There is a wonderful gem hidden in the famous Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in Quang Binh Province.
Nestled beneath the old forest’s foliage that covers the towering limestone mountain cliffs, there is a place the locals call Mooc Water Spring.
It is no exaggeration to say that it looks like a pure mysterious jade stone that embodies the living pulse of the forest regardless of the harsh weather, sun and wind that sweeps through the central parts of Vietnam every summer.
I arrived here in April, at the beginning of summer. The trail starting from Ho Chi Minh Highway led my companions and I deep into the forest. The atmosphere started to change within the first few steps. Standing beneath the shade of the dense forest foliage or upon the huge rocks along the spring, despite the harsh sun and arid wind blowing through, we still felt cool and comfortable as if we gotten lost in a foreign land.
This eco-tourist attraction runs through the dense limestone forest, along the small streams of the Mooc Water Spring and Chay River. Right away we spotted rare species of birds, fireflies, and the diversity of the local ecosystem. Here, surprisingly beautiful orchids were in full bloom, usually for a very long time. They have distinct scents, very different from the commercially grown hybrids, and attract thousands of white butterflies. They hovered above the tree tops and over the water, hung on the bushes of wild flowers, followed the humans and even perched on the tourists’ shoulders and hair.
“Never in my life have I ever seen so many butterflies. What a wonderland!” exclaimed my companion Le Mai Lan.
The space opened out as we walked along. I glanced at the sky, the mountains and the streams that led to a small waterfall. Many rocks, big and small were scattered everywhere around the spring, where the cool crystal clear water enchanted us. A slender bamboo bridge was reflected in the water as if in a beautiful mirror.
The water spring threaded its way through the rock edges and corners. Sometimes it ran leisurely along the shore full of pebble stones like at Dao Tien or Tam Hop. Sometimes it swirled and rushed through mossy rock pools. Once in a while, the spring totally vanished, secretly flowing through the rock beds, a murmuring sound echoing up from beneath the ground. Then it would reappear out of the ground again somewhere else.
The name Moọc makes everyone who first hears it very curious. In the local dialect, ‘Mooc’ means ‘mcc’, or ‘spring up from the ground.’ The name is derived from the phenomenon where small water columns spring up from the ground and gather to create Mooc Water Spring, and eventually contributes its water to the deep blue Chay River. A research team from England came here to study the spring but has found no scientific explanation of the phenomena. The depth of the lake at Mooc Water Spring is a mystery and a challenging question for scientists.
The spring water is clear throughout the year, mysteriously even clearer and cooler during the hottest days of summer. We couldn’t help but rent a kayak to leisurely explore the giant lake created by the spring, surrounded by the towering limestone mountains, with the dense foliage reflecting itself upon the mirror-like crystal blue water surface.
“I am totally fascinated by the colour of the water here. It’s so beautiful!” said Nguyen Trung Son, a member of the group.
We couldn’t resist dipping ourselves into the cool fresh water of the lake.
If you visit the Mooc Water Spring someday, I highly recommend To Chim (‘Bird Nest’) Restaurant. Constructed with environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo and palms, the space is designed to resemble a bird’s nest hanging from old tree trunks, about five metres above the water. Nothing compares with the experience of hanging a hammock under the green of the old forest, listening to the murmuring of water spring, dipping into the spring water, fishing, or kayaking along the peaceful stream punctuated with rocks of all shapes and sizes.
“How can I go home now? I just want to stay here a little longer to enjoy the scenery. One day here is worth way more than my days in and out of the office,” Son shared.