Located about 50km from Hanoi, Ho Quan Son, or as some call it, “the inland Halong Bay” is a tranquil retreat from the city’s madness.
Centred on a still and unpolluted lake are jagged mountains and rolling hills covered with green vegetation, and only interrupted by occasional family dwellings peering out of the forest.
We started our journey at 9am and arrived around 10.30, ready to get exploring. Entrance to the lake and its vast surroundings is VND15,000 plus VND5,000 for parking. We parked up our bikes and headed over a narrow footbridge taking us to a dirt track between small houses and toward the lake.
Still in Hanoi
Among the trees we came across a large, colonial-looking stone house overlooking the water, and further down the path a wide open grass plain, perfect for setting up a picnic.
The setting by the lake is so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and the still water reflects the sun and the surrounding hills, providing the perfect backdrop for a peaceful day trip — and all of this is technically still part of Hanoi.
With the sun high in the sky and a cool breeze hovering over the lake, we laid out a blanket and ate some home-prepared lunch before taking off back into the village for a cold glass of sugarcane juice.
Following the road around the hills we found an old village with pre-colonial style architecture — narrow streets between grey stone walls, buildings come to life with multi-coloured flags hanging from ropes and an imposing church with a Vatican flag raised upon its steeple.
Always holding surprises, the villages around Ho Quan Lake are certainly worth some time exploring.
We set off after a well-needed, relaxing day in the fresh air and set our sights on one last stop before the sun was swallowed up by the horizon.
Chuong Village is famous for its production of conical hats worn by many people in Vietnam and often bought by tourists as souvenirs. We decided we would explore the village, which is about half way between Ho Quan Son and Hanoi.
The village was busy, its main street bustling with shop fronts on either side. It seems there was a lot going on there, but unfortunately, with daylight running low, we were unable to find the conical hat makers and had to turn our wheels back towards Hanoi.
To get to Ho Quan Son just follow the AH13 southwest of Hanoi. In Ha Dong take the left-hand fork onto Highway 21B, a branch of the Ho Chi Minh Highway. Head south and follow the road for about 30km.