Ta Dung, Vietnam: A Pearl of the Highlands
Ta Dung Nature Reserve
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.
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!
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?
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
Rent at SG: $8 -10 for 2-3 days
A kettle or small pot, paper or plastic bowls and cups, knife, lighter or gas burner
Forks, spoons or chopsticks
Sandwiches, sausages, veggies, eggs, noodles, etc.
Bottled water (1-liter bottles), beer or soft drinks for party (if any)
Sweaters, pants (it's cold at night), flip-flops (by the lake, you know)
Stuff for photography
Yes, it's a must!
Tripod or lens
Camping at Ta Dung
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.
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.
Photographing the Lake
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!
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.
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.
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.
So would you like to make a trip to Ta Dung, huh?
The photos used in the articles are both of the author and his friend. For further information, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.