiful. | Source
Such a nice view point for photography, huh?
Such a nice view point for photography, huh? | Source
Posing against a heavenly backdrop
Posing against a heavenly backdrop | Source
There's a high sighseeing tower where you can stay and feast your eyes on the lake.
There's a high sighseeing tower where you can stay and feast your eyes on the lake. | Source

More Places to Visit

From Ta Dung, make your way back to Sai Gon by way of Da Te. Come on, this route is really amazing! You must complete more than 20 km of mountain passes, each with an abyss right next to you. The breath-taking scenery below is a reward for the danger.

  • On the way back, Dong Nai 3 Hydropower Plant is on your left. Such a colossal structure looks stunning from afar.
  • When you get to Da Te, it's nice to visit Da Te Lake. This body of water stays peacefully still. You can take a boat tour around or camp right at the pump-house.

Dong Nai 3 Hydropower Plant
Dong Nai 3 Hydropower Plant | Source
A nice place for sightseeing on the way back
A nice place for sightseeing on the way back | Source
The pumping station is located in the house stretching over the lake.
The pumping station is located in the house stretching over the lake. | Source
The sky prints its patchy clouds on the lake surface.
The sky prints its patchy clouds on the lake surface. | Source
Camping here is really great!
Camping here is really great! | Source
A panorama view of the whole lake
A panorama view of the whole lake | Source

So would you like to make a trip to Ta Dung, huh?

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Author's Notes

The photos used in the articles are both of the author and his friend. For further information, please feel free to contact me at nhphuc2310@gmail.com.

Thanks, Buddies!

Go far while we are young!
Go far while we are young!
The path is, err, frustratingly broken!
The path is, err, frustratingly broken! | Source
At remote places in Dong Nai Province, you have to pay some money if you want to cross any bridges.
At remote places in Dong Nai Province, you have to pay some money if you want to cross any bridges. | Source

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    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 3 weeks ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Dan: Tks a lot. I'll keep you posted on my lastest articles then.

    • profile image

      Dan Human 2 months ago

      Great page, bro. Write more about your beautiful country.

    • profile image

      Thomas Nguyen 2 months ago

      It's very excellent, Phuc, move on!

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 3 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @eddie: Tks for your compliment. I'll try my best ^^

    • profile image

      Eddie 3 months ago

      I love your writing, so informative and picturesque. Write more, bro.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Hien: Tks for your sweet words ^^ yes, wait for my comeback, we'll hit the road then!

    • profile image

      Hien 4 months ago

      I'm proud of you, Phuc. Though I haven't been to Ta Dung, I always want to hit the road oneday. Come back and go with me, my dear.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Jem: well, I tell the truth, everything here is based on my experience. Which part is untrue, huh?

    • profile image

      Jeremy Tran 4 months ago

      I used to come there

      And i believe that you are shooting the breeze

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
      Author

      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @hale/hacu: yes, wrap up and go!

    • Hale0389 profile image

      Hale0389 4 months ago

      Wow, what a useful link!. Let's pack up and ride.

    • profile image

      Hacunmiumiu 4 months ago

      Wow, lets pack up and ride.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @eden: tks a lot, buddy ^^

    • profile image

      Eden Ly 4 months ago

      very interesting and useful article! keep up the good job

    • profile image

      Ha Le 4 months ago

      Wow, let's plan up and go.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Vinh: Thank you, buddy ^^ come try your own ^^

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Mai: Oh tks for your kind words :) I'm just a newbie blogger, buddy ^^ anyway, I'll try my best to better coming articles. Follow me, bro.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @James: Tks a lot. I'm practising the language in writing rather than speaking. I love to share with others and learn how to write better ^^

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Hung: Thank you, buddy.

    • Thomaswanderlust profile image
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      Nguyen Hong Phuc 4 months ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      @Billericky: thanks for your sweet words. Yes, come visit VN someday ^^

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      Nguyen Vinh 4 months ago

      Great article!

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      Mai 4 months ago

      Great article and awesome photos, I admire you alot.

    • profile image

      James 4 months ago

      Well written. Nice photos. Your post's really interesting to read. Hope I will go there soon. Tks.

    • profile image

      HUNG 4 months ago

      It's interesting Phuc. Go ahead.

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      Billericky 4 months ago

      Well written. Thanks for sharing. Haven't been to VN before but read lots of your writings about such a beautiful country, which is fun to visit. Yes, I will absolutely come to see how scenic the country is one day. Keep up gorgeous!