In the north of Vietnam, on the border with China is Ban Gioc -Detian Falls for the chienese- one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. Not so visited by foreigners who usually focus their attention to Halong Bay and Sapa when coming to the north of the country.
How to visit Ban Gioc
- The Northern Loop is the best way. It covers the north on the most efficient way with a touch of adventure.
- From Hanoi is the easiest option but less recommended.
- Combining the trip with Ba Be National Park is another goop option, common on the Hanoi tours but not so easy they gather enough passengers.
Cao Bang is the gateway city. There is nothing to do in the city beside connecting the long distance bus with the local bus. Go outside the bus station to the main road where the local buses to Ban Gioc pass to take it -there are also sellers in the station offering private cars and tour buses-. Try to arrive early in the morning taking a night bus if possible then you will be able to check all the attractions and be back in time for the bus to the next destination.
Avoid spending the night in Cao Bang but if you have to here are some options.
Where to sleep in Cao Bang
Ban Gioc Waterfall
The local bus from Cao Bang to Ban Gioc runs hourly and takes two hours to get to the last stop where everyone get off. Mine made a stop on the road to have a nice and cheap breakfast-lunch before arriving to destination.
The waterfall doesn’t require lot of time -a couple hours- there is not much to walk or do beside watching the landscape, specially on sunny days.
You can do a 15 minutes boat tour and have some drink or food at the food stalls looking at the river.
This river is the natural border with China and you can see on boats from their side doing basically the same route as the vietnamese ones.
Unfortunately is not possible to do the excursion on the traditional bamboo raft because the government forbid it. The new boats -specially on the vietnamese side- are too artificial and ugly but is the only option.
You can see vietnamese woman in rafts approaching chinese boats to sell their products. They explain to us is not allow to cross to China but they can go on rafts and sell to them since neither of them is stepping into the other country or even getting into their boats.
Minutes later we saw a chinese boat driver fully cross and ducked to have lunch in Vietnam which is cheaper.
On the Chinese side there is a nice viewpoint where you can see the falls from another perspective but you cannot cross there because there is no immigration office in this area.
I do not recommend spend the night in this area but one option is Khuoi Ky Ban Gioc Homestay.
Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda
Few meters away from Ban Gioc -850 meters- is Truc Lam Phat Tich Pagoda with its impressive panoramic view of the falls as well as the valley. You can come here walking or with xe om (bike taxi).
Nguom Ngao Cave
Four kilometers away from the fall is the refreshing Nguom Ngao Cave. A nice extra stop on the way back but if you are not visiting as part of a tour and don’t have your own bikes it will be a hassle to get here and back. You will have to take xe om on the road and do connection with the local bus in the middle of the road. The caves of Ba Be National Park and Ha Giang are better and easier to visit so I do not recommend this one for those using public transportation.