Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary
80km north west of Hanoi lies Tam Dao National Park. In said park you will find Tam Dao town on the top of an amazingly scenic mountain. At the base of the mountain you will find a bear sanctuary. A bear sanctuary that is under serious threat, but more about that soon.
So. Tam Dao National Park is large.
There is also only one route into the park really. Especially if you are looking to get to the town. In light of this information, I do advise that when google map planning your trip, you don’t just type ‘Tam Dao National Park’ as your destination. Doing so will send you to the eastern border of the park. i.e. the wrong side. End result if you’re not careful is that what was meant to be a pleasant two-hour ride, turns into a six-and-a-half hour mission involving riding through small rivers, horrible gravel paths, dodging gangs of water buffaloes, and having to scale a completely unlit, winding, 12km mountain climb, in pitch darkness, running out of fuel, fearing for your life.
If you can avoid that mapping issue, I do recommend a visit. Also, if you get a chance, do visit the bear sanctuary there, but be quick. Due to some horribly corrupt behaviour from Vietnamese government officials, the bear sanctuary is in serious danger of being closed down and replaced with a resort or something. Oh, and if you were unfamiliar, the bear sanctuary is home to around 104 bears who were saved from ‘legal’ bear farms throughout Vietnam. From what I gather, these farms constituted caging the bears, and running a tube directly from their gall-bladder to collect bile for ‘traditional’ Vietnamese medicines.