October 10, 2023
HANOI – Thác Bờ Temple and Thác Bờ Cave in the northern mountainous province of Hòa Bình captivate tourists due to their breathtaking landscapes, cultural tradition and historical legends.
The two scenic spots are the must-see attractions while visiting Hòa Bình Lake — one of Việt Nam’s largest man-made reservoirs, known as a “miniature Hạ Long Bay” in the mountainous region. The lake offers a romantic splendour of water, mountains and forests along with spiritual stories and harmony between man and nature.
Located in the two communes of Thung Nai and Vầy Nưa in the districts of Cao Phong and Đà Bắc, about 100km from Hà Nội, the tourist sites belong to the Thác Bờ (Bờ Waterfall) area on the Đà River.
Thác Bờ Temple worships two Goddesses of the ancient Mường and Dao ethnic peoples, one named Đinh Thị Vân and the other unknown. Both made great contributions to helping the army under Emperor Lê Lợi (1384-1433) quell a rebellion by supporting them to transport food and boats through Bờ Waterfall to the then Mường Lễ region, now named Phúc Lễ and part of neighbouring Lai Châu Province.
Legend has it that even after the two women passed away, their souls often appeared to help local boatmen safely cross the dangerous waterfalls, particularly during heavy storms when the Đà River had not yet been controlled by the local hydropower dam.
To pay tribute to the two heroines, local people built a temple to worship them as the Goddesses of Bờ Waterfall and to express their respect in the hope that they would be protected from danger when passing through.
Every year, the Bờ Temple Festival is held on the second day of the Lunar New Year and lasts until the fourth lunar month, attracting thousands of visitors to the temple to pray for happiness and good fortune.
From Bờ Temple, a whole view of the immense Hòa Bình Lake will open a picturesque landscape to enthral viewers with tranquil, gentle and peaceful feelings and wipe out all sorrow and hardship of life.
Despite being small, the temple is a sacred place. Along with its beautiful landscape with harmony of mountain and water, the site has 38 ancient statues of different sizes, including two bronze ones. It was listed as a national heritage site by the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism in 2009.
To reach Bờ Temple, pilgrims will start from Trình Temple to Chúa Temple. It takes 15-20 minutes to travel by boat from one to the other, during which tourists can enjoy stunning landscapes from hundreds of limestone islets of different sizes. At the last destination of the trip, they can taste special dishes sold at the foot of the temple before exploring the Đà River.
Lưu Hồng Xuân, a tourist from Hà Nội, said that travelling to Hòa Bình was always her family’s first choice during spring and summer, and Thác Bờ Temple attracted her with its history and profound spirituality.
“The temple is very suitable for those who want to enjoy peaceful beauty and meditate among sacred and harmonious nature,” she said.
However, during her visit to the site early this year, Xuân found a dramatic increase in tourists and disorganised boat trips caused some inconvenience for her family and others.
“It took a long time for us to get a boat and the wharf was so crowded. There was chaos and noise. What was worse was that the environment had been neglected and polluted by rubbish discharged into the lake,” she said.
Thác Bờ Cave
Sailing on Hòa Bình Lake to Bờ Temple, visitors can also explore Thác Bờ Cave, a mesmerising limestone formations created by stalactites of various shapes.
After stopping at Bưng Hamlet in Tân Lạc District, visitors can get access to the cave by climbing up nearly 100 stone steps in the low-water season. In the high-water season, their boat can reach the cave entrance.
From the cave entrance, along a small 30m-long bridge, visitors can enjoy the scene of fish jumping on the water surface and admire the strange natural statues, nearly 2m in height rising from the cave floor. As soon as they cross the small lake, the beauty of this fairyland cave opens up for a truly unique experience.
Đinh Sơn Tùng, head of the culture authority of Tân Lạc District, said that Thác Bờ Cave was a unique limestone wonder, forming a natural “art space” inside.
“The cave was formed naturally over thousands of million years, with a depth of more than 100m, divided into three areas,” Tùng said.
The first area is spacious with high vaulted ceilings and naturally arranged like a waiting room or large living room. The stalactites on both sides of the cave wall are few, but utterly unique.
Up on the undulating ceiling are numerous stalactites hanging down, and some are white, sparkling like pearls. Others are golden and brilliant like decorative flower lamps, with sharp edges like layers of coral.
According to Tùng, many people compare the cave to a stone musical instrument after hearing the steady sound of water falling from the stalactites, echoing throughout. Besides the patterned stalactites, about 50m higher is a spot that looks like a worship area due to the stone pillars rising from the floor like Buddha statues.
As a spiritual tourism spot, visitors to the cave offer incense, pray for luck and enjoy its beautiful scenery.