Waking up Khuon Than’s sleeping beauty

Nga Do
When it comes to Luc Ngan district (Bac Giang province), people usually think about bunches of red lychees from garden to garden. Few people know that this midland area is home to a bewitching landscape – Khuon Than Lake. Maybe because Khuon Than Lake is far from national roads, it has received almost no attention.

A corner of Khuon Than Lake

Not many people have visited Khuon Than Lake, but whoever has, can see that its attractiveness lies in its tranquility.

We set foot in Khuon Than at the end of the lychee season, when Chu town becomes quieter. The road from Chu Street to the tourist site, about 10km long, was empty. After moving along a road snaking through luxuriant gardens heavy with fruits and then up a long slope, Khuon Than Lake appeared. It was a deep green lake surrounded by pine and lychee hills.

The blue sky was reflected in the vast lake through which each pebble close to the water surface could be seen. Some boats were moored in the shade of pine canopies on the lake. The place was quiet, like it had been for centuries, as if it had never been touched by modern life. The mass of brown rocks on the lakeside and the road to the lake all seemed free of human footprints. Some local residents were fishing leisurely on the lake.

The forests and mountains around the lake were also tranquil. There was only sunlight, wind and birdsong. We hungrily breathed in the pure and cool air. The most exciting thing was that we could hear pine trees whisper and discover wild nature with trails crossing mountain slopes and pure springs.

The road to Khuon Than Lake

In the tranquil atmosphere, enchanting sli singing suddenly resounded through Khuon Than village – a village of the Nung ethnic people. A man named Hien who looks after the Khuon Than area said a wedding of a Nung couple was being held in the village, and everyone gathered to congratulate the newly-weds. He said the sli singing shows Nung people’s skill, with lyrics full of allegories. At festivals, fairs, weddings or house-warming parties, the sli singing plays an important role, like an invisible string connecting people. Generations of Nung people have practiced sli singing at different events. Folk songs have helped many young men and women convey their love and become life partners.

Although there aren’t any luxury hotels or fully furnished restaurants and hostels, visitors can enjoy a comfortable home stay experience. About 15 families offer home stay services for tourists in Cam Vai village of the San Chi ethnic people and Ha and Khuon Than villages of the Nung people. When in Khuon Than, holidaymakers can feel villagers’ hospitality, along with the pure atmosphere and cool climate.

At the stilt house we stayed in we could see farming tools, looms and hunting gear like bows, crossbows and nets of the Nung people. The host, who was also our guide, introduced us to agricultural activities of Nung residents in Khuon Than. We enjoyed joining locals in fishing in the lake, collecting ant eggs in the forest, cultivating crops, and looking for herbs. In the evening, we had some drinks by the cooking fire and ate grilled “bong” fish caught in Khuon Than Lake.

Ripe lychee season in Khuon Than

At sunset, Khuon Than Lake is coloured red, then the water suddenly becomes brilliantly yellow as if plated with gold. Khuon Than Lake extends 240ha and is about 5m deep. Located in the middle of the lake are five islets full of pine trees. Tu Ma Temple on the lakeside, dedicated to a famous general in the Tran Dynasty, is a cultural relic site. The area also boasts many traditional cultural features of ethnic minority groups like San Chi, Cao Lan, Nung and Tay.

Many people compare Khuon Than Lake with the lake of T’nung in the Central Highlands. While T’nung Lake boasts an imposing and mysterious appearance, Khuon Than Lake is much more gentle and friendlier. However, it is not easy to keep visitors here for a long time since the infrastructure remains underdeveloped. It’s a shame that local tourism potential is untapped.

*From Bac Giang city, visitors should go 40km towards the northeast (Chu Street) and then turn left and continue for another 10km to reach the Khuon Than tourist site in Luc Ngan district of Bac Giang province. Khuon Than Lake and forest are the highlights of the site. Khuon Than Lake spans 240ha of water surface and features five islets covered with pine trees grown about 15-20 years ago. Sightseeing and fishing are popular activities in the lake.

Khuon Than forest stretches some 700ha of land, including 300ha of natural forest and 400ha of pine trees. Here, tourists can make camps, enjoy lychees, bee honey, gecko liquor and chestnut, or experience the life in Nung, Tay, San Chi and Cao Lan families.

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