B’Lao or Bao Loc is rather a unique city of central highlands when in almost everywhere else the people plant coffee, Bao Loc people stick with green tea. No one can really explain the origin and exact meaning of the old name B’Lao, it either means “low flying cloud” or “goodness” and not that there is mere relation between two possible meanings. All the efforts come with many stories about the name, the land and the people, making this highland city even more mysterious. Nowadays, it has a new name which is just a word borrowed from Chinese – Bao Loc but its own name B’Lao still remains in the memories of the people.
Bao Loc is the second city of Lam Dong province along with Da Lat with a total area of 23,256 hectares. The city is about 100 kilometres away from the fancy town of Da Lat, lying quietly on the southeast and boasting its unspoiled and authentic beauties. Bao Loc is also home to 9000 people of Ma ethnic who have their own language, culture and way of life.
From Ho Chi Minh city, the distance is about 180 kilometres and 5 hours driving on national highway 20. There are buses from HCMC to the city of Nhat Doan or Thanh Buoi companies.
Dambri is really the gem of Bao Loc’s tourism, situated inside Dambri Waterfall Resort. The fall is located 18 kilometres away from the downtown on the northwest, can be reached through Ly Thai To Road. Dambri is no doubt the highlight of the south forest of Central Highlands; even from afar, you can easily see the magnificent sight of it.
The fierce flow of waterfalls from the height of 70 meters down to the stream below causing thick water mist. The fall’s width is 30 meters with three rock levels. Dambri is even worth visiting in the dry season. The entertainment and recreation services that the resort offers include tramcar, roller coaster, elevator, and horses for riding.
There is a love story to tell about this fall. A K’Ho girl had to separate with her lover and she went to this stream and cried days and nights. Her lover never came back and the girl cried to death. Her tears created the waterfall and her body turned to rock. K’Ho people called this fall Dambri which means “waiting” in their language.
The admission to Dambri is most expensive, costs 50,000VND per ticket.
Dasara is a really humble waterfall compared to Dambri in both scenery and tourism facility. But the gentle, quiet and serene beauty of Dasara makes it a wonderful break when you find Dambri too crowded and touristy. The fall lies inside the Dambri resort, only 500m away from the famous fall. Dasara has 7 levels in total but only 3 can be seen from afar and you have to take the trip through the forest to see the whole fall. This is a great challenge for travellers who love trekking.
To reach the fall, you can use the mountain coaster service with the track length of 1650 meters and take you only 10-15 minutes. The coaster will bring you through the pine forests and mountain streams before stopping at the lowest level of Dasara. The fall is 60m high with many levels providing a medium volume of water. Coming to Dasara, you will surely enjoy the beautiful scenery and quiet atmosphere of nature here.
Trek through Cat Tien national park
Cat Tien national park is belonged to Cat Tien district of Lam Dong province, about 90 kilometres away from Bao Loc. This park is recognized as a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO and one of the most important national parks of South Vietnam. The park is about 150 kilometres away from the centre of Ho Chi Minh City and accessible by motorbike, bus, and canoe. There is a pickup bus running from HCMC offering by the park available. Accommodation and other services also can be found here such as trekking, camping, night safari, boating….
You should not miss Bau Sau aka Lake of Crocodile where you can see actual crocodiles. Trekking tour through the forest to see the old giant trees is very interesting and worth visiting. Boat trip to explore the villages of Ma and Stieng ethnics would be an authentic cultural experience. Camping is what most travellers do when they visit the park. You can bring your own tent or rent one at a very reasonable cost. The park has many campsites with great views of nature.
Check our article on a travel guide to Cat Tien National Park to have more information.
Tam Chau Tea hills
Tea is what makes B’Lao different from other cities of Central Highlands. As the people call the B’Lao “City of Tea”, it really has the largest acreage planting tea out of not only Lam Dong, but the whole central highlands and the south included. Most famous tea from Tam Chau, the main tea hills of Bao Loc, is Oolong tea with a distinctive light sweet taste. The brand that represents the city also uses the old name B’Lao.
Tam Chau tea hills just like Moc Chau tea hills are very scenic with rule-like straight tea rows and from the sky view, it’s easy to mistake the tea fields for terraced paddies of North Vietnam. The lake nearing these hills just makes everything more romantic. Visitors coming here will be welcomed with a cup of B’Lao Tea as the highest gesture of hospitality.
Conquer the winding passes
Bao Loc has three passes and one of which is quite dangerous. The three are Bao Loc/ B’Lao, Trieu Hai and Ta Pua.
Bao Loc pass situated on an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level is the most dangerous. The pass links Da Hoai district to Bao Loc and is a crucial route to Da Lat so at times the traffic on this pass can be really congested. The pass is only 10 kilometres long and about 100 kilometres away from Da Lat. Bao Loc pass is winding and quite steep and some parts don’t have median trips. You should be more careful if travel by motorbike. However, the scenery from the top of the pass is very magnificent.
Trieu Hai pass can be reached from the city centre of Bao Loc city. The pass cuts the way through Cat Tien national park to Dambri waterfall. You will have the chance to see many beautiful sights along the way. Dambri hydropower reservoir has this very strange bright bluish watercolour. Some said that that colour was caused by the kaolin stone, other metals and sunlight effects. The local travellers named this lake “The Blue Mirror”. Continue going to Da Teh, a rock field with unique shape will appear proudly. After this rock field, the scene becomes wilder and the road gets tougher. The 40 km route ends at Xuan Dai waterfall where you can enjoy the cool water and rest.
Ta Pua pass is on the provincial road 713 linking Dam Ri town and Bac Ruong district of Binh Thuan. The pass is a small and short one but has a really great panoramic view of the winding road weaving through the jungle.
Bat Nha Zen Institution
Bat Nha zen institution is indeed a great place for meditation. The institution is located quite near the famous Dambri waterfall with two tea hills on its side and a small stream with three unnamed waterfalls. “Bat Nha” is transliterated of the word “Prajnâ” of ancient Indian language which means “wisdom”.
The place is a wonderful site to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of nature.
Di Da pagoda
Di Da pagoda is the most beautiful Buddhism pagoda in Bao Loc, just 20 kilometres away from the city centre. Best time to visit the pagoda is from July when you can not only visit the pagoda but also admire the Tam Hop waterfall at the back in full water volume.
On architectural wise, Di Da pagoda has a unique style where the traits of Buddhism, local Chau Ma culture and traditional Viet culture can be found. Many buildings are built on stilts mimicking the traditional house of Chau Ma ethnic. Here and there you see the wooden wind chimes made by the young monks hanging on the tree. You can ask to stay here overnight to enjoy a quiet night among mountains and forests.