Although there’s not much to do, Ho Ham Lon offers a welcome respite from the chaos in the city. Or in our case, an unplanned adventure… Words by Mignon van Zyl. Photos by Teigue John Blockpoel

 

Ho Ham Lon is a campsite about 40km north of Hanoi. It’s known for being popular with Vietnamese students who enjoy the opportunity to do karaoke in the forest. Hikers planning to ascend Fansipan are also attracted to Ho Ham Lon for its challenging hiking trails.

 

It’s a simple drive from Hanoi; straight on the highway towards Noi Bai Airport, a right turn after the airport, and then a left turn at the Ho Ham Lon sign. It’s impossible to miss unless you’re three South Africans with very limited Vietnamese.

 

After trying to get directions from a local man along the way, we turned off the main road and onto a dirt road. What followed was an undertaking that could have been filmed for a Top Gear Special. Let’s put it this way; driving a Yamaha Mio Classico and a Honda Wave on a dirt road is doable. Driving these bikes up and down a steep mountain road covered with rocks and manoeuvring through dried rivulets, narrow paths and over an unreliable bamboo foot bridge is apparently doable too.

 

We had turned too early and ended up driving on the hiking trail. Silence, fresh air, untamed bush, pine forests — nature at its finest. Plus three lost foreigners on noisy motorbikes. It was thrilling but dangerous too. We drove like this for over an hour until we got to where we were meant to be.

 

Simple and Straightforward

 

The campsite is located at the base of Ham Lon (Pig Jaw) Mountain — a 462m high pine-covered peak that forms part of the Doc Ton mountain range. The massive Nui Bau Lake sits in the centre of the campsite with numerous spots alongside it for camping, fishing, barbecues and picnics. There are no manicured lawns, ablution blocks or clear signposts. It’s the way a campsite should be, simple and straightforward. No frills. No electricity. Just you and nature. And the sound of karaoke in the background.

 

There are two hiking trails. The first takes around two-and-a-half hours to complete while the second is more of a challenging trek and can take up to four hours. They weave in and out of pine forests and have rocky terrain. It’s not clear where they start but it’s quite easy to navigate once on the trail.

 

You can rent tents, tarpaulin coverings, sleeping bags and other camping equipment from the motorbike valet for an overnight stay (VND70,000 for a two-person tent or VND100,000 for a four-person tent). There are camping spots available next to the lake or higher up on the mountain. Day trippers pay a VND15,000 parking fee. The campsite’s website says that tour guides and map books are available and food and drinks (including beer) can be bought on site.

 

What’s great about Ho Ham Lon is that it doesn’t offer much else. There’s a lake and a mountain and that’s it. For the outdoorsy type, that’s perfect. But for those in need of activities or entertainment to have fun, it isn’t recommended. Despite the excitement from the motorbike rendezvous, our day at Ho Ham Lon left us feeling peaceful and happy, the result of fresh air and sunshine.

 


 

Getting There

 

From West Lake, there are three options. The easiest is to take Nhat Tan Bridge and travel towards the airport. Turn right about 19km after the airport (past Thanh Chuong Viet Palace). Continue for about 4km (past the dirt road) and you’ll see the large sign for Ho Ham Lon on your left.

 

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